Next came the panel on innovation and entrepreneurship featuring Cuttlesoft CTO Emily Morehouse and other local leaders. Hosted by FSU CCI Entrepreneur in Residence Christine Nieves, the talk focused on “redefining entrepreneurship.”
The first question was “Why Tallahassee, why now?”
Barbara Wescott, founder of Pointcatcher (now Swellcoin), said:
“Particularly in Tallahassee, it’s an incredible time to be part of a startup. I was in a place where I could make things happen the way I wanted and be a part of a community of entrepreneurs.”
Sara Saxner, Business Consultant for the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, responded:
“Entrepreneurship is a mindset. I had no background in tech or entrepreneurship, but I wanted to make a difference. Our community is on the brink! We’re positioned to have so much growth, and we want to retain you entrepreneurs and innovators. People are ready to listen!”
Nieves moved on to ask about some of the challenges of “entrepreneurship as a manifestation of innovation.”
Christine Urban, Business Development Analyst at UberOps, described entrepreneurship as a “sickness.”
“It’s a passion,” she said. “Innovators aren’t always executioners, and entrepreneurs aren’t always innovators. It’s all about bringing the right people together.”
Emily Morehouse spoke about her career, citing her choices and drive for success.
“One of the most pervasive ideas in my career has been finding my passion and making that my work and my everyday. After graduation I received offers from so many huge companies that were all rooms filled with middle-aged white men, and I knew that at any of those jobs I would have been unhappy. I would have been one out of a million employees, but now I get to be one out of five. Tallahassee is great right now because it’s still small enough that you can create exactly what you want exactly the way you want it.”
Jovita Woodrich, Volunteer Services Director at Volunteer Florida talked about her experience innovating in the non-profit sector.
“If you’re in non-profit, you know about ‘the hustle.’ And that’s another word for innovation. You’re finding out how to do things better and serve people better.”
Barbara Wesctott added that “Customers don’t care about your solution, they care about their problem. I created Pointcatcher to even the playing field for local businesses to compete against giants like Amazon. That was the problem.”
Next, Nieves prompted the panel about “self care” and ways to capitalize on talent without burning out.
“Being a business owner, there’s a tendency to push yourself constantly with no breaks,” commented Emily Morehouse. “It’s important to disconnect sometimes, and learn when to say no. Sometimes at 4pm on a Friday, I’m taking off and going to yoga and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s about refueling during that downtime and giving back to yourself what you put into your business.”
Samantha Strickland of The Pod Advertising talked about the human elements of entrepreneurship.
“Take care of the people who take care of you,” she said. “You need to find the balance between people and money. But usually when you focus on the people, everything works out.”
Jovita Woodrich focused on definitions of success.
“You can always grow, but you should never succeed. That means you’re not reaching high enough. Be other-focused, and strive for humbleness and humility, introspection and self-awareness.”
One audience member wanted to know how to deal with the fear that “everything is going to actually work out and you won’t be ready.”
“It’s frightening, but you gotta love it…” said Samantha Strickland.
“It comes down to two areas: self doubt, and questioning reality,” added Morehouse.
“Do I deserve this (success)? Is this real? How do other people view that success? Instead, ask ‘What are you worth to yourself?’”
There’s a difference between advice and opinions. You have the power to choose which is which. -Sara Saxner
Another audience member asked about dealing with “imposter syndrome,” or the fear that your success has been a fluke and someday someone will find out that you’re “faking it.”
“Whenever I catch myself doubting,” began Christine Urban, “I call myself out for having a doubting moment. You do belong, and you do have value to add.”
Sara Saxner talked about the challenges of being a younger woman in business.
“I graduated in 2014, and I always feel like people are going to find out my age and send me out of the room. You have to know that you’re worth it, and give ideas based on your youth perspective and know that it adds value.”
It’s important to not be afraid to write off the people who write you off. -Emily Morehouse
The panel on entrepreneurship and innovation ended on a motivational note.
“There’s a healthy type of anger…” observed Jovita. “There’s a healthy anger that can create motivation and innovation.”
Ultimately, the conference was a major success for female leaders and the city that benefits from their leadership. Both the inspiring women on stage and the innovators and entrepreneurs in the audience left the Turnbull center feeling humbled, empowered, and ready to tackle the next challenges in Tallahassee entrepreneurship.