Startup Weekend Aims To Encourage Female Entrepreneurs

By Darren Fishell
Bangor Daily News, Maine.


The Portland event aimed at sparking more entrepreneurship in the state has focused this year’s Startup Weekend on the women running things in Maine.

Liz Trice, owner of the co-working space Peloton Labs and a founding organizer for the business brainstorming event, said “women’s editions” of the international Startup Weekend in other cities have sought to involve more women.

That’s not the goal in Maine, Trice said, as participation hasn’t been a problem. The new focus, she said, is an experiment with changing the dynamics in the room.

“We’ve noticed that even though about equal numbers of men and women attended, there ended up being fewer female team leaders,” said Trice, a founding organizer of the event. “It sounded like a fun thing to do.”

The ticketed event brings together teams that then brainstorm and develop business ideas over the course of a weekend. Trice said about 45 people had signed up as of Thursday for the event that kicks off Friday evening and runs through Sunday.

The goal is not necessarily to develop a winning business to launch into the world, but it is to provide a crash course in putting together a business plan and to build a network of interested entrepreneurs.

Trice said forming a business plan with a team allows people to dream up bigger concepts than they would on their own.
“People dive in and don’t get bogged down in the doubts and questions that they have,” Trice said. “They end up making very close relationships with the people in their team, and they end up having a great sense of what’s possible in the world.”

The weekend of business idea development leads participants through stages of brainstorming, refining and then pitching a completed business idea to a panel of judges, with the help of a team of coaches.

Trice said the idea of doing a women’s edition of the event was inspired by a suggestion from Sarah Guerette, director the Maine Women’s Business Center at Coastal Enterprises Inc., and in part from an experience she had last fall at a startup accelerator that offers separate programs for men and women.

“The reason that they do is [because] the techniques that they use to push the men discourage the women,” Trice said.
Women make up less than a quarter of the state’s top earners, which is one statistic organizers hope to change, but their goals for the weekend of business brainstorming are more immediate.

“We’ve got a lot of women who have already made it,” said Abbie McGilvery, a social media consultant who helped organize the event. “This is all about creating that supportive network and a creative community that doesn’t just include women, but where they can step up and really ask for what they want and be empowered.”

The event starts 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Maine College of Art Cafe in Portland, launching the brainstorming process at 9 p.m. and going until “as late as the venue will allow.” Events pick back up Saturday morning and are scheduled through 9 p.m. Sunday.

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