It took the first twenty years of my life as a rock-climbing, wood-romping tomboy to recognize that success would come more naturally by embracing my womanhood and cultivating a strong network of like-minded women.
By Emma Frisch (Co-Founder, PEAKS)

Throughout my life, it had never occurred to me that my gender might affect, influence or even guide my career. Anyone who knows me can attest to my brazen independence and strong will, a sure byproduct of being raised by a super-Mamma, with a strong sisterhood.

The novelties and challenges of being a woman were never strikingly apparent to me; they were just simply part of my world. So when Heather Lane (owner of Purity Ice Cream in Ithaca, NY) shared her inspiring story of developing a Women in Business curriculum at Ithaca College, I was intrigued. When she mentioned Women 2.0 PITCH NYC Conference & Competition, I immediately signed up to volunteer. And when Heather invited me to speak to her Women in Business class, I was honored and also puzzled – for the first time, I would really have to reflect on my experience as a female entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur is a word that gets tossed around broadly. A farmer is an entrepreneur. My friend Nora’s parents became entrepreneurs when they emigrated from Thailand to Los Angeles and opened a Thai restaurant to sustain their family. Wendy Kops, founder of Teach for America, is an entrepreneur. My sister is the entrepreneur behind Beyond Teaching. A fifteenth century winemaker was an entrepreneur. The creators of Bonnaroo Music Festival are entrepreneurs. The web developers behind Instagram are entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, from necessity to non-profit to business.

When I hear the word “entrepreneur,” I pluck out “big picture thinker,” “self-starter,” “fearless,” “independent,” and “passionate.” These characteristics have laid the foundation for the many jobs I have had over the past ten years, leading to my current role as Founder and Director at PEAKS. However, I was forced to ask myself “in a traditionally male-dominated workforce, how have these qualities distinguished me from a motivated, passionate dude?”

Excessive passion, fearlessness and a brilliant idea can help (none of which I claim to own), but my own conclusion is simpler and perhaps more obvious. It took the first twenty years of my life as a rock-climbing, wood-romping tomboy to recognize that success would come more naturally by embracing my womanhood and cultivating a strong network of like-minded women. I have not abandoned my outdoor playtime in the least. However, my concerted efforts to join communities of inspiring women has helped fuel my own accomplishments on countless occasions, including research with the Canastas Comunitarias in Ecuador and winning my first PEAKS grant from the Jones New York Empowerment Fund for Women. Dee Dee Meyers rocked my world, along with her book Why Women Should Rule the World (don’t mind the title).

It may sound hokey pokey, but women are more inclined to help each other out, whether delivering chicken soup to a sick friend or making business connections or contributions. Our nurturing tendencies mean we check-in and follow up. We establish real relationships, and keep them growing. I also find that it can just be easier networking with women; we are biologically wired in a similar way.

This past Sunday, I attended the volunteer training for Women 2.0 PITCH NYC. It was fabulous to be in a room full of ladies starting, building and exploring new ventures. I always find it a hoot, yet also relieving, when the conversation is dotted with lady-talk, like using coconut oil versus olive oil as a facial moisturizer or how to dress on Wednesday. It keeps things light and real, but rarely detracts from our networking goals. It reminds me that I can learn from the women I encounter on many levels, and that life isn’t just about business. Strong relationships and a satisfying lifestyle will help your endeavor grow.

I cannot wait to attend PITCH NYC on Wednesday, and discover how many of the women I admire like my mom, Heather and Wendy Kops have managed to find their own professional success!

This post was originally posted at PEAK’s blog.

Women 2.0 readers: Are you coming to PITCH NYC? Let us know who you are and what you’re working on in the comments.

About the guest blogger: Emma Frisch is co-founder of PEAKS. She partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2012 to bring PEAKS’ services to the Finger Lakes region of New York. For the past ten years, Emma has focused on building healthier, urban-rural food systems with the FAO in Kenya, Fair Food Philly, Millstone Farm in CT, the Majora Carter Group, as co-creator of La Buena Onda Cafe in Nicaragua, and the Collaborative Crop Research Program at Cornell University.