Chiara Condi, Founder and President of Led by Her
We met Chiara at an event at Rebecca Minkoff's SoHo store. She randomly came up to us and was intrigued with what we do and shared her business card. It was a quick exchange and later we cnnekted via social media and emails to conduct this conversation. Chiara found an organization Led By Her in France for women and girls with limited resources. Read about how she got started and why she's trying to change the the world:
Chiara, how would others describe you in three words?
A crazy passionate idealist
Can you tell us what inspired you to create Led By Her and why it was important?
When I had my first job working at the EBRD (an international organisation that operates as a regional development bank) I became convinced that advancing women would be the great cause of my generation and that I wanted to be part of it. That first job is what awakened me to this calling. After that experience it became a question of finding a way to do things my own way and finding my own voice, a path that led me to start my own organization, Led By HER. What I love about working at the grassroots level is being close to the needs of women, to be able to work to advance them and to have the ability to innovate and try things that I believe in. That is why it was so important for me to have my own vehicle to express myself. And of course the gratitude of feeling that I advance things ever so little every day through my work to create the world that I want to create. Impact is definitely my biggest motivator in life.
What are some of the milestones of the organization?
In 2014 we launched our first cohort of women for our entrepreneurship program to help women who had suffered from violence rebuild their lives. The following year we started organizing events around women’s rights, technology and entrepreneurship. We threw our first annual hackathon in which hundreds of individuals, employees and students came together to work on the projects of our women entrepreneurs and it was truly touching. We threw our first ever event with Google. In 2017 we launched our first collaboration with a haute couture designer (Christophe Alexandre Docquin), a wedding dress against forced marriage and violence against women. At the end of 2017 I won the Woman of Influence award in France for my work. And in September 2018, it will be the fifth year that we are around. No wonder we have decided to celebrate thay by increasing our impact through a digital platform that will allow millions of women entrepreneurs to build their projects and realize their dreams (FoundHerLab.com)!
For you, what does vulnerability mean?
For me vulnerability is the equivalent of courage. It means trying things even though you may be wrong regardless of the outcome or result. It means embracing where you are today. It means that even if you do not know everything you believing so much in yourself that you go ahead anyways because you will figure things out. You will understand what you need when you get there. When you know that you are vulnerable you are not afraid of anything. On the contrary, you are open to the world, you accept what comes, and learn from it.
What is one honest thing about entrepreneurship you can share with us that is often not talked about openly?
Entrepreneurship is a process and not a goal or endpoint. I think that if we look at it that way then we develop a much more gentle and understanding attitude towards ourselves. And entrepreneurs need to develop a lot more self-compassion.
I learned this from the way we started to teach entrepreneurship to women in our program, which became a lot more about life transformation and self-discovery than merely creating a project. It taught me that entrepreneurship is a process through which you learn about yourself and your project. It is all part of a journey you undertake. Whether you are successful or not at one specific project, you are successful in the journey because you learned something and it brought you to where you are today (in the worst case you learned something that will take you to your next venture or adventure in life). You are and will always be an entrepreneur regardless of what happens to your project. And where you are today is exactly where you are supposed to be. You are the sum of all your experiences in life.
How do you hope Led by Her will evolve into?
Well my dream is that Led By HER grows into a movement that can help millions of women worldwide. We are currently working on a platform (FoundHerLab.com) which we will launch at the end of the month which mobilizes companies around women’s entrepreneurship. Employees will be able to give pro-bono skill-based volunteering to women entrepreneurs in their projects and the platform will allow the match between the location, skills and expertise. We hope that this will democratize access to entrepreneurship for women by allowing them to access the right networks. We know that there are not enough women entrepreneurs, that is why we decided to do something about it!
Interviewed by Chary and Emily