By Sonya Lee (User Experience Design Consultant, Mowie Media) Being amongst hundreds of women at Women 2.0 PITCH Conference has been the most exciting opportunity for me in 2012. Not only has it been an honor to attend, it has also been a personal opportunity to instill a sense of pride and validation in my work as a UX designer and solo entrepreneur.
For the past two years, I have worked diligently in my home-office developing a concept and business strategy for Wine and Food Travel, an online community and marketplace for artisanal and boutique businesses around the world.
Despite my triumphant passion and dedication, treading through the solo entrepreneurial space as a woman has not come particularly easy especially when the investors and traditional business leaders are predominantly male. It can and has been intimidating to me, to say the least.
Is passion enough to keep things moving?
According to Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch, not only should passion be the core essence of your motivation, but it should also be a key component in developing a sound product.
As the lights dimmed, Caterina opened the conference with a with a simple question, Why am I an entrepreneur? There are various reasons why people chose to be entrepreneurs. Whether they prefer to work solo, dislike having a boss or office politics, sitting in a cubicle or just wanting more freedom in creating our future, we all have have one thing in common and that is being able to create our own destiny. Some of us are investors, creators or mistresses of our own fate," Caterina continues, "I am an optimist and thrive on determining my own destiny."
Caterina's message continues to keep the passion alive and to preserve humanity in technology. Quoting Walt Disney, she adds, “I don’t make movies to make money. I make money to make movies”.
Yes, money is very important when it comes to starting a business, but it shouldn't be the crux of one's dream for owning a business. Developing a product with a customer in mind and creating something that people will use and benefit from, is essential to creating a viable and great product. Humanity is important, even when investing in people who are part of your team. Money, however, should never be the ultimate focus.
An image of Caterina as a toddler flashes on the screen where she is playing with a hammer outdoors. She goes on to say, “I like making things. I made crafty things, I like user generated content, online community, blogging, community”.
It is that curiosity and creativity that should be present when developing a product - that unbiased and raw energy should be part of who you are and in your blood. Following your heart's passion and drive is equally essential in creating a great product because at the end of the day, enthusiasm should keep you going.
Her bottom line: “Make products that people love. Do it because you love it.”
As a solo entrepreneur and designer, I have learned to embrace my strengths and improve upon my weaknesses on multiple levels. I am a designer at heart; I think with visually imagery, feel with emotions and see exponential potential through creativity, but not for the sake of dollar signs. But yes, money would be nice, wouldn't it?
Having worked with companies such as Warner Brothers and Disney has opened many doors to understanding marketing and business development. It is my passion that makes me want to grow beyond design, wear multiple hats and to take risks even if it means doing things I've never done before. Yes, that means financial projections, pie charts and maybe even a bit of coding. Passion has ultimately helped me become a better person in pursuing what both fascinates and invigorates me.
While entrepreneurship may not be every one's cup of tea, deciding to do so may understandably come with trepidation or excitement. It sure isn't easy nor for the faint of heart! Being at Women 2.0 PITCH Conference has opened my eyes to a landscape of many other passionate women out there who are willing to connect, network and support each other.
While Caterina's message has resonated strongly with me, it has also provided validation for my labor of love and passion for Wine and Food Travel. This trip has been completely worth the 5-hour drive from Los Angeles to spend a day learning and connecting, particularly so on a day filled of love; Valentine's Day.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Sonya Lee is a User Experience Design Consultant at Mowie Media. She is an entrepreneur and founder of Wine and Food Travel, a company designed to connect consumers with artisanal and boutique food and wine purveyors around the world. Her combined experience with companies such as Disney and Warner Bros. has lent to her expertise in marketing, social media, brand development and advertising web design. Follow Sonya on Twitter @mowie.