What’s next after our first SheCafe?

Last week, Shecosystem and Startup Toronto brought over 50 women together at Brightlane for the first Women’s Entrepreneurship Cafe.

Loosely following a World Cafe format, female entrepreneurs moved from table to table for a series of small-group conversations.

We began with a guided visualization: imagining waking up, starting our workday as  part of a thriving feminine entrepreneurial ecosystem. Then, we put our heads and hearts together to look at the opportunities and challenges facing female entrepreneurs.

Finally, we ‘harvested’ the most powerful patterns and ideas that emerged, and had a graphic recorder capture our words visually.

It was hard to clear the room after the Women’s Entrepreneurship Cafe ended. There were so many questions still in the air:

What’s the next step?

When will we see each other again?

How can we move forward to grow + sustain this feminine entrepreneurial ecosystem?

And then: radio silence.

You may be wondering why I haven’t followed up since the wonderful event last Wednesday evening. Maybe you’ve emailed or tweeted at me and I’ve been AWOL.

Here’s what happened after I left the Brightlane building:

On a total high, I quickly threw my stuff in the backseat of my car, and drove up to Dundas to celebrate over some late-night Chinese food. A hot and sour soup and some dumplings later, I came outside to find my car window shattered and the backpack with my laptop gone. I felt violated and afraid. I felt stupid for overriding my intuition when that little voice said ‘put it in the trunk.’

And for the next few days, as I dealt with insurance and change dozens of passwords and fixed the car and bought a new laptop (ladies, meet my new best friend Lakshmi), I simply could not centre myself.

I was – both emotionally and technically – unable to celebrate and process what went down on Wednesday evening at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Cafe. I felt like I was observing my life from a distance. I’d check my phone and see your tweets and emails coming in, but I felt blocked from responding.

 I tried to give myself permission – as we discussed – to accept the situation and focus on self-care. I felt exhausted and tried to take a nap on Thursday when I got home from the auto body shop but my mind was racing and I couldn’t relax. My mom gifted me a massage on Friday. Ironically, it was right next door to where I was robbed and stepping over shattered glass after my treatment wound me right up again. I spent Saturday at Laura’s wonderfulDiva Girl Conference – dancing and schmoozing and listening to some powerful speakers. But deep down it wasn’t making me feel any better. And then I woke up this sunny Monday morning with a terrible cold.

This is not an excuse or a call for sympathy.

I know that resilience is built through responding to the challenges life throws at us, and I welcome the peaks and valleys along my life’s path. I backup my data often. I live alone and have space to fall apart, and space to put myself back together. I have a wonderful support network (my project manager Debbie dropped off a fresh bagel this morning with a printout of our Gantt Chart – I kid you not, I am very fortunate to have people like this in my life).

This is just me being utterly transparent about where I’m at.

I have not yet fully reflected on the magic of last week’s event. I have not yet figured out how to best share your input from the Needs & Offers board. I have not planned the next get-together for this group, however we do have our regular weekly Coworking, Wellness + Mentorship Meetup tomorrowdetails here!

I am finally back on my feet with a new laptop. 

My first action was to create the LinkedIn group that Sissi suggested. Please join! I’ve started a couple of conversations on said group so we can keep the momentum going.

My second step is to offer gratitude to everyone who participated – and to invite you all to stay in touch because this will definitely not be the last #SheCafe!

Thank you for coming out on Wednesday and sharing openly with the women at your tables.

Thank you for closing your eyes and letting your intuition speak during the visualization.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments – about reframing the narrative of entrepreneurial success, about the importance of having a space to connect in person, about the balance of self-care and getting shit done. I can’t wait to hear more from you.

Thanks in particular to our wonderful table hosts: AJ Tibando, Laura Furtado, Miryam Lazarte, Rox Bartel, Jasjit Sangha, Helena Skrinjar, and Maureen Taylor-Origoni.

Thanks to Craig, Joy, and the volunteers from Startup Toronto, and to Kulsoom – the consummate Events Management professional – for making this event happen.

Thanks to Patricia Kambitsch of Playthink for capturing 1000 words in an image

Thanks to Brightlane for hosting this event. And thanks, Mum – I’m glad you’re back in town.

I am looking forward to staying in touch with you. See you on LinkedIn for now – and in person soon enough…

In gratitude,

Emily

p.s. Check out some of Startup Toronto’s photos from the event on Facebook!