…Because women are awesome, we are rare creatures who can multitask, exhibit extreme empathy, compassion, intelligence, and wit. We are smart, funny, fierce, and beautiful. Why the hell shouldn’t we be starting and running companies?
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gina DiStefano.
Gina DiStefano is a single mom, business owner, CEO, sassy pants and more determined than ever to empower as many women as she can. Throughout the course of her personal and professional life, she has encountered some tough life lessons that she is forever grateful for and uses to help others improve the quality of their lives.
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 grew up the daughter of an entrepreneurial father and stay-at-home mother who eventually went back to work as a teacher. I had the opportunity to observe two different ways of living life: an employee and an owner. I chose the path of entrepreneurship. At an early age, I liked the idea of writing my own story. My dad used to speak at great lengths of the beauty of personal freedom. He worked hard to create a life he controlled. He was a proud man, determined and brilliant. I wanted to emulate that lifestyle. I didn’t want to ask permission; I didn’t want to have my capabilities defined for me. I decided to be the captain of my own ship.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Many years ago, I began my career in recruiting in Washington, DC. I had the privilege of interviewing many exceptional, diverse individuals who ended up changing the way I viewed the human race. About midway into my recruiting career, I discovered something magical. By this point, I had probably interviewed thousands of people. I realized, the more open I became about sharing who I was, the more vulnerable they became with me, and how deep I could get the conversations to go. I viewed a resume like a diary, knowing how personal a career change can be. I was always cautious about being respectful of personal boundaries, but I couldn’t help but become addicted to how easy it was to get people to share their truths. The more I did this, the better I became. I was almost obsessed with discovering the commonalities I had with literally everyone. It didn’t matter their race, religion, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. We were ALL so similar. From there on, I knew I had the power to connect and inspire, two of the most valuable traits a founder or leader can encompass.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I was first starting is still a mistake I make today. I can’t remember names or titles to save my life. Although I work diligently to improve on this, I’ve put my foot in my mouth many times. I’ve spoken to countless executives messing up their names, titles, and companies they work for or own. When I mess up, I mess up. I own my mistakes; I am not perfect. If you can’t handle the fact that I have about a million balls in the air at all times, and sometimes a few drop, you can remove yourself from my circle.
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?
So many people have helped me along the way, but I am most grateful for the individuals who tried to prevent my success: the mean girls, the projectors, the easily intimidated. Through every tribulation was a triumph. It was an opportunity for me to learn how to refine my energy, control my ego, and go within to keep going when I felt I was defeated. The empathy I gained from being on the receiving end of another’s pain has proven invaluable. I am forever grateful for these experiences.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Louise Hay, “You Can Heal Your Life.” I picked up this gem about a decade ago, and it changed my life. I endured severe abuse as a child, and this book helped me gain complete control over how I perceived myself and my capabilities. I learned that no matter what happens or has happened to you, you have the power to change and create your own life. For the last ten years, I’ve done just that. That book gave me the foundation to help overcome my abusive childhood and persevere when my marriage ended abruptly a few years later. I reference regularly.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“What you think of me is none of my business.” People are always going to have their opinions about you. How they view you is always more about them. You do you. I’ve learned that the people who are out to criticize aren’t doing anything of relevance. I had to learn this lesson the hard way. I tend to have more belief in people than they sometimes deserve. I have allowed people into my life, been vulnerable, and watched as they used what I shared against me. When I regained my strength, I could see clear as day they were projecting their insecurities and envy onto me. No matter what people think or say about you doesn’t matter. If you believe you have the power within you to achieve greatness, you will.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I’m honest. The more successful I become, the more vulnerability I show. In my opinion, there is this false sense of success. To me, success is the climb, the journey, the ability to look back and see how far you’ve come and how much further you can go. It’s not wrapped up in a title or a salary; it’s a process. I love being able to share that loud and clear now. I don’t have all the answers. I know what I don’t know, I have insecurities, I have fear, I feel less than at times. I am human. We all are. It doesn’t matter how much money or power you have. Pain is pain, fear is fear, and anxiety is anxiety. I use my success to help guide people through the ups and downs by sharing that truth.
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?
Women are not supporting women. When I was asked to become CEO of Mom Bomb, Inc., the founder and I immediately decided our goal was to improve moms’ lives. We were going to run a company that supported real women, taught empowering skill sets, and created a tribe whose mission was to help one another grow. Our CMO has taken that intention and created a massive following of women from all walks of life who have come together to collaborate and build one another up. The company has exploded, and we are beyond excited to keep the momentum going. The longer I’m in the game, the more I see how women are holding each other back. We can tend to say one thing and do another. I’ve been guilty of it myself. When I’m at a low point or feeling insecure, I want to project that anger out instead of feeling it. Once I learned how to process through my self-doubt, I began to use it to empower myself and other women. It’s never-ending work for me. I believe this is an area we as women could improve on.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
We teach women how to use their voice, speak with conviction and become comfortable with being “politely aggressive.” I love to ask women, “why not you?” We teach awareness, artful communication, and strategic partnership building. I believe every resource we need is at our fingertips. Our lack of worthiness and confidence can prevent a woman from going after what she wants.
This might be intuitive to you, but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Because women are awesome, we are rare creatures who can multitask, exhibit extreme empathy, compassion, intelligence, and wit. We are smart, funny, fierce, and beautiful. Why the hell shouldn’t we be starting and running companies?
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.
1.) Women who are in positions of power should use their platforms to build other women up. I ran my own company for over a decade. The reach I have now with Mom Bomb is beyond what I could have ever dreamed. As soon as I took the position with Mom Bomb, I knew it was because I was being called to take as many women with me as I possibly could to the top. Mom Bomb is allowing me to do just that.
2.) Be honest with other women. We’re all craving it. Your shortcomings are mine too. Share your fears and insecurities. I love telling women what a hot mess I am most of the time because I am. But I’m also smart, caring, compassionate, funny, driven, and powerful; I share that too! A woman can be all things.
3.) When you’re ahead, take people with you. When you’re behind, ask for help. Repeat throughout your life.
4.) Stop thinking everyone is smarter than you. Everyone holds their own talents and abilities; it’s not about being all-knowing; it’s about knowing how to capitalize off your strengths and partner with those who shine in other areas. Collaboration is imperative when leading and founding companies. Women are beyond capable; help them.
5.) The best way to encourage and collaborate with women is to celebrate them. I’m often asked how I have such a large circle of powerful, kind, compassionate women surrounding me. In the past, when I was younger, strong women would threaten me. I’ve learned that by voicing my insecurities to the people I feel that way around, they encourage me to increase my confidence. To me, that is the definition of “women empowering women.” If you know a woman is feeling less than, meet her where she is. Remember when you felt that way and when you currently do. We never wholly escape insecurities; we simply learn how to grow from them and take away their power.
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.
Mom Bomb is doing it! We’re creating opportunities and empowering women, selling beautiful bath products, teaching skill-sets, and offering services that no company or charity ever has before. We’re also having a fantastic time!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Facebook- Mom Bomb
Thank you for these fantastic insights.