What a year for Ladies Who Launch. We visited Dublin and St Louis for the first time, revisited Belfast, and brought it home to San Francisco yet again. So you might all be thinking well done! Let’s grab a glass of your favorite and cheers to a job well done. But no….we are women, we don’t rest on our laurels...ever. So Kelly and I are going to put you to work. Stealing from a speech I delivered at the Ireland Funds Women’s Leadership Luncheon we’d like to challenge you all today with a call to action on three things: (1) Community; (2) Leadership; and, (3) Paying it Forward.
As many of you know Sarah grew up in N.Ireland, in the small village of Sion Mills, population 2,000, which lies on the border between Ireland (the South) and the UK (the North). On the one hand it’s everything the poets and dreamers bring to mind when rhapsodizing about bucolic Ireland. On the other hand, to quote Robert Frost if, “good fences make good neighbors”, then we in the North were in the running for the Olympic gold of good neighbourly-ness. Man we could give Trump some tips on wall building…
Key memories growing up revolved around the strong sense of community and closeness to neighbors. I (Sarah) was schooled from the earliest memories that a strong community was good for the world, but like anything you cultivate and grow it doesn’t happen by accident. You have to be generous with your time, your compassion, your wealth, your health to make a difference. Who knew I’d one day be about to start on a journey to foster that same spirit globally. Thank you Nextdoor team for letting me join the movement! And thank you everyone who has participated in Ladies Who Launch - you are building important community bonds between women and our allies.
So, here’s a first to do for all of us in 2019...
How can you help people build supportive communities that strengthen the social fabric of our world? How are you going to help build informed communities, safe communities, inclusive communities? Start small….
A great lady and poet, Maja Angelou wrote “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This encapsulates leadership for us. We’ve both been blessed with full and varied careers to date. Both risk takers and that’s probably our best piece of leadership advice. The fear is much worse than the reality. We’ve heard this over and over from our speakers throughout our Ladies Who Launch journey - go for it, you are enough!
So, our second call to action is that.
Remember to keep your optimism gene on full every day. People will follow strong logic but if you can grab their hearts, as well as their minds, they will follow you anywhere, through any trial. Help them feel how to be their best selves and they will be.
Paying it Forward
Finally, our personal and professional lives has been immeasurably touched by the basic concept of Paying it Forward. It’s remarkable. The intentional act of investing and believing in others can transform the careers and lives of those you meet, and we’ve found that the rewards far outweigh the effort. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of the cycle of generosity.
For us, Paying it Forward has become a well of energy and strong gravitational counter-weight to forces that would prevent any of us from walking on air. About 6 years ago, Kelly and I held our first Ladies Who Launch event in San Francisco. Yes, it’s a pun! And we’re always amazed by how often men get flustered. Women Who Launch, Women Who Lunch, Ladies Who Get Started…yes we’ve heard them all!
Our tribe is made up of women starting and growing their own businesses. Much more main street than tech. We recognized in these women a huge need for Community, Education, and Inspiration. So that’s what we started, and 6 years on we have hosted events in San Francisco, Sydney, London, Toronto, New York, Dublin, St Louis and Belfast. In spending time with all of you amazing women, troublemakers, and entrepreneurs we’ve found a secret well of optimism and energy. When we tell you, you shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and lead, turns out we are also telling ourselves. When we’ve worked through business cases and networked with funders and supporters, turns out that we are creating more and more network effects for us. When we had to start small and figure out how to hire directly a first employee (we love you Julie), build a website, create a logo (thank you Rick Byrne), market our events….yes that creates a lot of small business empathy and ideas for how best to solve. So, Pay it Forward. The impact you can have will mean a great deal to others and you will also experience tremendous reward for the effort.
Thanks for taking the time to Be Strong Leaders, and Pay it Forward….. today and in the future. Let’s collectively take on leadership, for the right reasons, for the next few days, or weeks, or years…. and think beyond the barriers. Let’s collectively extend a hand and all build a more open and connected world that starts with strong Communities.
And with that, wishing you all the success, happiness and courage in 2019. We can’t wait to see you at the next LWL event and hear how it is going for you.
Sarah + Kelly