Women Who Inspire Rhein Main – Female Entrepreneurship on the right track?
From left to right: Géraldine Ulrichs and Janine Weirich (Founders of Xeem), Michelle Peters (Founder of Supplino), Silke Kopp (Founder of Health&Bits), Kira-Janice Laut (Founder of Cult.Care), Imme Scheit (Founder of Ich will ein Pony) and Ruzica Pekic (Co-Founder of Proptiq)

Guest article by By Pedro Ferreira

Happy International Women’s Week!  

When I wrote an article titled Women Who Inspire RMS on the same day in 2018, something magical happened. I had written about many topics, but FEMALE ENTREPRENEURSHIP was the one that caught the most attention and feedback from the readers.

What started with a list of names and photos back then, grew into a series of twelve events and a Facebook group with six hundred members. The goal: Inspiring, empowering and promoting diversity in our local ecosystem.

As we are celebrating International Women’s Day, I was invited to write a second edition of the article as guest author for STATION FrankfurtRheinMain, with the aim to identify a “new wave” of Women Who Inspire Rhein Main, and track the pulse of Female Entrepreneurship in our region.  ‼️Let’s grow the list together by commenting here on Linkedin.

I chose to interview seven individuals from my local network, with the aim to share their experiences and personal advice with you. All have a very diverse business background, from Proptech, HR, Supply Chain, Healthcare, Tech, Fashion or Beauty industries. One thing all these fantastic ladies have in common, is that they gained experience and visibility as female founders after 2018. All of them are rocking and are role models to inspire men and women alike.

Géraldine Ulrichs and Janine Weirich, co-founders of Xeem

Xeem is a company that started last year, as an advanced training and placement platform for innovative recruiting, skill management and open innovation. 

Géraldine and Janine were selected for the Hessen Ideen Stipendium and recently won Start-Up Award of the DIGITAL FUTUREcongress in the category “New Work”. 

According to them, “Unfortunately, there are still some companies or Start-ups, which don’t support a diverse workforce environment. Especially in areas like IT or automotive industries the part of men is mostly higher.  But it is really nice to see that the focus is going more and more towards this topic (diversity). Big companies like Merck KGaA have global initiatives in their company and for us, they are a huge role model.

We as female founders would like to encourage young women to go their own way and build up their own businesses. That’s the reason why we are also honorary mentors of the initiative STARTUP TEENS.

In the future we also would like to use the force of Xeem to mediate talents to companies no matter what culture, gender or religion they belong to.”

Ruzica Pekic, co-founder & Managing Director of Proptiq

Ruzica is a Proptech entrepreneur, proud to belong to the 15%-community of the female founders worldwide. Proptiq is a Frankfurt startup creating digital solutions for co-living. They streamline the processes in the onboarding phase of new tenants, enable digital access to services, and create communities around coliving rather than just a place to live. 

Proptiq recently celebrated one year, and Ruzica told us, “When it comes to diversity, it is a known fact that women are in the minority when it comes to representation in the world’s tech scene. I am very happy that I co-founded Proptiq together with Luke Musialski. In my opinion, the combination of female and male team is the winning one. In order to build a successful business, you need a different set of skills instead of double resources. My advice is: disregard gender, think about your set of skills which you can bring to the table and do not try to be someone else-every person should be authentic! If people tell you it is impossible, it only means it is impossible for them. You better trust your gut feeling and do your thing!”

Silke Kopp, founder of multiple startups and Miss Hessen 2020

Silke Kopp has won multiple awards in the Healthcare space, including the Healthcare Hackathon Mainz & Berlin last year, and she is the winner of AndersGründer program in 2018. Silke has been active as a founder of multiple start-ups, but she points out: “What I have often noticed is that we women sometimes don’t dare to leave our comfort zone and thus miss valuable opportunities. I left the “safe haven” by becoming self-employed. Nevertheless, I regularly try to challenge myself with new experiences. Most recently through the Miss Germany contest. If I had not applied, I would never have been voted Miss Hessen 2020.”

Michelle (Bahr) Peters, founder of Supplino

After 30 years of a successful corporate career, as a supply chain leader with deep expertise in international manufacturing, she has left corporate behind to found her own startup in 2020, Supplino. A platform built for entrepreneurs and startups to help them get their products made and delivered. Michelle shares, “if we want more diversity, we need to create and promote more heroes that diverse people can relate to. It is not about the diverse photocopies of Elon Musk. This is not diversity, this is just forcing everyone into one mold and one definition of success. It is about having leaders that built a wonderful company in their own style – that brought a completely different, authentic way of leading. And that will come from people outside of the mainstream. If we want diversity in startups, we need to have a diverse way of modeling, recognizing and highlighting success – and here we still fall short.”

Kira-Janice Laut, founder of cult.care 

Kira is passionate about fashion and beauty trends and left behind companies like cosnova, Coty, L’ORÉAL, to build her own brand cult.care in January 2019. She is positive and says: “I hope that there is a rising number in female founded companies overall! Because I do not see any reason for a different situation. In my own case, I totally enjoy the freedom that my startup company offers me every day. Especially with my child, I can organize my day quite flexibly. Every day. And no non-sense company meeting structure influences my productivity. If a woman has the drive to start her own company, there is no blocker for this!

Imme Scheit, co-founder of Ich Will Ein Pony rebranding to Yay

Imme balances a startup and family life. Since mid 2018 she left GIZ to focus fully on that.  She is developing on a platform to save family pictures and videos to produce Memory Diaries on-line and off-line. “Honestly, I’m not a fan of the term mumpreneur, because it links to the fact that we need it to show that a woman in Germany of 2020 can be both, an entrepreneur and a mom. In my perception, it sounds like a mother coming up with a random business idea just because she’s all into kids and I absolutely don’t identify with that (even if its great if that’s the case for other mothers, don’t get me wrong, please!)” says the co-founder of Ich Will Ein Pony.

“But that being said, we need a lot more women that become entrepreneurs so we don’t need such a neologism anymore 😉 The more there will be, the more it’ll create a dynamic environment for other moms.” She also adds:” Of course, it’s not easy to raise children and build up a company at the same time. Sometimes, we seem to catch every kindergarten virus and don’t get enough sleep seven nights in a row. In those periods, it seems like we’ll never reach our dream. But then, there are all the beautiful days, when we recognize that we actually HAVE a dream we can work on and a lot of expertise to achieve it. These days make it great to follow our very own path with two little sons and a startup!”

“We really see this gap narrowing in the future”

About the general trend, Géraldine and Janine are positive and justify: “Due to the fact that there are more and more initiatives and studies that already teach students the basics of entrepreneurship or promote entrepreneurial thinking, we really see this gap (15% female founders worldwide) narrowing in the future. It will certainly take some time until the transformation will show great results. But we are more than happy with our chance to empower other interested female founders and support them on their journey.”

One of Silke´s tips is: “We (women) should act according to the push and pull principle: motivate each other (push) and recommend each other (pull).”

Michelle´s advice is: “Trust your gut and go. There are lots of Women’s founders groups now, providing support and help. But don’t limit yourself to them – the majority of successful entrepreneurs are still men, that is where the expertise and experience is. Reach out to them (men) – they too realize there are too few women founders and want to help.”

Diversity is key

Personally, as a man, expat and dad of 4 toddlers, I believe it´s key that we all have an active role to support each others and tackle any gender (or other) discrimination-gap. Diversity is key and needed. It’s proven to have positive results especially in the startup ecosystem so it´s of EXTREME importance and interest for all ecosystem stakeholders to fight for it.

In the past two years, we were amazed by the quantity and quality of great founders we met. Indeed, the amount of female founders or co-founders is rising. But, despite being on the right track, there is still a major job to be done. To be done together! Men and women – corporates and startups – investors and founders – policy makers or citizens. It’s an ecosystem so it needs to be balanced or we are not maximizing our full power!

At Women Who Inspire Rhein Main, I onboarded my co-host Anetta Leticia Vajda as a perfect illustration on how to be diverse. She has been doing a great job to move us to the next level and proving she can do as well as me or better than me. 

I also support the Founder Institute and Singularity University that have multiple global initiatives to tackle these issues. An example of an instrument we apply is the Female Fellowship at our FI Frankfurt Cohorts. Check out more information here.

During the last two years, a good learning I got is to try to make everyone do some steps, not only in the month of March for International Women’s Day, but indeed throughout the entire year. 

Stay tuned, as portraits of the Female Founders will be published on STATION

Here’s my eternal gratitude, respect and admiration to entrepreneurs, innovators and disruptors that were somehow part of the Women Who Inspire Rhein Main journey: 

Ada Salas (Tedx Speaker and Founder of Bittersweet-club), Almaz Andezion (Founder of Ivory Cosmetics),  Anastasia Trubnikova (Women Techmakers Frankfurt organizer & ambassador), Anetta Leticia Vajda (Head of International Department at firma.de and  now my Co-host of Women Who Inspire Rhein Main), Angelica Iulia Timofte ( Lead to Order Process Owner at Merck) , Anne Emmelmann ( Podcaster | Moderator | Digitalista | Yoga Teacher), Ayfer Arslan (Stylist),Birgit Kuschel (CEO – Talent Management Agency), Britta Mues-Walter (Co-Founder of &ahead), Carolin Wagner (Co-Founder of STATION), Celine von Wallenberg ( Global Shaper), Carolina Yeo (Co-Founder of Proftrack), Christina Kraus (Founder of Meshcloud), Corinna Haas (Co-Founder of Inga), Corina S. Socaciu (Founder and Initiator of iNSPIRITIO), Deborah Schnabel ( Co-Founder of Creative learning space), Dr. Gesine von der Groeben (Partner at BEITEN BURKHARDT), Ekaterina Bozoukova (Co-Founder of WOMIRE), Gemma Ferst ( previously Ecosystem manager at TQ), Jana Ehret ( previously founder of CoWork&Play), Julia Tanasic ( Founder of Digital Madness), Katharina Funke-Braun (Managing Director of Unibator until end of 2019), Katrin Redmann (Innovation Lead & NextGen Innovation Hub SAP), Katharina Schreiner (Vice Chairwoman of FDP in Frankfurt), Lilli Rohde ( Initiator of Global Woman Club Frankfurt), Lea Roser ( Founder of Founder nevaal), Lea Vajnorsky ( Founder of Wo\men Inc. // Forbes 30 under 30), Luisa El Bouyahyani (Co-Founder of Lubu),  Maike Benner (Co-Founder of MaLish), Marina Zayats (Co-Founder and Organizer of TEDxGutleutviertelWomen), Malgorzata Schluemer (Founder of Lean In Frankfurt ), Nicole Van Hoeck ( Founder of Academie 404), Natalia Korchakova-Heeb (Managing Director at SDG.17 Consulting GmbH), Magdalena Pusch ( Co-Founder of Framen), Michael Beckmann (Leader at Women Techmakers), Michaela Hagemann (Founder & CEO das boep GmbH | Forbes 30 under 30 Europe), Mirjam Puetz (Co-founder of Rebels League), Mona Szyperski ( Founder of Women Techmakers Frankfurt) , Mynia Deeg ( Founder SWIMSTART) , Nadia Doukali (Founder of Honeyletter Productions), Paula Landes ( Regional leader of Digital Media Women e.V), Rahel Demant ( Co.Founder of VRFirst), Renata Dadic (Head of Digital Marketing at Deutsche Bank), Sabine Nietmann (Founder of The Organicer), Susanne Eickermann-Riepe (Real Estate Leader and Partner at PWC), Stefanie Stanislawski (HR Visionary & Strategist – previously founder of an HR startup), Vidya Munde-Müller (CEO & Co-Founder Givetastic)  and Yvonne Schrodt (ex Founder of Co-Work & Play GmbH)…

We could keep mentioning names and the list would keep growing… richer and richer, bigger and bigger. Always incomplete by the way. Let’s grow the list together by commenting here.

P.S. Our next event is this week, on March 10th, although it is fully booked. 

Hopefully you will join an upcoming one, for example, together with Founder Institute and other platforms we are also organising a Female Founders roundtable on how to go ahead in the Entrepreneurship – at WeWork Taunusanlage 8 – 19th of May.

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