Lisa Shapiro can’t stop seeing opportunity everywhere she looks.
A self-described serial entrepreneur who started her own business at age 18, Lisa looked everywhere for a networking group where she could connect with professional female entrepreneurs — and decided there was an unmet need that she could uniquely fulfill.
We asked Lisa to tell us about her new women’s networking group, DC Fempreneur, and what sets it apart from other networking groups in the metro DC area.
Lisa, let’s start with your story and how DC Fempreneur got started
Well it all started a couple of years ago when I was getting together with a few local women in the Fairfax and Burke area. After a few months our group of 5-6 grew to 8 and then to 12.
Eventually it got to the point where we were taking up every seat in the cafe and the owner was saying “I love you guys, but I need seats when customers come in to buy coffee or to enjoy their morning.”
So I realized that I was filling a need of some sort with this group I’d created, but I needed help to get out of my own way before I could figure out what — exactly — that unique thing was that I could fulfill.
I was stuck in the comparison trap, thinking I had nothing new or better to offer than the already-existing networking groups and community groups that host events or gatherings of business people. It took a mindset shift for me to finally “get it” and believe that I did have something unique and special to offer and that I could really do this.
Branding the Group
Eventually I realized I already had a Facebook and Instagram and Twitter account with the name DC Fempreneur — I just hadn’t formalized and unified my social media handles as a brand yet.
So what is the unique need that you are fulfilling and how is DC Fempreneur different from other business networking groups in the Metro DC area?
My father was an entrepreneur who created his own business from scratch and my mom dabbled in creating her own products from art.
So to my mind an entrepreneur is someone who creates a business from scratch based on something that they love, or they are turning a lifetime worth of knowledge and expertise and skills into a business where they can go out and provide something to their community that solves a problem for someone. And this was not the kind of person I was meeting in the networking groups I had visited.
From the age of 18 I have owned a lot of different businesses. I wanted to find a networking group that focused on the needs of female entrepreneurs who have their own unique vision and are building something from scratch and are innately driven to bring it into the world — as opposed to women who have joined a company as a distributor of that company’s products and have no control over what it is they are selling, or how to price it or how to market their products or services.
I was craving the company of women like a CPA who owns her own business and is not working for a big firm. Or a photographer who works her business full-time as opposed to the woman who is pursuing photography as a part-time side business while devoting most of her energy to being a mom.
What I was finding in the women’s networking groups I had visited were women who mainly wanted to enjoy down time and social interaction with each other outside the home — vs. women who were seeking real professional development opportunities and wanting to learn the real things they needed to know to grow their businesses. Many of them were stay-at-home moms who had joined one of the many network marketing companies out there as a distributor of that company’s products. They saw themselves as entrepreneurs and business owners, but as a serial entrepreneur myself, I had a very different mindset from the women I was meeting in these networking groups.
I’m a mother myself — but I am an entrepreneur first and a mother second.
My kids are 11 years old and 15 years old and I spend the majority of my day working on my business, thinking about the next thing I am going to do – what is the next thing I need to learn? Who else can I can learn from and work with and form a huge strategic collaboration that is lucrative for both parties and finding a way that we can leverage what we both know so that we can grow our businesses together.
Being an entrepreneur is a very lonely business.
I have my dog and occasionally my kids but I know how it feels as an entrepreneur working alone at home when you don’t have someone you can call when you are really excited about something.
I love that I can call my fellow DC Fempreneur members now and share my excitement about an upcoming event. I have I’ve known all my life who will say “That’s great, Lisa.” They don’t get it – but my DCFempreneur members and connections really get it. They get the thrill you feel when a new client is paying you $200 a month for a service you weren’t getting paid for before.
There is a big difference between a person who creates a business from scratch where they have to pay someone to design their own logo and get their own website built and so on— and the person who signs up to be a distributor for a network marketing company to sell their products.
I get that it is exciting for someone who signs up to be a marketing partner with with one of these companies and makes their first sale of a bottle of shampoo to her aunt. But it’s a completely different thing when you are in your kitchen with your double boiler mixing things and putting things into tubes and labeling it and someone buys the product you created at your local farmer’s market. That’s completely different.
And that’s how I came to understand that there was indeed a unique need among women entrepreneurs that I could fulfill by forming my own networking group.
How Women-Only Networking is Different
I find a level of comfort when I am networking with women only that I don’t find when I am networking in mixed groups of men and women.
We can be more authentic and have more relaxed conversations when men are not in the room with us. We can relax into being ourselves and stop wondering if we are keeping up a good appearance. And I wanted to provide that comfort to women entrepreneurs who needed that level of comfort as well.
Efficient Critical Skills Learning Experiences
It’s an amazing thing when women come together with other women who have complementary knowledge and skillsets and we can sit down with them for an hour and walk away with years and years worth of knowledge that it took them a whole life or decades to learn themselves.
For example, I can sit down with someone for an hour and teach them stuff I know about digital marketing that has taken me two decades to learn and understand.
DC Fempreneur members can sit down with each other in a workshop or mastermind and learn critical skills and information from each other in a few hours instead of having to spend years of trial and error finding their way.
Why DC Fempreneur is Growing So Fast
I believe strongly in the law of attraction. I believe that the reason that DC Fempreneur is growing so fast is that like attracts like. As soon as I started putting the word out about what I was looking to create I began to attract other female entrepreneurs who were like me — women who also have something deep down inside of them that gets them fired up about business dealings and who want to leave a legacy behind and create something that helps others grow as well
My Superpower: Creating Connections and Facilitating Collaborations
I have my very best day when someone reaches out and thanks me for introducing me to someone else that they are going to collaborate with.
I love using my gifts to help someone else. Nothing brings me more joy than standing in front of a room and being able to acknowledge that everyone in that room feels a sense of belonging because I helped to bring them together.. I love knowing that because I helped connect four women with each other that they are going to be able to move along their path of growth 2-3 months faster because they are now able to work together.
The Entrepreneurial Brain is Wired Differently
My Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are both in psychology and I have an innate interest in identifying why people do what they do and why they think what they think.
I’m a strong believer in research that suggests that some people have a place in the brain that is stimulated when they see an opportunity — and other people don’t see opportunity in the same way that an entrepreneur does.
In other words, there is a region in the entrepreneur’s brain that will illuminate when they see an opportunity — whereas the same region of the brain will not illuminate for people who are not entrepreneurs by nature when they see the same opportunity.
When I went to the beach in the summer with my parents, my mom would say, “It is so hot out! If I had a cooler full of juice could walk up and down the beach here and make a fortune selling cold juice to all the hot and thirsty people here on the beach.” In other words, my mother was the kind of person who saw an opportunity in front of her and imagined how she could turn opportunity into money.
Lisa’s First Business Venture
When I was in high school, everyone had a pager. This was long before cell phones. I figured out that PageNet – the big operator at that time for pagers – had a reseller program and I thought it was the greatest idea ever. So I signed up with PageNet as a reseller and I got a Maryland business and use license and I formed my own company.
Then I told all the kids in my high school that they could get the same pager service they were already using at a lower cost from me without having to change their pager phone number. I don’t recall the exact numbers but let’s just say that PageNet would charge them $12 a month. As a reseller I only had to pay $9 per month per account. So I could sign my classmates up at $10.99 a month instead of $12.00 a month. I was making a profit and they were saving money compared to what PageNet would charge them for the same pager service.
I made a fortune! It was so much more money than I could ever earn as a babysitter. I thought it was brilliant.
I saw an opportunity to make money and I capitalized on it. And I’ve been doing that pretty much my whole life, wherever I saw there was a problem or an opportunity or something lacking in the marketplace.
When I see an empty storefront I think to myself, “Wow! That would be the perfect space for such and such a business.” But people who aren’t entrepreneurs by nature won’t look at the empty storefront and think about the possibilities it represents.
I think the people who are attracted to me as an entrepreneur share that mindset and we are coming together to grow something from the ground level that could become something great.
DC Fempreneur Membership Options
DC Fempreneur Founding Members are women who see opportunities for places we can meet or topics we can mastermind or present about. Founding Members are in a place where they are really ready to grow their business and understand that by going out and giving back their business will grow.
Founding Members serve as the group’s leadership and the basis for the culture of the group. Because I believe in the Law of Attraction I think I have found some of the very best women I can come across and we have all agreed to join together and grow this community and we believe that even though it will take time away from our individual businesses, in the long run it will come back to us 10-fold because we are helping out and lending a hand to a community that really has a need.
My plan is to limit Founding Membership to 20 members. We currently have 17 Founding Members so we have 3 spots left.
Limelight Membership is designed for a business owner who wants to be highly visible but doesn’t want to commit to the amount of time that is required of Founding Members. Limelight Members want their information to be shared in a newsletter. They want to add their blog posts to the DC Fempreneur blog. They understand the power of backlinks for SEO. They want to be interviewed on the podcast.
As soon as someone becomes a Limelight Member I find myself getting to know them fast.
They want to host their own events and work side by side with me and figure out what they want to do in terms of their own programming.
The Symposiast membership is designed for someone who wants to be active and come to meetups and get a discount to attend but they aren’t looking for the level of visibility and involvement that Limelight members get. They aren’t looking to be seen and heard by everyone in our group. They don’t want to be speakers on a panel.
Lisa’s Vision for 2020
I want two new members joining DC Fempreneur per day. What’s really important to me is that two women every day like our group enough that they say “I want to be with them.”
My vision for 2020 is to grow and expand outside the metro DC area. We have huge things coming that will make us international. It is every exciting and what made it possible was that I met someone in an organic way and we got to know each other on a personal level and we realized in an instant that our souls understood each other and we knew that we could do business each other. I know in an instant if I can do business with someone or not.
We don’t wake up self-motivated but we need a reminder of why we do what we do and how what we do is helping others.
We are trying to help people do something they are very excited about .. and what else matters?
Ways to Connect with Lisa:
DC Fempreneur Facebook Group: facebook.com/groups/DCFempreneur