Digital entrepreneur Kathryn Finney says she founded Digital Undivided, an incubator for women in tech and startups, so women can help other women and create a more inclusive tech industry.
“I started a fashion blog called Budget Fashionista, and during that time period I noticed that there were virtually no women of color in the startup space, particular in the media side of it,” Finney said Thursday at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in San Francisco. “And when I sold [Budget Fashionista] and started BlogHer, I realized there were none of us at conferences, so I went to the founders of BlogHer and said, ‘I want to start something for black women and latina founders.’ I think that’s an important story about how women help other women.”
Moderator Cathryn Posey then introduced three women guided through Digital Undivided, asking them to weigh in on why they founded their own companies in the tech space.
Bryanda Law, CEO and founder of Quirktastic, Farah Allen, CEO and founder of The Labz and Valeska Toro, founder of Sola Travelers, all said that they noticed a lack of female diverse representation in their respective fields, and started their companies to fill that void.
“I love to travel and in 2017, I went on a solo trip and while I was out there, I was sexually harassed,” Toro said of the impetus for her Sola Travelers project. “The next day, I met a woman who completely changed the way I looked at the world. She was able to tell me things that I wasn’t able to find anywhere else. She was a woman living in that area, so she was able to tell me where to go, what not to do, and give me all this information that is not available to us.
“Where are women finding this information, especially when you are traveling alone as a woman?” Toro asked. “So I created this community of women who help each other travel, write reviews and recommendations and how to stay safe.”
She said that when she first thought of the name for her company, people told her “sola,” translating to “woman alone,” had a negative connotation. Her response to that is simple: “Just because you are a woman alone doesn’t mean its sad — it’s powerful.”
Law created Quirktastic, a platform that creates media and tech products for “geeks, nerds, alternatives, free spirits, and intellectuals of color,” because she said she could not find a place for “quirky” people like her to express themselves.
“I created this community of people who felt they were misfits and that their voices weren’t heard,” Law said.
For Allen, The Labz offered a way for creative types to explore their passions while remaining mindful of the nitty-gritty of company-building. “Creatives would never be excited about business processes and my job was to fix that,” she said. “While you’re working, we’re collecting all data for your business processes.”
All three entrepreneurs asked for the support of the audience attending the breakfast. “Right now, there’s a woman obsessed with a town and dreams of going there, but doesn’t know how to start,” said Toro. “We have the power to change that — she doesn’t have to sit there alone.”
The July 12 breakfast was hosted by TheWrap CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Sharon Waxman, at Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco. Actress Lea Thompson and daughter Madelyn Deutch were the keynote speakers, while Compton Mayor Aja Brown and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also discussed their experiences as female leaders.
TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast series is connecting and inspiring the leading influential women of entertainment, media, technology and brands in the key cities where those women work, create, gather, network and connect. All ticket proceeds go directly to benefit women’s leadership programs and gender equity initiatives via WrapWomen Foundation.