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The Softer Side of Male Entrepreneurs

Posted by: Colleen Debaise on April 24, 2009

I often attend events for women business owners - such as those sponsored by WBENC, NAWBO or Count Me In - and so it’s unusual for me to walk into a small-biz event and see a room full of men.

But that’s what happened last night when I attended a panel discussion on “Growing Your Start-up To $1M in Revenue,” part of NYC Entrepreneur Week, held in a conference room at law firm Fulbright & Jaworksi in midtown Manhattan. For whatever reason, the majority of attendees were male (I stop for a moment to share a statistic that women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men) and the panel moderator and all the panel participants were men, too. I wasn’t expecting much sharing - men aren’t good at communicating their feelings, right?

Wrong. The guys on the panel (all of whom have grown one or more successful businesses) talked about fear, and burnout, and even — rather memorably — the importance of fresh breath when meeting new clients. And in one particularly open exchange, panelist Al Berrios, director of Salesnique, advised the standing-room-only crowd to find a significant other who can provide emotional support when times are tough and who will stand by your side as you try to turn your passion into a profitable business. “If you guys aren’t with anyone now, go find someone before you start your business,” he said, drawing (nervous?) laughs from the mostly male audience. “No one is a better partner, friend or mentor than your spouse.”

After the panel, I decided to see what the guys seated on either side of me thought. The man on my left wearing the pin-striped suit was too busy tapping into his Blackberry (typical!). So I turned to the bearded man on my right, who was already in a conversation about his start-up chocolate business. Now that got my attention. “Really?” I interrupted. “Yes!” he replied. “I’ve got samples.” Then he opened the bag at his feet, and brought out plastic containers of chocolate in the most unusual flavors. Soon I was trying hibiscus, coconut & kaffir lime and — perhaps the most delicious of all — ginger & cardamom chocolates.

I’m not sure what I expected from this NYC Entrepreneur event, but this — pleasantly — was a bit like a slumber party. Also, if you’re a venture capitalist looking to invest in chocolate, Sean “Zeke” Madel’s Pure Origin’s creations are pretty terrific.

Reader Comments

Marcus Nelson

April 30, 2009 5:02 PM

Hey Colleen --
I'll second Al Berrios statement. I've been married nearly eleven years, and I've lost count of how many start-ups we've done!

One thing is for certain though, without a support system in place, you'll be in trouble - there will be stumbling and falling... quite often actually. We all need someone to pick us up, dust us off, and tell us it's going to be alright.

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