Across NYC, creatives and entrepreneurs are crossing paths, getting inspired, and making magic happen
When the bold, beautiful, and brave get together in a space, there is always an energy simmering in the air. Dreamers intersect with entrepreneurs and become eager to collaborate and share. Last week, I went to some brilliant female-run events. I love seeing how many powerhouse visionaries are gathering in pockets of NYC, sharing ideas, triumphs, and frustrations with fellow women. Here’s what I experienced.
The Rise of the Female-Driven Economy
The Panel (L-R) Susanna Cho, Danielle Kayembe, Lisa Wang, Jessica O. Matthews, and Fereshteh Forough
By flickering candlelight, The Assemblage hosted The Rise of the Female Driven Economy panel. Susanna Cho, co-founder of Peace Accelerators, led the discussion centered on how even though women make up half the population,*the female perspective is often omitted in design, business, media, technology, and even city design. The diverse panelists spoke to the challenges they’ve faced personally in getting their own businesses started in traditionally male-centered fields and how to take pain points and use them to spark innovative products and processes no boardroom full of men would ever be able to conceive.
Sri Thayi from W3 Chocolate setting the mood by leading the room in a meditation and chocolate tasting
Laptops and phones were put away as the lights dimmed. The night kicked off and ended with a meditation and chocolate tasting by Sri Thayi from W3 Chocolate, and several flavors of GTS Kombucha along with elixirs were available at the bar throughout the night. As the chocolate melted in our mouths, Susanna had the panelists dive right in.
Perched on meditation cushions at the front of the room, the panelists were four inspiring women. Danielle Kayembe, Founder & CEO of GreyFire Impact and author of the article “The Silent Rise of the Female Driven Economy” which inspired this entire event, kicked things off. She spoke about how it’s crazy to her that there are so many women not being tapped or utilized. She maintains that every woman has a billion dollar idea and insists having a group of women who have each other’s backs is key to driving the future — for everything from design (“The large size of iPhones designed for larger palms and pockets correspond to higher rates of women dropping their phones”) to industry (“The tech/fabrics behind THINX have been around for years in the sports industry, but it took women to recognize these materials could be used for more”).
Jessica O. Matthews, Founder & CEO of Uncharted Power, shared how she designed a soccer ball that could store kinetic energy and how she’s basically Shuri from Black Panther. She would psych herself up before meetings and make sure she walked into every investor meeting with confidence (“We have to believe in ourselves so much that they will believe in us too”).
Fereshteh Forough, Founder & President of Code to Inspire, recalled how she started the first coding school for girls in Afghanistan when it was challenging to even get fathers to let their daughters go to school. One father was so impressed by a game his daughter created, something that neither he or his son knew how to do, that he saw the value Code to Inspire could bring and became a huge proponent, going around to other families and encouraging them to let their daughters enroll.
Lisa Wang, Founder & CEO of SheWorx, spoke about some of the “paper cuts” she’s encountered and overcome over the years — from walking into meetings with potential investors that assumed her white, male COO was the CEO and made her feel like she was just an assistant, to running a global collective of female entrepreneurs who are all redefining leadership.
It was incredible to hear these women all share the struggles they face on a daily basis and hear them give advice on how to create solutions and support other women as they grow their ideas into full fledged businesses. There is a lot of power and energy in creating inclusive environments for a more harmonious, cooperative, and abundant world that all people can thrive on. Though there were much fewer men in the room, the ones who were present were eager to give women space to discuss and were content to listen and see how they could help.
A Girlish Launch
Two nights later, New Women Space hosted another gathering — one decked out with neon pink decorations and flowers — that showcased powerhouse singers, spoken word poets, dancers, and DJs. HMN Creative (pronounced hu-ma-na), photographer Elena Mudd, and Collective BAE came together to kick off the launch of The GIRLISH Project, a bi-monthly marketplace for womxn, artists, designers, entrepreneurs and more to gather, share, and create opportunities for collaboration.
Britt Pham and Prisca Choe, the team behind HMN Creative conceptualized GIRLISH in 2017. Prisca recalled hearing the phrase “a girlish giggle” and how she immediately pictured “twirling hair and wide eyes.” She shared, “It felt so condescending and specifically oriented to for the male imagination. We wanted to flip it and use it as the title of this project, with womxn doing exactly the opposite of what is typically ‘girlish’ or ‘ladylike.’”
Britt Pham and Prisca Choe (HMN Creative) welcomes guests to New Woman Space for the launch of GIRLISH and kick off a night of performances.
Britt and Prisca met photographer Elena Mudd through the Art Folx Facebook group and created a series of photos and GIFs together for the GIRLISH Project. The duo were connected to collaborator Reem Abdou/Collective BAE through Instagram when Reem saw one of the GIRLISH GIFs on Elena’s page. Reem DM’d the two over Instagram and asked them to be part of some BAE events.
Together, these creative minds handpicked several performers for the launch event. Neon pink, blue, and purple lights washed the room in an ethereal glow as the audience sat, transfixed by performances by musicians, poets, and DJs including Tiides, Nikki Weiner from Building Bold, Priyya, Tiffany Johnson, and Reem herself (@dreeemy). Tiffany’s pieces brought several people in the room to tears.
Performers (L-R) Tiides, Nikki Weiner, Priyya, Dreemy, and Tiffany Johnson
Several vendors were also in attendance through the night. Kristina from The Phluid Project spoke about how the newly opened store near Washington Square Park is part community, part retail, and all about being free of gender and norms and full of possibilities. Their gender free clothing line was showcased with several pieces from their store. She Fights Foundation was also onsite, promoting their Box and Brunch fundraiser to raise funds for a new space and equipment where they’re all about** teaching girls to fight, be confident, and stand up for themselves.**
Vendors (L-R) GIRLISH merch table, Kristina from The Phluid Project, She Fights Foundation and Society Nine
As a whole, GIRLISH subverts the connotation of the word “girl” (equating women with being sweet, small, and fragile) and elevates “womxnhood,” taking back what it means to be “girlish” and feminine. Britt and Prisca shared that “The most challenging part of GIRLISH is crafting a narrative that is fun,
light, and accessible. The feminist conversation can be quite heavy at times (rightfully so), and we wanted to contribute with a more celebratory and tongue-in-cheek approach.”
Photos courtesy of Amanda Espiritu | @mandaspiri2 // Dancer (R) Brittany Posas | @posasposas24
It’s inspiring to see so many communities coming together and inspiring each other. So many of the conversations and connections that happened on these two nights alone have sown seeds for the weeks and months to come. There are failures and successes in equal parts, and we’re all figuring it out as we go, but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!