Hi there! This is Sabena, BOXFOX Co-Founder and CSO. I’m thrilled to have been selected as a 2019 Tory Burch Foundation Fellow along with a group of 49 incredible women building companies across verticals like tech, education, retail, food, beauty, and wellness.
From June 3 to June 6, 2019, we spent a week at the Tory Burch Offices for 4 action-packed days of workshops and networking with innovative founders and business experts across fields like publishing, finance, fashion, marketing, and so much more. It felt a bit like business bootcamp in the best way — we had workshops and seminars led by incredible experts like Kelly Hoey, Kathryn Minshew (The Muse), Tony Tjan (Cue Ball Ventures), one of my role models, marketing guru Seth Godin, and of course, the iconic Tory Burch.
While it would be impossible to sum up everything I learned in a blog post, here are some key nuggets of inspiration.
1. Collaboration > Competition
It was incredible to be spend a week with driven women from around the country who were genuinely invested in each other’s success. I’m lucky to have two incredible cofounders, so we have a built-in support system when we face challenges big and small, but, the truth of the matter is, being a female entrepreneur can feel a bit isolated at times. It was incredible to meet women who genuinely want to help each other succeed. Between knowledge sharing about best practices for hiring or getting vulnerable about the realities of balancing our businesses with having personal lives, it was so refreshing to be able . And the connections haven’t stopped: texting, email intro’s, and even a dedicated Slack workspace!
2. Networking isn’t about being the loudest person in the room.
It IS about:
1) Being human. Take a genuine interest in the other person, their story, and what might motivate them, and you’ll have better conversation. In fact, it won’t feel like networking. Fun fact: introverts are often better networkers for this reason; they are a bit more measured and thoughtful in their approach, and this often allows them to make more authentic connections.
2) Getting specific with your ask. Going to a networking event can feel a bit like walking into a situation blind when we don’t know why we’re there. If you take the time to truly reflect on your biggest business challenge at any given moment, you can walk into a room with the confidence that you know what to ask for. If you’re sending an email, NEVER ask someone to pick their brain. Figure out what it is you want to know, and ask them about that (I.e. “how did you structure compensation plans for your inbound sales reps?”). That way, they can decide whether they’re the right person to answer the question (and if they have any desire to!) or direct you to a better resource or contact.
3) Realizing that time is money. While being human is key to better networking experiences, always be respectful of people’s time. That can be applied in so many ways: send shorter, more pointed emails; come to a conversation with a specific question or challenge (see #2); read body language and signs that a conversation needs to come to a close. There’s no better way to respect someone who is helping than valuing their time.
3. Being niche isn’t a bad thing
When it comes to starting a business, it can be tempting to try to be all things to all customers, especially when you think about growing as quickly as possible. But in order to carve out a truly defensible place in the market and sustain that position in the long-term, you’ll need to get hyper-specific about who you are going after, and why. And as you expand, you’ll be able to appeal more broadly with new offerings, partnerships, distribution channels, and more.
In sum, this was one of the most inspiring weeks I’ve had since co-founding BOXFOX. So often, we’re running a million miles an hour, trying to get everything on our to-do list done, that we don’t take a step back to look at the bigger picture. This gave me the opportunity to do just that, and think about not just the goals we have for the company today, but also in the future as we grow our business and our team. More to come!