This Female Founder Friday, get ready to meet a DC powerhouse. Julie Kantor is a social impact woman entrepreneur committed to building mentoring cultures to drive employee engagement and elevating women in the STEM workforce. Twomentor is her fifth startup! Julie is one of those women who walk into a room and completely change the energy level. She is that beautiful balance of power and grace that makes everyone stop and listen to what she has to say. Having had the opportunity to listen to one of her keynote presentations, I can say that what Julie chooses to talk about matters.
So, if you’re interested in serial female founders, or considering launching a social impact startup…. don’t miss Julie’s candid answers to my questions below!
What inspired you to create your company?
I have spent the past 20+ years with multi-national corporations working on their HR/Diversity strategies around workforce development. Similar to how an hr training academy would teach employee engagement, the MNCs I worked with focused on how to better engage Millennials and elevate Women especially in STEM fields. Part of this was running Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE in the Greater Washington Region and Million Women Mentors) Over the past three years and after speaking to 400- 500 major companies, I found that few had formal mentor training and most had good intentions but needed more infrastructure in building a quality mentoring & sponsorship programs. A sponsor is someone who talks about you behind closed doors and champions you to others. Further there was a significant business case for mentoring (Wharton did a study where mentors were promoted 6x more and mentees 5x more- retention 20% higher at Sun Microsystems– the cost of replacing an employee can equal over one years salary). I decided to build (through Twomentor LLC) around supporting companies in building mentoring cultures.
What was your biggest obstacle and failure in going from idea to business?
I totally underestimated the amount of financial runway needed to get a training and development business off the ground. The pain of that led me to be more efficient and creative than I would have been otherwise, so I guess it was a blessing in disguise. I’m cash flow positive and still own 100% of the company.
I brought several amazing women on board to join me in this journey and we have begun a national scalability strategy. Our pipeline is phenomenal and our conversations are resonating with corporate America and organizations in a big way. Every company to retain their Millennials needs to have a mentoring initiative/culture. There is a huge business case we can speak to and I’ve written a ton about on my Huffington Post Blog. Every company, to have more diversity and see women at higher levels, needs to have a Sponsorship program. We will help your employees thrive.
If you had a theme song what would it be?
My theme song would be “The Whole of the Moon,” by the Waterboys. We used to go to this Irish Bar, Foleys, in Boston when I was in college and play it over and over again on the jukebox. I think that as an entrepreneur– we derive great pleasure from seeing solutions and opportunities where others see obstacles.
I spoke about wings
You just flew
I wondered, I guessed and I tried
You just knew
But you swooned, I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon
Please share your best piece of advice for aspiring female founders.
You are enough. Second guessing yourself a lot will be one of your biggest barriers to execution of your big dreams and success. Read What Do You Do With An Idea, a children’s book by Kobi Yamada.