Hi guys, Cortnie here, co-founder of The Venue Report, wishing you a happy #InternationalWomensDay! This day marks the celebration commemorating the ongoing movement for women's rights. Today, more than ever, we are celebrating women throughout history but want to spotlight a very special modern day boss lady, Fran Hauser.
A few years ago when I was starting out on my journey with The Venue Report, I felt very alone in the startup landscape. Why? The startup world by nature can be a lonely place but I had also ventured into this realm that was (and still is) male dominated. We first started in a startup incubator led by male advisors, we were pitching male venture funds and we were meeting male mentors. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE all of these amazing men we have met and created relationships with - they have not only been the best confidants but also crucial to our startup success. Still, I ached and longed for a female to chat with about well, being a female and a mom within this fast-paced fundraising world. One day after asking advisors if they knew any awesome females I could connect with, I soon had an email intro connecting me with Fran Hauser. A week after this email introduction, I was nervously on the phone with Fran, the former President of Digital at Time Inc. Yep, the former President of Digital at Time. Inc! Now, let me fangirl for a minute: She is known for many career moments including her role at building People.com, Entertainment Weekly and InStyle. She had served as VP of AOL's Programming Group as well as an advisor to many huge consumer facing companies, she had been named one of the Six Most Powerful Women in New York City's Tech Scene by Refinery29 and honored with one of 40 Women to Watch Over 40. The accolades go on and on. No big deal right?
After chatting with Fran, I discovered her selfless passion for mentoring female entrepreneurs. She is passionate about advocating for women across the globe and often speaks on such topics. Over the past few years Fran has always given me time to chat with her on the phone and even meet up with her for coffee when I am in New York, her home base. She has no reason to spend this time with me other than the fact she truly wants to help. Fran is a rare and inspirational woman who is the true definition of a mentor. Women like Fran are why we have come so far as females in 2017. Today, we honor women across the globe and celebrate women like Fran who are actively paving the way. Did we mention that she was honored as a Global Champion of Women On International Women's Day?! We could go on forever with our glowing intro, but now let's hear from Fran herself on her successes, current ventures and advice to fellow female entrepeneurs.
You have had so many career accomplishments, what are some that you are most proud of?
There are a few moments that come to mind. One is my involvement in the $525 million sale of Moviefone to AOL back in 1999. I ran the sell side due diligence for Moviefone, and it was an exhilarating experience (I definitely pulled a few all-nighters!). Another highlight is the leadership role I played on the team that turned People.com into one of the most successful women's websites. I'm also proud of the risks I've taken to reinvent myself throughout my career, most recently by making the leap from digital media to angel investing.
You are such an amazing mentor to so many of us female founders. How have other females helped YOU along the way?
From Ann Moore, the former CEO of Time Inc., to Martha Nelson, Time Inc.'s former editor in chief, I've had incredible female mentors who've guided me along the way. Both Ann and Martha helped me see things that I wouldn't have seen on my own. That type of perspective is what great mentors offer; it's what I strive to provide the women I advise.
I learned about the importance of networking from Pat Fili-Krushel, an icon in the media space and former head of NBC News. I attended a women's leadership program at Time Warner about 8 eight years ago where Pat spoke about how she has two networking meetings a day. Two a day seemed daunting to me, so I set a goal of one meeting per week. Over the years, that turned into several per week and now it's one meeting a day - or more. I've learned how building and expanding your network authentically and strategically can lead to new opportunities, inspire new ideas and give you an edge no matter what industry you work in.
What's your best piece of advice for women who are raising fund for their business?
Think long and hard about what you want your business to be and whether you need to raise money in the first place. Do you want to build a big, scalable business or are you happy with more of a lifestyle company that you can self fund? Not all companies require outside funding, and if you don't need it, you're often better off without it.
If you are going the angel investing route, it's important to do your homework about the people you pursue for funding. You need to make sure they'll be a good fit and offer valuable guidance. I've heard nightmare stories where founders spend more time dealing with challenging angel investors than they do running the actual business.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for female founders?
A big obstacle is getting to the right investors in the first place. And there's a reason for that. Since the majority of investors are male, it's harder for women to find a way in through their networks. The other issue is that if female founders are pitching products or services targeted at women in front of male investors, there's often a gap where the investors don't understand the appeal. Many investors, including myself, invest in businesses we feel personally passionate about.
You are involved in so many female-focused programs. Please share a few that our readers should know about.
Many of the programs I work with are focused on helping women entrepreneurs break through barriers and achieve business success. Here are a few of my favorites:
Girl Starter is an entertainment and tech company that promotes, teaches and funds the next generation of female leaders. Girl Starter the TV show will premiere this April on TLC, and I can promise that it's going to be incredibly inspiring.
I'm an advisory board member of 92Y's Women in Power, a fellowship program that provides professional women with the tools, relationships and coaching they need to advance to the highest levels of leadership. One thing I love about the program is its focus on social impact.
I'm also an advisory board member of Rent the Runway's Project Entrepreneur. It's a fantastic program that helps women entrepreneurs build scalable, economically impactful companies by providing access to tools, trainings and networks. There is nothing like girl time to de-stress. What are some of your favorite destinations for a girls weekend or night out with the girls?
I love my girlfriend time! I always have a blast with my local Bedford mom friends. When we go out, we love Jean Georges' The Inn at Pound Ridge for cocktails - highly recommend the ginger margarita and crispy fried sushi - and The Barn at Bedford Post for brunch. For weekend girls trips, I love Mayflower Grace in Connecticut and Lodge at Woodloch in Pennsylvania. I've been planning a Paris trip with three of my closest friends for a while, and I'm hoping that we can make that happen this year!
Can you give us one inspiring quote that you turn to, when times get stressful or tough?
Two come to mind. I love the book "Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn and this is my favorite quote from the book: "If we hope to go anywhere or develop ourselves in any way, we can only step from where we are standing. If we don't really know where we are standing... We may only go in circles...” I think this speaks to the importance of self-awareness and being connected with yourself.
The second quote comes from an awesome acupuncturist who was just recently recommended by a dear friend. She said to me, "Fran, you need to be kinder to yourself." This really stuck with me: the idea of cutting yourself some slack and taking time every day to focus on self care. Both of these quotes remind me to love myself, even (and especially) when things feel off-kilter or the day isn't going as planned.