Enjoy the ride — As a new founder, achieving your business goals almost always takes longer than you think. While you work toward those corporate goals, make sure you are also living your life and not postponing the things that bring you personal joy. I had two kids while running my company. I’ve made it clear to my entire team that I will not completely sacrifice my family time. It’s important to me that I show my children the world. Sometimes, it means working while we travel, but I make sure I carve out my special time with them. I hope to lead by example and teach them that it is possible to be a leader, a business owner, and a mother.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachely Esman, CEO and Co-founder of Wescover, an online marketplace offering unique, meaningfully made art, furniture, and decor sold directly from the original Creators.
Before starting Wescover, Rachely founded MarketsPulse, an online financial trading platform, and served as CEO of JivyGroup, an international software engineering company. Rachely has a very strong technological background, having worked as Director of R&D at Tel-Aviv software company, Modelity Technologies, after spending six years in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). She rose through the ranks to become First Lt. and head of R&D and Infrastructure in the technologically advanced MAMRAM unit.
Rachely has an M.B.A. from Columbia University and London Business School, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from The Academic College of Tel-Aviv.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I was accepted to the technology unit of the Israeli Army without much experience in software engineering. Luckily, I was forced to stay in the training unit, which taught software development. That stint gave me so much in terms of leadership, cooperation, and educating others. I was inspired to complete an officer training course and then I led a team of software specialists in the Israeli Army. Leading a team with no way to financially compensate them or have the ability to select your own team members teaches you a lot about how to motivate, support, and foster a community. It certainly built my path into the tech world and becoming a leader in other organizations.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
To succeed in the startup world, you need a strong sense of self. It can be a daunting journey with a million reasons presenting themselves on why you should quit. You have to quiet the voices that cause doubt in your idea or cause you to question yourself. Anytime I would start to waver or let the challenges of it all get to me, I would call my parents. They are my guideposts to accomplishing my goals. They have always allowed me explore and choose my own way, and they have believed in me when the doubt would start to creep in.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I was very lucky that in my army service, my experience was so different from the reality out there. In my unit, there were equal numbers of men and women, and there were women in leadership positions demanding respect and receiving it. This colored my perspective, so I moved ahead in civilian life as though women were in equal leadership positions. I truly did not grasp how few female technology company founders there were. This was probably a good thing. I didn’t hold back or behave as though I was an anomaly.
You see, in the army, I was given the opportunity to lead. I was given the opportunity to strengthen my tech education. Opportunity equals power. We should not make it uncomfortable for women to start companies and ask for funding. We should not make it seem odd that a woman would even want to try. The only thing holding women back from founding companies is the opportunity to show what we can do.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
Equality needs to be the reality. We’re gaining some traction societally, but there’s so much more that needs to be done. Here are a few things I think we can start today: 1. Survey the room and identify if there is equal representation. Demand female representation on boards, in meeting rooms, in higher or specialty education classrooms, in political seats. 2. Equal pay for equal work. Enough said. 3. Amplify female-owned companies by shopping them and increasing word-of-mouth. 4. Stop looking at domestic responsibilities and childcare as women’s work. If we can share home responsibilities more equally, then there may be more time and freedom for women to take classes, attend important meetings, and get ahead professionally.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Women are incredible managers; we have a better read on human emotion and motivation. As proven during the pandemic, women can balance many high-priority responsibilities at one time and get the job done. Women have less ego, and are driven by the right, authentic reasons to start a company.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
There needs to be realistic expectations about what it means to be a founder. Owning your own company may sound cool, but the reality is that leadership comes with a fair amount of stress and uncertainty. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly impacted by mental health issues. It helps to have mentorship or trusted sounding boards to equally ground you and lift you up. Also, make sure you start your business for the right reasons. Be passionate about what you are building and prepare for the ride.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
I don’t think there’s a single personality type designated to start-up founders. I’ve seen many different personalities become successful. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people, folks who want you to succeed but will call out issues and concerns, folks who will be your cheerleaders and your confidantes. You should hone your problem-solving skills because there will be plenty of issues that need your attention. Know how to keep a level head (and this goes back to surrounding yourself with the right people) because it can feel like A LOT at times. Founding a company impacts every facet of your life, so be sure you’re all-in and that your tribe is all-in as well.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Enjoy the ride — As a new founder, achieving your business goals almost always takes longer than you think. While you work toward those corporate goals, make sure you are also living your life and not postponing the things that bring you personal joy. I had two kids while running my company. I’ve made it clear to my entire team that I will not completely sacrifice my family time. It’s important to me that I show my children the world. Sometimes, it means working while we travel, but I make sure I carve out my special time with them. I hope to lead by example and teach them that it is possible to be a leader, a business owner, and a mother.
- Believe in yourself — There will be times you’ll see peers hit funding or user milestones before you. At the beginning of my career, hearing of other founders’ business success ahead of my own was discouraging. I would compare myself, wonder what I was doing wrong, if I was failing my team in some way. Know this: every founder experiences hardship. Those who make it are the ones who keep going and believe in their vision.
- Hone your sales skills — Company founders are constantly selling — your dream to a potential investor, your corporate culture to a potential hire, your offering to a potential customer. Work on your sales pitch, your message, the needs you meet. Practice selling to yourself and make sure you are 100% bought in to the message you are touting.
- Find your focus — You will find yourself in front of new opportunities, new directions you could go in. Many people will offer unsolicited advice and opinions. Don’t let them distract you. Make a list of company milestones and block out any noise that does not help you achieve that next step. Your clarity will enable your team stay on course with you. If your entire team is working toward the same goal, you will achieve what you’ve set out to do.
- Listen to your customers — OK, this is tricky because I just told you to stay the course and believe in yourself. That said, whatever your business is, you are offering a service to customers. Don’t be so fixated on your vision that you forget the value you need to bring to the end-user. Pivots are good. They are welcomed. Be willing to listen to your customers’ needs and make the adjustments needed to serve them.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Going back to the opportunity conversation earlier, I have always hired women in leadership positions. At Wescover, there are many more women than men. Also, part of our mission at Wescover is to help independent artists, creators, and makers find new customers and make a living from their art and designs. When we research and vet our creators, we make sure all work is original, no one is claiming another artist’s work as their own, materials are sustainable, and the craftsmanship is sound. When we mapped out our goals, helping the environment; supporting small businesses and independent artists; and offering customers really well-made, unique art, furniture, and décor were our top. Every day, we work to achieve these goals and hope we are making a difference.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
For my business, I am working on igniting the Slow Décor Movement. Our landfills are full of broken pressboard furniture from places like Amazon or IKEA. Fast décor has become like fast food. No one care about the sustainability of it all or thinks about what they are bringing into their home so long as it’s convenient. We just throw it away and waste our money on the next thing. In the end, if we spent our dollars on well-made furniture and art, we would save money because we’d invest in stuff that lasts. We would help an independent artist make a living and support her family and herself. We would protect the environment. And we would fill our homes with gorgeous pieces that show who we really are!
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oh dear, I can’t think of anyone specific. I mean, anyone who enjoys discussing art and design and believes in what I’m doing!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.