I have been to many conferences and entrepreneurial events in the past, but there was something different about the 2012 Women Entrepreneurs Festival. It was more than the fact that most of the attendees were women; the real difference was that the discussions and keynote – given this year by Arianna Huffington – didn’t focus on down-and-dirty business tactics; it was about real life issues and the personal obstacles women face in an arena traditionally dominated by men.
“I was in love with a man that was twice my age and half my size,” she laughingly said. As a result of this experience, she moved to New York where she eventually started The Huffington Post. “To think that that all of this happened because a man didn’t want to marry me!”
She spoke about being a mother and about how playing multiple roles constantly attributed to her sense of guilt. “When they took the baby out, they put the guilt in,” she joked. She noted that women are their own worst critics, and they often waste too much time feeling guilty about the things they should have done when that energy would have been better spent elsewhere.
She stressed the importance of self-care, citing a time when she went on a college tour with her daughter. At night, she conducted business from her hotel room. The following morning, she fainted from exhaustion and hit her head on a table, breaking her cheekbone. She realized then that she needed take care of herself, which included getting a full eight hours of sleep every night.
Rarely, do you find such openness at a business conference, but Huffington broached subjects that I found real and refreshing.
The mood of the festival itself also struck a different tone than other conferences. When I first walked into Paulson Auditorium, I immediately noticed the warm, amenable atmosphere. Arianna Huffington had said that you need at least one supporter to succeed in whatever you do. At the festival, I found hundreds. Words of encouragement, inspiration and advice echoed throughout Tisch Hall, and I felt that the festival organizers succeeded in their efforts of creating a supportive network of women entrepreneurs.
At the end of the evening, I began to realize that the success of my future start-up is more than just getting your elevator pitch right. Beneath it all, it’s the little things – the encouragement you receive, your ability to prioritize, and the investment you make in your physical and emotional well-being – that really makes all the difference.