How Doyenne is starting a national movement to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs // Message from Co-founder and Director of Entrepreneur Development // News // Nov 02 2018

How Doyenne is starting a national movement to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs

By Heather Wentler

Every month, the Doyenne Group equips more women entrepreneurs with the skills and resources to create sustainable businesses that can scale. After six years of growth, hiccups, experimentation, self-reflection, and success, we’re ready to practice what we preach.

It’s time for Doyenne to scale from a local organization into a national one.

We’re going to spend some time this month explaining why we believe this is the right step, and what members can expect from us going forward.

There are already several national women’s organizations. These groups provide a space for women to come together and talk about what they deal with, and encourage each other. Those spaces are needed. But at Doyenne, we provide more than just a space to talk about the unique challenges women face in entrepreneurship.

Doyenne creates power for women entrepreneurs

We use our voice to take the discussions that have previously been held behind closed doors in women’s safe spaces, and use them to start conversations in the community as a whole.

So often, the entrepreneurial experience is defined by being alone. You’re a one-person army, taking on the world. When you experience sexism,  racism, ageism, or any other inappropriate behavior from someone else in the entrepreneurial ecosystem who has more power than you, you feel powerless to do anything about it. You don’t have an HR manager to report that person to. You could warn your close associates to not work with that person, but you’re limited in your ability to hold that person accountable.

At Doyenne, we serve as that community-wide HR manager, who works to hold every member of the entrepreneurial community accountable for creating inclusive environments, recognizing and overcoming their biases, and creating opportunities for all. We stand up for women. We listen to them, we put our reputations on the line to back them, and we empower them to effect change in their circles.  

We use our platform to call out inequity, inappropriate behavior. And we have influence because our four strategies are effective, and we take a collaborative approach. We are very successful at producing good entrepreneurs.

We change ecosystems. We create power for women.

What the Doyenne experience will look like in other chapters

We’ll be honest. When we first got started in 2012, we didn’t have any intention of creating a national organization. Amy and I weren’t even sure this would become a full-time gig for either of us. We just knew that Madison’s entrepreneurial ecosystem created opportunities for only a small subset of the population, and something needed to change.

Since 2016, we’ve been homing in on the four strategies that truly bring about change in an ecosystem. If you’ve been to one of our recent events, you’ve heard us talk about them: Develop, Connect, Collaborate, and Fund.

These are the core elements of the Doyenne experience that we will bring to each city we operate in.

Develop: Our core Develop programming consists of the retreats, the Founders Series, the Fundamental Four trainings, and our coaching. These are core aspects of the Doyenne package that we will be bringing to other cities.

Connect: Our Connect events, 5x5x5, and Showcase events provide a place for women entrepreneurs to meet each other,learn from each other, and put a spotlight on the businesses women are creating.

Collaborate: We can’t change ecosystems by ourselves. As we have done in Madison since the beginning, we are committed to collaborating with other women’s groups, organizations supporting entrepreneurs, and startup incubators in each city we operate in.

Fund: We developed the Evergreen Fund to support entrepreneurs in across Wisconsin, not just Madison. All of our funding comes with stipulations that the recipients are women and/or men of color Wisconsin-based entrepreneurs.

What Doyenne will look like in Madison

We know that for many of our members, the Doyenne name is synonymous with the names Heather and Amy, and seeing us transition into a national organization makes them uneasy. The coaching that we have provided over the years is one of our most valuable services, but our impact is limited when it’s just the two of us. That’s why we’ve put time and effort into training up a team of coaches into the Doyenne method of coaching, which meets every entrepreneur where they’re at and focuses on building their entrepreneurial skills, not just giving advice. These coaches have diverse backgrounds and skills to offer to our members. We believe that they can offer the same or better quality than Amy and I, but on a larger scale than we could.

Additionally, we believe that being part of a national organization brings additional value to all of our members. By expanding around the country, we can offer our members coaching from experienced entrepreneurs in different markets, who can bring a different perspective to their work. We can help women connect with allies and partners around the country. We hope that members will be able to seek each other out at national conferences that are typically male-dominated (think SXSW, Startup Grind, etc.).

We are also proud to be part of Starting Block here in Madison, and we believe that our new location will enhance the experience for our Madison members.

Starting Block aims to be Madison’s hub for entrepreneurial activity. To be an inclusive hub that provides opportunities for all, then women need to be part of designing, engaging and deploying the resources of that hub. That’s why we’re here, and we’re happy to be involved.

Planning for a stronger, united future

We are working to create a replicable model for Doyenne cities around the country. We know this process will be iterative — as it always is for founders when they begin scaling up their business.

Women from around the country have been contacting us looking for help creating lasting change in their cities. We believe we will be stronger as one united force than as many independent organizations. We are excited to empower other communities across Wisconsin and the U.S. to level the playing field for all entrepreneurs.

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