Ladies Who Launch held its first session Feb. 12 at The Cellar in downtown Lincoln.
When Jill Thayer Liliedahl, founder of the frozen treat company Pop Art, and Amber Pankonin, creator of the health-oriented recipe app StirList, met on the Lincoln, Neb. startup scene, the pair began noticing a missing demographic at the events they were attending. Both women were startled by the lack female entrepreneurs.
"We would show up to all these startup events, and we were practically the only women there," Thayer Liliedahl said. "We wanted more to show up."
Inspired by the name of Karen Linder's October 2012 TEDxOmaha talk, "Ladies Who Launch," Pankonin (below, left) and Thayer Liliedahl (below, right) founded Ladies Who Launch - Lincoln, a networking group to help connect female entrepreneurs based in Lincoln.
"The first time I thought maybe a half dozen people would show up, I had no idea," Thayer Liliedahl said. "I made the reservation for 12 thinking we would get half of that."
But on Feb. 12 when at least 40 women showed up to the inaugural meeting of Ladies Who Launch - Lincoln, the pair knew that they had found a group in need of a service. Since then the group of 20 to 40 women have been meeting every other Tuesday in downtown Lincoln to network, talk entrepreneurship and share tips for success.
"We really wanted to build a community but I just felt really lonely," Pankonin said. "Jill was like my only colleague at events. I think (by) connecting with other women you just feel like you have a team of people by your side."
"They appreciate connecting with other women," Pankonin said of the meetings' attendees. "They've gotten new business or they are discovering services they need."
Ladies Who Launch - Lincoln is made up of all ages of women in all stages of entrepreneurship, in fact, individuals aren't required to own their own business to attend meetings.
"(We want) all kinds of women, all kinds of businesses, even if you're not into it yet but have an interest in supporting or rooting on entrepreneurs," Thayer Liliedahl said.
Even after just three meetings, members of the group have begun to see improvements in their businesses and added interest, Thayer Liliedahl said. For others, she noted, the group serves as the "kick in the pants, in a helpful way" that may have been needed.
"We just want to encourage one another, so you feel more confident moving forward," Pankonin said. "Insecurity and lack of confidence I think are some of the biggest obstacles for women to overcome in starting a business."
Thayer Lilidahl said she's happy that female entrepreneurs in Lincoln now have more people they can go to for advice and has realized there was more of a need than she and Pankonin originally thought for this type of group.
"We just wanted a few other people to hang out with," she said. "Now we have all sorts of new friends. It's just awesome."
Credits: Event photo courtesy of Three Pillars Media. Jill Thayer Liliedahl and Amber Pankonin photo by Kate Ellingson.