How a Gables Entrepreneur Set Up a National Network for Startups by Women
Ask Violette de Ayala what is the secret to starting a new business in Coral Gables, and she will tell you it comes down to one word: Networking.
“What I love about Coral Gables is that there is accessibility to so many other entrepreneurs that have created businesses here,” says de Ayala. “Because, to start and grow a business, and to create multiple streams of income, you need to be surrounded by those who are doing the same, who are creating capitalistic ventures.”
With that in mind, de Ayala launched FemCity back in 2009. “It started with just 20 women, and all we did was meet monthly for lunch,” she says. In 2010 she started a second South Florida chapter, and then one in Philadelphia. Today there are 75 active chapters, with over 3,000 active members, holding 100 to 200 local events weekly. Google had become a participant, offering classes on how to feature your business online through their platforms, and Yelp had reached out, offering to teach members how to leverage their platform.
But through it all, de Ayala has never veered from her core focus: “Our whole mission is to help women start their own businesses and then to grow them and succeed.”
To implement that mission, de Ayala set up FemCity to give women who are small business owners access to marketing education and other tools they can use from their own homes. This includes online classes on subjects such as how to create a Shopify story, how to monetize Ebay, and how to sell on Amazon. FemCity chapters also offer weekly mentorship classes for women, including a 20-module course on how to start a business for the first time.
With an entry fee of $15.99 a month, or $150 a year, de Ayala wanted FemCity to be affordable for all women – even single parents trying to start a business while raising kids. And, she says, while the pandemic has put a kibosh on the group gatherings that were the hallmark of FemCity, it has also provided opportunity.
“With the pandemic, a lot of people are starting freelance businesses, where they have been furloughed from a professional position and now are offering it themselves, freelancing those professional services,” she says. “A friend of mine, a traditional attorney, created a way to be an [affordable] attorney for others by using templates, making it less expensive.”
Even with all the educational tools that FemCity offers members, however, in the end it comes back to its mantra of networking. “I have been a part of FemCity for over 10 years, and the ways the community continues to connect women through local programming and global events is outstanding,” says Coral Gables attorney Amy Renee Bales (Bales & Bales, P.A.). “I have made connections in all parts of the U.S. and Canada through the FemCity community… I love to leverage the opportunity to network around the world.”
That global perspective is FemCity’s next target. Even with vibrant chapters like Philadelphia (526 members), Toronto (212 members) and McAllen, Texas (1,200 members), she is currently working to set up the first chapter in France.