At a time when America is anticipating the first female President to take office, there is no better time to celebrate women in leadership roles. She has been dubbed as the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg and she's changing the way trailblazing women help each other succeed. Meet Gesche Haas of Dreamers // Doers.
Dreamers // Doers, a business that was initially built around co-working sessions for 100 women has now become a social network of 1000s of female entrepreneurs. Launched in 2013, Gesche’s vision was to increase the number of successful ventures launched by women. Today, it’s doing exactly that by encouraging confident and successful women to take their businesses to the next level, all while helping each other out along the way.
Part German and part Chinese, Gesche was born in Africa and brought up in Germany, Malaysia, and Singapore. After completing her studies at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), she worked as an investor at a hedge fund before transitioning into strategy, growth and business development roles at venture-backed startups.
“Women help more and benefit less...we’re changing this.”
To echo her international exposure yet humble nature, the active female members of the community, or “dreamy humans” as Gesche calls them, are entrepreneurs, investors, senior executives, students, mothers...the list goes on. Gesche was motivated by crafting a product that allowed people to get comfortable with themselves. “There is a lot of self-inflicted pain. Too often, we think we're not good enough."
To fix this, Gesche has made Dreamers // Doers a highly curated referral and membership based forum, where personality matters over pedigree. With eight cities worldwide and a home base in New York, trailblazing women from all ages and professional backgrounds come together via private online groups. Some groups are open to "non-members" and others are "secret groups," only accessible to Dreamers // Doers [Insiders] members.
“Our biggest success factor has been knowing our "why" and optimizing for that.”
From sharing life-changing funding or visibility opportunities, to bonding over life crises or everyday successes and failures, Dreamers // Doers members have created a high-impact sisterhood in the business world. "I knew that in order for the community to do this at scale, and in a way that fits into the hectic life of a trailblazing woman, the majority of interactions needed to take place online."
Indeed, Gesche compares the platform to Facebook’s path. “They weren't the first social media platform but they're the ones who now own the world (most definitely the social media world). They achieved this by being hyper-focused on their product and initial target audience, even limiting growth initially, but not out of ignorance but rather by having a much bigger end goal in mind.” Dreamers // Doers has been approached by investors several times, yet, Gesche has refused the big money and continued to focus on growing the membership base organically. Hello #Girlboss!
“Everything that it requires to be a founder is in exact inverse of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”
Her journey from the hedge fund to the startup world was everything but easy. This has put Gesche in an ideal position to emphathize with the many entrepreneurs she works with. She understands that things can get really hard, really quickly; ranging from burning through savings, struggling with self doubt, or potential lack of support from friends and family. At the same time, she feels strongly about female founders having at least the same potential as men to build massive empires, even if they may take different approaches. “With everything in life, our weaknesses will only be weaknesses if we let them be. And our strengths will only be strengths if we let them be. It's so important to learn what our strengths are and to own them. Given Dreamers // Doers nature and focus, it would have been close to impossible to start this company if I were a man.”
She also advises entrepreneurs to fundraise only if it makes sense for their particular company and life trajectory. Not because it's what everyone else seems to be doing or because TechCrunch is writing about it. On this topic, she further recommends reading Eileen Carey's medium post or Paul Graham's essay on fundraising, Pitching Hacks and the classic Venture Deals.
Omni-channel Community Building
The Internet has changed the way we communicate today (RADICHE wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for it). Gesche agrees, “The Internet is an enabler of communities and sharing of resources; both things we at Dreamers // Doers are massively leveraging to the benefit of entrepreneurs.” Dreamers // Doers has become a facilitator where women can find their mentors, co-founders, advisors, roommates, coffee buddies and long-term friends.
More importantly, through frequent listings of press opportunities, roundups through a Weekly Digest newsletter, and even seasonal offline events, Gesche has gone beyond online conversations. It’s this omni-channel way of community building that has led to members empowering and supporting each other in real time, making this community an irreplaceable ‘secret weapon' for countless areas of their life. With Dreamers // Doers, members can instantly get answers to the most difficult problems, find a sympathetic ear, and cheer for each other. This mixture of empathy and efficiency is what has enabled Dreamers // Doers to turn so many of its members' dreams into reality.