In these times of social distancing, a group of female founders are staying connected over a virtual coffee.  Aiming to create a sort of ‘safe space’ with a focus on support and comfort, the Female Founders Coffee Catch Ups are a place for women to chat and debrief with other women in business with no hard sales or pressure to perform.

Late last year, the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) held a lean startup workshop focused on women in business.  Unlike the many workshops we’ve run before with hundreds of entrepreneurs, we found the conversations and questions this time were a little different – more focused on emotion.   Often working in male-dominated industries, women can feel pressured to remove all emotion from their business, however when women network with other women, they tend to talk about how they are feeling and what they are struggling with.

And thus, the idea emerged for a Female Founders Coffee Catch Up.

The Female Founders Coffee Catch Ups are casual, kept short and sweet and scheduled to coincide with the morning cuppa, so attendees don’t have to sacrifice family time to network.  It’s a time to share wins and losses, discuss challenges, and be inspired.  The catch ups are facilitated by CBRIN’s experienced team and driven by the interests of attendees, with conversation naturally flowing to bring up new topics for discussion.  It’s a time to chat about what are others doing, how are they facing their challenges, share wins and losses, and make connections with other women in business, all in a relaxed setting.

So far we’ve covered a myriad of topics, from sourcing funding to surviving during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.  The topic of work-life balance is often brought up and can be a real challenge for founders and entrepreneurs. For many women, particularly parents, there is a persistent challenge of how to effectively juggle multiple roles.  CBRIN Chair Hala Batainah is a strong proponent of the concept ‘work-life integration’ rather than ‘balance’, something the lockdown has forced upon many businesses.

Recent discussions have focused on the silver linings of lockdown and what is worth keeping, such as flexible, work from home arrangements, more quality family time, and commitment to self-care.

Many female founders have found within this crisis an opportunity to focus on the nature of their business and to seek out novel solutions.  Moving events to a virtual space has broken down regional borders and allowed for some fantastic networking and educational experiences. Though Canberra-based, we’ve had women from the region and Sydney join the catch up.

The Female Founders Coffee Catch Up seemed like a good opportunity for Debbie Saunders, CEO of Wildlife Drones to connect with other women, many of whom she feels she would never have met any other way.  Debbie has found that chatting with other female founders is a great way to get new ideas on how to approach things.  She finds it interesting to hear what people are going through, especially hearing the female perspective and really values the personal and comfortable nature of the catch up, “It’s great you can just be honest (about how you’re feeling), there’s an emotional understanding, without having to justify yourself”.  Deb mused that the catch up “seems to be the one forum where people seem happier during COVID lockdown, it’s been refreshing to hear positives”.

The next Female Founders Coffee Catch Up will be held online on the 21st of July at 10am. All women in business are welcome to join – register here, and don’t forget to grab a cuppa!