By Catherine Duggan, see more articles by her here.
I caught up with Pamela Newenham, co-founder, GirlCrew at Enterprise Ireland’s International Businesswomen’s Conference which was held recently during the Rose of Tralee International Festival. GirlCrew is a global network which enables women to connect, and make friends both professionally and socially. Pamela explained more about the organisation.We want to support and help women. It’s not that they don’t have friends and can’t help themselves. Everyone has friends, but sometimes they can busy, for example you might want to go to the cinema, and your friends can’t make it. With GirlCrew you can find other women to meet up with. Perhaps you want to get ahead in your career and you’re not sure how. GirlCrew can help, whether it’s your professional, entrepreneurial or social needs, or whether you want to go to a business networking dinner, a careers night, a brunch or a book club, we cover it all.
— GirlCrew HQ (@GirlCrewHQ) February 4, 2016
We have had mad events all over the world. People have gone chair dancing, axe throwing the most bonkers events you can imagine. It’s great because you can have an instant group of friends wherever you go in the world.
Since setting up GirlCrew in 2014 you’ve become very successful. What are the supports, and who are the people who have helped you most along the way?
It’s been a whirlwind!
I think other start-up founders. They have been the most helpful to us. Especially start-up founders who have been in business for two, three or four years. They know what’s coming down the line. They’ve been through it, and have experienced it. Other female founders, such as Jayne Ronayne, founder, KonnectAgain has been massively helpful to us. She told us how to talk to and prepare for investors. She explained about shareholdings, doing a loan note, building a company and scaling. She is straight talking and to the point. She believes that if you’re going to do something, you must do it now, like the NIKE logo:
Just Do It – Stop talking about it – Just Do It!
Last year, I told her that I was thinking of going to San Francisco to meet investors. I told her that GirlCrew wanted to be really big just like or better than some major Silicon Valley and San Francisco companies, such as Facebook and Google. She told me that the only way to do that was to go there, to meet people and to learn from them, because they had done it. No-one in Ireland has scaled a massive social network, but they have over there.
Jayne said, I’m going to San Fancisco in two weeks, come with me. I explained that I was working and I couldn’t get time off. That it was too short notice, and flights and accommodation would be expensive. I was saying lots of things and it’s so easy to make excuses.
Her response was, well then you’re not really serious. If you were you would go into work, either hand in your notice, or ask for time off, and come with me. It’s up to you, but if I was you I would just do it. I remember thinking and asking myself, if I was really serious about this, that I needed to go and to just do it. I took Ronayne’s advice, I did it and it was really scary.
— CD (@CD_Dublin) August 22, 2016
Other founders have helped us or given us a boost. Enterprise Ireland is very good too and they have advised and helped us. You can contact nearly any person in Ireland and ask for help. I have found people on LinkedIn and asked them to go for a quick coffee, so that I could pick their brains on a few things, and they have met me. The main thing is to ask, ask and ask again.
If they say No that’s the worst that can happen, but it would have been a No if you hadn’t asked. Nearly everyone says Yes. Some of the meetings can be phenomenal.
GirlCrew has two other founders, Elva Carri and Áine Mulloy what are the different skills and strengths that each of you bring to GirlCrew?
Elva Carri is the best possible face of GirlCrew. She epitomises the company. She is super friendly and nice, lovely and helpful and that’s what GirlCrew is all about.
Áine Mulloy’s background is in marketing and digital marketing. She is really good with the brand. She makes sure that it’s always looking great on social media, Twitter, our Facebook HQ page and on our media coverage.
I look after the business side e.g. raising money, dealing with investors, the financial and legal areas. I drive the business forward, expanding worldwide and adding more groups.
Our newest group is in Orlando. We created it two weeks ago. We have close to 200 members there now.
We nearly have 50,000 members now and we are in 46 cities worldwide. The groups are growing massively, GirlCrew are in:
Canada: Toronto nearly 2,000 members
Australia: Melbourne nearly 2,000 members
UK: London over 4,000 members
Ireland: Cork nearly 3,000, Galway and Limerick over a 1,000 members
Little bit of mainland Europe
Little bit of Asia
— Ciara Bob Gunn (@ciarabob) August 30, 2016
With hindsight what would you have done differently?
Take the leap quicker. Just do it!
We all had jobs and we stayed in them longer than we should have. There’s great security being in a job because the money is coming in. It nearly killed us because we were working 100 hours a week doing 40/50 hours in our regular jobs and then the same again in GirlCrew. We were exhausted and it was draining. The time came when GirlCrew became a priority and we probably should have focused on that much sooner.
I met with an extremely successful Irish entrepreneur and he said that we reminded him of his daughters. He has daughters and sons. His daughters spent a lot of time making timetables to revise for their Leaving Cert exam, whereas his son just studied. His advice was to Just do it. We wanted to get our accounts, legal and company structure perfectly in order, instead of getting out, building the business and worrying about those things later. Obviously they still had to be done.
What’s next for GirlCrew?
Definitely going global – really global!
Starting with English speaking countries we are then planning to expand into non-English speaking countries. We believe everyone everywhere should be able to have someone to connect with at anytime, whenever they want. We envisage working closely with Enterprise Ireland as well as with people on the ground to help us with language translations. We can’t just use Google Translator. It will have to be done properly. In order to scale massively we will need to go into countries like Brazil and India where there are huge female populations.
We are lucky that there are some Irish companies who have gone global and have already entered emerging markets. Even though they’re not in our sector, it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t know various things that can help us, so we can talk to them. That’s the great thing about Ireland you can reach out to anyone and you can talk to them.
We are also planning to launch an app which is in development at the moment. It will be available on iOS, Android and Desktop.
It’s clear that GirlCrew has an exceptionally bright future. With the support and valuable lessons learnt from those who have gone before them, the founders have taken action. In the future they will continue to reach out, develop their business, establish more groups in existing and emerging markets and keep growing globally.