Emily Blyze descends from a long line of entrepreneurial and enterprising women. What started 100 years ago with a great-great-grandmother who survived as a business owner after her husband’s death formed Emily’s mindset today: women deserve choices. They should have the opportunity to be moneymakers, decisionmakers, and changemakers. A woman should be anything she wants – including an entrepreneur.
Emily is helping female founders achieve that goal by supporting them through The Startup Ladies. Emily discussed what sponsoring entrepreneurs involves and how she is helping open doors for women to change the world for the next 100 years.
How did you become involved with The Startup Ladies?
I attended a meeting with The Startup Ladies when the business was in its infancy. I loved the concept of supporting women and their business ideas. I also worked for an IT startup that partnered with The Startup Ladies and couldn’t be more grateful for that opportunity.
Over the years, I’ve attended Startup Study Halls, pitches, and networking events. I stay involved with The Startup Ladies because they are a wonderful group of individuals. I’ve gotten to know several members by financially supporting and participating in their businesses. Every person is smart, enthusiastic, encouraging, and has lots of tenacity.
The Startup Ladies is an important business because it offers tangible takeaways and important skills to entrepreneurs – how to create a business plan, financial planning, learning to run your business, networking, pitching for investors, understanding business analytics, and the list goes on.
When did you know the world of entrepreneurialism was meant for you?
I descend from a very independent and strong bloodline of women. My entrepreneurial spirit was instilled in my soul as a youth playing cards with my Aunties at age eight. We played for real with money at stake. Whether you bid a dime or quarter, you’d better step up. They were fair, but tough. There was no sugarcoating or handholding. You had a seat at the table, and you worked on that game face. You said “go fish” with authority and drank big-girl drinks like ginger ale mixers. Looking back, my Aunties were preparing me to be an entrepreneur. I learned to:
Recognize the value of money
Speak the language
Adapt to my audience
Play to my opponents and allies
Always show up, participate, and have fun
My entrepreneurial foundation wouldn’t be complete without recognizing my Girl Scout adventures. The cookie program required me to set goals, create a fundraising plan, design a sales strategy, and identify my target audience. I also learned about leadership, humanitarianism, citizenship, and respect for community and country.
What does sponsoring an entrepreneur involve?
When I sponsor an entrepreneur, I provide financial support to the entrepreneur and/or their company. I make myself available to listen and share guidance. I will suggest thoughtful and purposeful networking. I also serve as an accountability master. Sponsoring an entrepreneur is an amazing opportunity. I’m grateful to have the means and wherewithal to pay this forward.
What do you see as your “return on investment” by sponsoring entrepreneurs and supporting the mission of The Startup Ladies?
Women give themselves enough pressure and expectations about a return on investment. Therefore, I give this sponsorship willingly with no strings attached. The return on investment will naturally present itself. I give joy and gratitude to this person and hope they feel the true power of their worth.
Why are you so passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs?
I want women to have the opportunity for choices and decisions. Understanding that you, a woman, can choose to have a family, a career, a [fill in the blank] is extremely important. Understanding that you don’t just have to be preconditioned to behave and do things because “that’s the way things have always been done” is the shift in perception that I try to encourage and instill. Choices offer chances for decision making.
I want women to have the opportunity for choices and decisions.
I saw the impact and influence of women when I was in my teens. My father worked for The Limited in the ‘80s and ‘90s. During the decades he was there, I saw firsthand their working environment through “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” Seeing women in an office setting – corporate roles in construction, store planning, accounting, architecture and design, retail store managers – women were represented in all different levels of the enterprise. They were decisionmakers and created financial independence for themselves. This formed my mindset that I could do that too. And, if I can do that, I can encourage others to do the same.
How can we create more female entrepreneurs?
Create more access to funding, networks, and education.
Develop environments where women and minority entrepreneurs have a place.
Build an understanding that female entrepreneurs are essential, valuable, important, and make a difference in our communities.
Remove biases among men and women. Rather than “female entrepreneurs,” I want everyone to be seen as just “entrepreneurs.” We need to move forward as a collective group in creating an equal platform for access and success.
Outside of financials, I believe the hallmarks of a successful entrepreneur are:
Emotions need motion – Acknowledge your feelings, understand those emotions, and keep moving forward.
Fast recovery rate – Embrace the ups, downs, and everyday processes.
Presence – Entrepreneurs practice their presence. They know how to dress, what words to say, where they want to be, and can articulate how they see themselves so others can see it too.
Active listening – They seek to understand, learn, and know how to ask great questions.
Discernment – Good entrepreneurs can find support and identify people around for the wrong reasons.
Understand their energy – They know how to channel their energy on the right tasks, people, and emotions.
You work to inspire up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Who inspires you?
I rely on my own Women’s Group. I’ve known these women for more than 12 years. We support each other in life events and causes that we’re each passionate about. That’s an amazing thing to have and I do not take it for granted.
There are qualities I find inspiring in people:
They have everyday hustle and love for themselves, family, and friends.
They step up for causes they believe in. They show up and participate.
They use their voice for good even in the face of adversity. They remain beautiful and demonstrate class.
They are full-spectrum women – mothers, sisters, wives, caregivers, friends, small group church leaders, and all the other hats they are asked to wear. They inspire me to do what I can and be the best I can be.
What have you learned about other female entrepreneurs and yourself by becoming a sponsor? How has this experience made you more passionate about the work?
Supporting female entrepreneurs is not a zero-sum game. There is the perception that more women/minority entrepreneurs displaces someone else. That’s not true, we just need to create a bigger table. Women of all paths – race, demographics, orientation, age – need to be included. To solve some of today’s most important issues, we need individuals from all backgrounds and environments.
I want to be an advocate and meet people where they are. If I can be an ally and provide a platform for others to have a voice, then sign me up!
Connect with Emily:
About The Startup Ladies:
The Startup Ladies represents one of Indiana’s best resources dedicated to helping entrepreneurs build scalable businesses. The organization provides valuable training and connects entrepreneurs with early stage investors. For more information on investing in or sponsoring a founder, contact Kristen Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org.