Happy International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate the success and achievements of women around the world. While there is still much work to be done for women’s equality, we’re excited by the work that organizations like Ladies Who Launch (LWL) are doing to support female founders. When we participated in their Summit last year, we came away so inspired.
To learn more about their work, we sat down with Julie Kikla, Executive Director at Ladies Who Launch, to discuss their connection opportunities, resources (including their Launch Program which kicks off today), and how they use Asana to manage it all. Here’s what she had to say.
Q: Before we dive in, can you share a quick overview of Ladies Who Launch’s mission and programs?
A: Ladies Who Launch is a 501(c)3 with a mission to empower a global community of early-stage women (female-identifying and non-binary) entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses by providing: 1) the best educational resources; 2) the most accessible capital opportunities for all women founders; and, 3) the support of knowing LWL has your back through the highs and lows of growing your business.
We focus on three pillars: Inspiration, Education, and Community. Through our events like the Virtual Summit, educational offerings (LWL Academy, Founder Resources), digital programming (Featured Founders, Real Talk podcast), and our funding opportunities (Launch Program), we help female founders stay well-informed and connected to each other while ensuring their spirits are continually lifted when they need it most.
Q: How did you get involved in the organization and what is your favorite part about working at Ladies Who Launch?
A: I got involved when I was taking a hiatus from corporate America to go and launch my own small business. I had this helpful background working at Google, YouTube, and GoPro (I was great at OKR setting and product roadmap planning!), but when it came to the nuts and bolts of how to launch a business—drafting your operating agreement, capital and funding options, Accounting 101, and how to create a brand with no design skills—I was lost and overwhelmed.
I was connected to Kelly McGonigle, one of the founders of LWL and saw that she was looking for a “Jill of all trades” to help grow the organization. As I learned more about Sarah Friar’s and Kelly’s passion to support women entrepreneurs and the community of trailblazers they had amassed, I put my hand up high to volunteer. Fast forward, in January 2020 I became the Executive Director, just prior to COVID-19. At that time, we were an organization that primarily hosted live events, so we needed to pivot quickly to shift how we supported women entrepreneurs as they were in the fight for their lives to keep their businesses going.
My favorite part of working with LWL has been the incredible women I have met along the way. These ladies are a force to be reckoned with, and have more grit, determination, and hustle than the folks I got to meet on Wall Street. From La’Crassia Wilderness (founder of Butter Love by LC), Amy Peterson (founder of Rebel Nell), Deesha Dyer (founder of Hook + Fasten) and Tammeca Rochester (founder of Harlem Cycle—take her class to really sweat and burn!), these women and the rest of the LWL Community, plus our incredible Rocketeers who volunteer their time and support, are always up to help an entrepreneur in need, share their best tips, and give a “hell yeah” to celebrate the wins.
Q: What inspired Ladies Who Launch to start a grants program for female-founded small businesses?
A: Thinking back to last March, we went from planning a big event for SXSW, to one week later, looking up the definition of “shelter in place.” At first, no one knew what to expect and thought we would all be back to normal by May. As the weeks and months went on, we came to the realization that “back to normal” may not happen.
After discussions with our community, they shared that they did not have the funds available to keep their doors closed for an indefinite amount of time. They did not have capital or connections to support their cash flow needs, and many of our US business founders didn’t qualify for the government’s loan programs and needed cash (and not more debt) to keep them operational.
Our core focus shifted to what we could offer our community of women entrepreneurs to keep them in business and to provide them with inspiration along the way to keep going. We started with support from individual donors and then it grew with corporate and brand partners so we could offer 11 women grants between $5K and $25K, as well as a mentorship program to help them thrive.
Q: Launching a large program like this is no easy feat, especially when you haven’t met most of your teammates in person because of the pandemic. How did you go from idea to launching the 2021 program today?
A: It’s amazing to think that the majority of the LWL team has never high fived in person! We had to get smarter with our tools and Asana was a platform we kept hearing again and again from our Featured Founders like Sara Berks, Rachael Rapinoe, and Bridgid Coulter. So we listened, and over the last year, we picked up a few tips along the way that we would love to share:
- Start small: We didn’t try to boil the ocean right away. We picked one project, our Launch Program, and started with a tiger team managing our tasks and deliverables. Once we got hooked on the ability to track deadlines and have visibility on who was doing what, we started to expand to other projects. Now, all projects are in Asana and instead of 200+ docs and spreadsheets, we have one centralized platform for our organization.
- Zoom out: Calendar view is a great way to see what is going on across the organization and where I should prioritize my time. As you can see, we are in full “go mode.”
- Agenda setting and subtasks: We are big fans of the “subtask” feature as we moved from Google Docs to run our weekly program syncs agenda in Asana (bonus tip: use the meeting agenda template). We find it helpful to write down all of the notes from the meeting so we can reference them later if needed, capture all action items, and set due dates for them so we know who is doing what. This has been really helpful for us to move fast and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
- Write it all down: As a first-time E.D. at an organization, combined with everything 2020 threw at all of us, it was overwhelming to say it gently. I used to run everything off old-school sticky notes and notebook lists with coffee stains. Now I have a running “to-do” list in Asana. My advice for anyone juggling multiple projects is to do this. Everything (and I mean everything) goes on this list, and being able to see it all really helps. Plus, everyone in the organization has access to it as well.
- Celebrate the wins! We cheer every time a unicorn flies across our screen. As a small but nimble team, it’s been amazing to look back and see the progress we have made as an organization and all of the different programs we are running.
Q: How can people get involved in the grant program and/or Ladies Who Launch?
A: Women business owners are going to have one hell of a 2021. If our mission inspires you, here are the top 5 things you can do to support LWL and women entrepreneurs:
- Support the Launch Program by donating directly to Ladies Who Launch and provide more women entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19 access to what they need most: capital and community! Donate here.
- Sign up for the LWL bi-weekly newsletter to keep up to date on when the 2021 Launch Program applications open, share with the launchers in your life, and learn more about how to empower female founders.
- If you are interested in mentoring women in our community, volunteering with LWL, or have skills to share, we would love to hear from you! Reach out to us here.
- Make a pledge to Shop Women Owned and put your money towards supporting female founders by seeking out women-led companies.
- Take five minutes and write a business review or send a note to your favorite woman business owner in your life. Trust us when we say “she will read it” and your words and support will encourage her to keep going!
We’re inspired by customers like Ladies Who Launch who are using Asana to achieve their missions. See what teams around the world are doing with Asana.