Hello Ann-Sophie, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Ann-Sophie, I’m 31 years old and I’m the founder of The Female Company
. The Female Company is a Berlin based startup and is a brand that serves the needs of the everyday life of modern women. I am an ambitious founder, a food lover and a believer that women can change a lot in this world that we live in.
Can you tell us a bit more about The Female Company?
With The Female Company, we’re aiming to build Europe’s leading femcare platform that accompanies her* from first period to menopause, covering the full cycle of the womanhood. We provide the best education, a huge community and innovative toxic-free solutions, such as our period underwear.
How was your experience breaking into the world of tech?
We achieved a rapid breakthrough thanks to provocative and creative campaigns, such as "The Tampon Book": a book protesting the taxation of tampons, sanitary pads, and other feminine hygiene products in Germany. These products are still classified as "luxury goods" and are taxed at the highest value-added tax rate of 19%, while books are taxed at 7%. Hence, the Tampon Book.
We were able to make a name for ourselves and received a lot of media attention very early on. We were doing things very differently in comparison to anything else on the market, accelerating our start.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful leader, and how have you developed those qualities over time?
As a founder, what has always helped me is having a big vision that I truly believe in and being able to inspire others with enthusiasm for this overarching goal. I also believe that persistence is key. There have been numerous situations in which my team and I received negative feedback, or encountered people who did not believe in our idea, and I felt shattered. But if you love what you do, it gives you the strength and power to push past those obstacles. And last but not least, clarity is crucial. It's something I have had to develop over the past few years.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced along the way and how did you overcome them and ultimately achieve success?
We've faced plenty of challenges. Our first ones were the hardest and most emotional, but now they seem like everyday issues to me. My biggest learning is that you grow from each and every challenge and that you don't need to face them alone. There are experts out there, and founders who have overcome the same challenges many times before you. Instead of trying to figure out your own way, ask for help and support. Trust the process.
For example, when we were one year old as a company, the biggest conglomerate in the feminine hygiene space sued us. At that time, I was focusing all my time and energy on that topic, and it was draining. Nowadays, things like this still happen, but I simply forward those letters to my lawyers and wait for their next steps.
How can we move past the stereotype of tech being a man's world?
When I was considering my future career, there were two main factors that influenced me:
- Role models: I listened to many podcasts from successful female founders and realized that I shared many of their attitudes, drive, and values. This made founding a successful company seem more realistic and achievable. It also gave a new spin and narrative to the typical "male entrepreneur."
- Equal education: In our first entrepreneurship accelerator program, only 4 out of 24 participants were female. I hope that accelerators, courses, and workshops will be set up in a way that encourages more female talent to participate. Owners should at least consider how to attract more female participants.
What advice would you give to young women who aspire to become leaders in the tech world?
I really appreciate the thinking behind the phrase, "What's the worst that can happen?" Most of the time, we don't take a step forward because we're afraid. It's natural, but especially threatening when starting a business, as you might think, "I might not be able to pay my expenses." This feels like a big threat, but if you ask yourself what the worst thing is that can happen, the answer would be, "I have savings for a maximum of six months. In the worst case scenario, I would either a) have to move back in with my parents if I don't get funding for my idea within that time period, or b) have to stop my idea if I wasn't able to get funding and return to my current job." This sounds much less threatening. I hope more people will ignore articles like "Why it's harder for female entrepreneurs to get funding" or "Why there are fewer women in tech," and simply try. If it doesn't work out, you still have plenty of time to find a new path.
Thank you Ann-Sophie!