The Toronto Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum 2017 took a disruptive approach to the entrepreneurial conference model. Instead of talking heads doling out advice, #TWEF17 was about women entrepreneurs entering into a conversation.
SheEO founder Vicki Saunders has a direct explanation for #TWEF17’s invigorating approach. “Why repeat old approaches in a completely disrupted world? It’s time for new approaches, from large-scale economic ones to even in the way we run conferences. We’re creating an open, generous environment, one that isn’t telling entrepreneurs what they need to do: it’s building a conversation.”
Part of that conversation was the remarkable mid-conference #RadicalGenerosity session, where women entrepreneurs approached the mic to explain what their enterprise needed: And hands all over the room shot up to offer the exact help that each speaker was asking for.
“At most conferences, you’ve got the experts onstage, and then someone in the audience asks a question or makes a point that resonates perfectly with you—then you never get a chance to speak to that person,” says Saunders. “Our #RadicalGenerosity session addresses that. We find that female entrepreneurs often keep their businesses smaller because they don’t ask for help, they don’t put themselves out there.” The session (and SheEO’s upcoming app) creates a safe space for contact between women who can help each other.
The standing-room only success of the event points to another exciting aspect of Toronto Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum 2017: the city itself. “Toronto right now is so exciting for entrepreneurs,” says Saunders. “It’s a city that gives you permission to get out there and go for it. And for women entrepreneurs, who start businesses at twice the pace of men, we’re saying that there’s no need to replicate what guys are doing: what women are doing is working.”