On International Women's Day, March 8th, nearly 100 women entrepreneurs came together to celebrate at Minc in Malmö. There was a sense of excitement in the air as people reconnected after a 2-year long pandemic and were able to expand their professional networks. It's safe to say there were several exchanges of LinkedIn profiles this day.
Flashback 1 year ago to March 8th, 2021, eight women leaders and entrepreneurs gathered at MINC to celebrate International Women's Day. Despite the limitations of the pandemic, we believed that being together in person was important. Of course, we could have met virtually with a larger number of attendees. Still, there's just something about being face to face with another person that generates a greater impact. One of our goals at Women in Entrepreneurship (WiE) is to create a more inclusive startup community in southern Sweden. To achieve this, we must make meaningful connections. So, on March 8th, 2021, eight women met in person for breakfast, exchanged personal learnings, received support and advice, and built meaningful connections.
Now, back to the present.
With pandemic restrictions lifted, we wanted to make this year's International Women's Day celebration even more impactful. So we came together with MINC, Almi, & UNOPS S3i Innovation Centre to make this happen. An essential first step to creating a more inclusive startup community is gender equality. To encourage this, we need to welcome more women into the ecosystem. So we decided our concept would center around encouraging and supporting early-stage women entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses.
Panel Discussion with Coline, Brandy, & Lotta
To inspire our audience, we planned a knowledge-sharing session in the form of a panel discussion. We invited three women founders in different stages of their entrepreneurial journeys to join the panel.
Coline, who is in the early stages of founding a company to produce sustainable condoms, discussed the vitalness of living in the present. Sometimes things can happen so quickly, so it can be hard to live in the here and now, but taking the time to be present can help you stay on the right path.
Brandy, who has been the co-founder and COO of Knologram AB since 2021, discussed how her team's diversity has contributed to her company's success. She also talked about her experience founding a company with her life partner.
Lotta, the co-founder of Svava, emphasized the importance of taking your time to find a co-founder because this is the person who will be with you for all the ups and downs. Co-founders who support each other outside of work are essential to both a successful business and work-life balance.
The group also discussed the role that networking has in building a business. Lotta believes that part of having a successful business means you're constantly talking and building a network. Coline agreed, saying, "the network you build pays off." Brandy advised the audience to "meet as many people as you can who embrace your ideas and love you as a person."
Co-Organizers & Breakout Sessions
As members and community partners, we want to help create a thriving startup ecosystem. Each of our organizations is doing important work in the community, so we wanted to introduce ourselves and ensure that everyone is familiar and has access to our offerings and services.
Maria and Anna from Almi Företagspartner discussed their services, including financial support to building a marketing and sales strategy. Next, we learned from Sara and Jonas at UNOPS S3i Innovation Centre about the support they provide to entrepreneurs to incorporate SDGs into their business model. Zhenni from Skåne Startups emphasized the importance of connectedness when building a healthy startup ecosystem. Finally, Dzenis and Katja from MINC spoke about their work to bring more women into the entrepreneurship world.
We also wanted our guests to leave the event with tangible information and resources that they could use right away to start or grow their business or idea. So we held breakout sessions. Guests were able to pick the co-organizer's brains on topics related to financing, finding a co-founder, business development, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the startup community in Skåne.
Most important of all was cultivating a network of diverse women entrepreneurs. As an underrepresented group in the startup community, it is essential that we come together, build meaningful connections, and leverage our network to make an impact. Again, nearly 100 women showed up, and we were blown away by the turnout. Being surrounded by so many incredible individuals was inspiring.
But creating space for women in our community goes beyond just one day. WiE wants to use the momentum we made during this event and take it forward into the rest of 2022. As Katalin Vikuk, the head of WiE said, "When women are supported in their entrepreneurial journeys, they create jobs, solve problems that otherwise go unaddressed, and stimulate the economy by reinvesting their earnings." Over the coming months, the WiE team will partner with Ideon Innovation, The Ground, Mindpark, and many other players to facilitate impactful discussions among women and minority entrepreneurs around Skåne. Together we can build a stronger, healthier, and more diverse startup community in southern Sweden.
Brandy Xu has been co-founder and COO of Knologram AB since 2021. She is originally from Beijing and holds a master's degree in marketing from Gothenburg University. Brandy has more than five years of experience in marketing and innovation and three years of experience in the event industry.
Coline Schargenberg is in the early stages of founding a company to produce fair and sustainable condoms for the Swedish market. She has her bachelor's in economics. After a PR traineeship, she moved from Germany to pursue her master's in urban studies at Malmö University. Over the past 2.5 years, she has gained a lot of experience at two different startups.
Lotta Strand is co-founder of Svava and mother of two daughters. Svava is a digital tool that makes all meetings more engaging and effective. Lotta's focus at Svava is growth, partnership, and user success (basically everything besides software development).