Studio Dialogue #1 – Marian Spier
Women on a mission
The importance of creativity, change and impact
Marian Spier is the founder of TEDxWomen Amsterdam and FEM-START, she works as a social entrepreneur, coach and advisor. In a conversation with Marjan van Aubel, Marian Spier reflects on the role of entrepreneurial women in the current business world.
MvA: In your work you aim to create impact. What are the steps to reach that goal?
MS: The focus always lies on impact and the creation of space for the ones that don’t have it, that can be women, people of colour, refugees or people with disabilities. I look at how to create spaces for the groups that are underrepresented and try to consult and to empower them but also advise organisations to help to create these spaces.
MvA: How do you create impact?
MS: A few things need to happen and of course you start with change. You have to be open to change, and to change you have to come up with creative solutions because most of the time you go against the ones in charge, the establishment. You need to be creative to change so you can create impact.
MvA: It’s very important to empower people that usually don’t have the opportunity to take that space.
MS: Absolutely and that is why communication is so important, through communicating you create awareness both towards the underrepresented groups and the establishment. Both sides need to be aware that change needs to happen and I take the role in the middle. I communicate with the underrepresented and with the establishment; my goal is to connect these two so they can find each other.
MvA: How do you see the future of entrepreneurship?
MS: Especially now with Covid-19 you can see that a lot of products and solutions focus on impact. People have time; they sit at home, want a better life and ask themselves how they can create a sustainable way of living for the future. Of course the capitalistic system is still in place but there is a group of people that wants to create change, I see the future of entrepreneurship as sustainable and equal.
MvA: Do you see a difference in the way male and female entrepreneurs approach business?
MS: Yes, there are two main differences. Data shows that when the world around a business of female entrepreneurs, including funding, flourishes, they are better entrepreneurs than men. Women can make a business more profitable. Data also shows that in the Netherlands for instance only 1% of female entrepreneurs receive funding, so 99% of the money goes to men. This is a problem because even if you are talented and you know how to manage a business, your funds and money, it’s difficult to grow a business. So a lot of women are in what they call in start-up terms “the early stage phase” which means most of the time they are able to raise 250k to 1 million, mostly provided by friends, family, maybe a business angel – a rich supporter or crowd-funding. The business is profitable and growing but when they go to the next stage they encounter a lot of bias.
MvA: I think it’s really important to talk about it and to spread the word because these numbers are ridiculous!
MS: Extremely ridiculous! Our goal is to educate women about funding. Not just the question about how to raise funds is important but also the communication when you present your business to investors. It is often unclear how and where to get money so our mission is to demystify the world of funding for female entrepreneurs.
MvA: How have businesses changed in times of Covid-19?
MS: A lot of businesses have been moving towards digitisation, they have had to rethink their strategies. You have to ask yourself how to reach your customers now and how to change the logistics to bring the product to them. The only way, in times of the pandemic, is to do it via digital platforms, businesses that are able to adapt best will win in the end.
MvA: Do you think that this change will remain?
MS: People are discovering how easy it is to buy things online, even the ones that never bought anything online before. There will still be shops and people will go to restaurants, but I think that people know now how to save time through online shopping. The beginning of the pandemic was a hard reset and the mind-set has already changed. It was like you’re driving 70 miles per hour and suddenly you have to hit the breaks, that’s how it felt. If that happens and the car does not move you are going to start thinking: ‘Should I drive a car at all? What did I do wrong? Is my car safe?’ And I think this is happening now, not to everybody of course, but a lot people have the time to reflect and to think about what they want and what they don’t want and that also puts the spotlight on certain businesses.