If you can see it, you can be it. Young women need to see examples and role models of strong female leaders in their life to know it is possible.
Women are actually better leaders and drive teams and communities to higher levels of success then their male counterparts.
If there are more female founders sitting on boards, investing, and in leadership positions they can help further advocate for other female founders to stop the iniquity that has been happening for decades.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jaclynn Brennan & Summer YL, Co-Founders of Fyli.
Jaclynn Brennan is a Creative Executive that has redefined the term “Influencer” into “Role Model”. She has coined the term CREATIVE DUALITY-the ability to strategize and explore new frontiers using conceptual thinking, which allows her to embrace originality and make the connection between business and branding. Jaclynn is a trained Creative Director & Digital Designer, with over 12 years of experience leading various luxury brands. She is the Co-Founder of Fyli, a female master-mind which launched in 2019 as a peer to peer mentorship and accountability group, which has grown into a global community of female entrepreneurs.
Summer Y.L. (Yanyi Li) the co-founder of Fyli NYC (fylinyc.com), an executive master-mind group that focuses on bringing together female leaders. Within two years, she has led and forged 100 partnerships for Fyli, such as with Google, Lyft, Soho House, Core: Club etc. Summer is the founder of NuWa Marketing (NuWaMarketing.com) and theNuWa.com. NuWa Marketing is one of the most comprehensive content marketing agencies between the U.S. and China, serving diverse cultural millennial brands without changing their identities. She has worked with over 30 international and national clients, including a public traded company, Anta. She launched and initiated more than 10 marketing campaigns and worked with more than 250 top influencers across different industries. She has been featured in Marie Claire China, People China, Guest of a Guest, Getty Images, and BFA.
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?
We started FYLI because we realized women did not have the confidence, network, or start-up resources needed to properly raise funding and build businesses.
“I have been running NuWa Marketing, a digital agency focused on partnerships and influencer contract agreements between the US and China for the past six years and was dealing with my own set of challenges and a solo-preneur. I was dealing with global licensing contracts, international taxes, and wish I had a community of support to share resources and hold me accountable to my goals and dreams.” — Summer YL
“I came from the corporate fashion world and decided to join a fashion tech start up with a few male partners. I was unprepared and outnumbered for start-up culture, I didn’t understand my contracts, I didn’t feel supported or understood by my partners, and I LACKED the community and know-how to navigate this transition. I never want another female founder to experience that, so this product and community was really a personal need that became a full time business and my core focus and passion.” — Jaclynn Brennan
Summer and Jaclynn came together through their NYC Soho House community and teamed up to build a community they were extremely passionate about and believed in. What started out as a passion project and concept to support female founders turned into a global community of over 6k women with two products that are scaling at a rapid pace. The duo plans to expand Fyli (which means Tribe in Greek) to Shanghai by 2022.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Around March 12, 2020 the entire world as we knew it changed. We had just finished producing a very large in person conference for International Women’s Day at the William Vale Hotel (around 300+ guests) and New York City was shut down right after our event. Things began to close, travel was restricted, people became scared, and tensions were high. We decided that very day to pivot our business and take all programming virtually, to expand our offerings to include a community subscription (known as the Fyli Tribe), and began calling everyone in our network for support. Within just 24 hours we had 2 months worth of programming lined up, an updated website, and a dream to build a community that would add value and inspiration during those very dark times.
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?
We have made MANY mistakes along the way, and we like to reframe them into “discoveries” because it is always a learning process behind every mistake or failure. One of the funniest moments we had was when we played small in the beginning when we first launched Fyli because we didn’t realize how many more women out there needed to have a master-mind to RISE and we under-priced our products while over-delivering in value. Fyli Master-mind is a golden product and we want to make it available to more women. We realized how big the market is and we want to help women on a global scale.
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?
We both have been extremely lucky to have many amazing mentors and supporters along the way in our career who consistently support Fyli and all of our endeavors. We are grateful to Susan Rockefeller (philanthropist, Producer, Artist and EIC of MUSINGS Mag) who constantly reminds us of compassion and is an amazing example of a true leader. We are very grateful for Lisa Bileyu, Founder of Women of Impact & Co-Founder of Impact Theory who reminds us to never play small with her “GO BIG OR GO HOME” attitude. We are also very excited to have a Fyli “Manbassador” AJ Leon and MISFITS STUDIO (based in London) who says “this is not your practice life” and reminds us of our purpose and mission to make a large impact while supporting Fyli through marketing and development creative work for the entire year.
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?
We recently read BELIVE IT by Jamie Kern Lima, who just sold her company iTCosmetics and she drops so many amazing gems in this book. This should be required reading for all female founders! It talks about risk, courage, resiliency, constant disappointments, determination and leadership. It really gave us a new perspective and faith as we navigate funding and managing relationships.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Be fearless. We have many stories relevant in our life and our work. We make our decisions based on creativity instead of fear. We realized that so many people hold off because of the fears they have, and end up not pursuing their dreams as a result. When we first became open to accepting outside investments, we were concerned about how much control we should give to our investors and honing in on the primary reason we needed external funding since we currently operate on a profitable basis. Because our mission is to help more women RISE, we would utilize investments to help us scale and reach more women. We made our decision based on creativity instead of fear. Always be fearless.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
We have taken all of our failures, lessons, wins, and processes to combine them into a fleshed out structure and curriculum for other female founders so they do not make the same mistakes we did. We have pulled together our resources and skills to empower women to build their businesses, get the funding they deserve, and become compassionate and brave leaders for their teams. Every time a member of our community wins, WE ALL WIN. We love to see our tribe succeed in everything they do, and we make the world a better place by helping founders get on their “purpose path” to live out their dreams.
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 conditioned by society from a very young age to not ask for things. Women do not brag and over-communicate their skills, and they tend to second guess themselves. Our entire mission is to help female entrepreneurs RISE (Renew, Inspire, Support, and Empower) throughout all aspects of their lives. From the minute a woman joins Fyli, we teach her how to ASK for what she wants and what she needs. We help women find their confidence and provide education and master classes by top experts so they have the skills and knowledge to succeed in whatever they choose to do. It’s time for women to ADVOCATE for themselves, to stand in positions of power, and to open the door up for other women to have more seats at the table.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
We help women step into founder & leadership roles by preparing them with tangible skills and resources, community, access to networking/funding, and by holding them accountable for reaching the goals they set.
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?
- If you can see it, you can be it. Young women need to see examples and role models of strong female leaders in their life to know it is possible.
- Women are actually better leaders and drive teams and communities to higher levels of success then their male counterparts.
- If there are more female founders sitting on boards, investing, and in leadership positions they can help further advocate for other female founders to stop the iniquity that has been happening for decades.
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.
- Lend your time to another woman who needs support or mentorship
- SHARE RESOURCES AND CONTACTS!! Another woman’s success will never hurt yours so be open to sharing things that will help elevate your peers and community.
- Advocate for more women in positions of power within your company, investing in your business, or sitting on your board.
- Investors can always invest in more female founded business
- Providing more female oriented Master-mind organizations since the majority popular mastermind groups have 90% male members
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.
Fyli is in the process of launching a very powerful technology that will serve as a mentorship matching tool for women around the world. We know that this will help inspire and spark connections and relationships for women who might not have access to mentorship.
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.
We would love to have breakfast with Madam Vice President Kamala Harris and Amal Clooney!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.