Poor Women Make Great Founders Too

I never talk about how I arrived in Seattle four years ago homeless as a single mother with two children and nothing but the possessions that fit in my car. But it was the first thing out of my mouth when I met Alicia Crank at the Female Founders Alliance Ready Set Raise program in Seattle last night. As a Corporate Relations Officer for the YWCA, I knew Alicia would appreciate knowing that it was her very organization that kept my young children and I from sleeping in our vehicle that night after driving for 14 hours from the Bay Area, knowing no one in Seattle and having about $50 dollars to my name.

I was lucky enough to stay at one of their battered women’s shelters with my boys until I could get on my feet. This kept me from the fear of being a vulnerable woman on the street and from the pain of my sons thinking that mommy screwed up and dated the wrong man and that’s why we had to flee at 3AM and be homeless in our car. My kids got their own beds there and we were given food, clothes, activities, and toiletries. Most importantly, we were given dignity. And for a little while, Alicia’s organization was our home.

As I listened to the eight founders speak at the FFA event, I heard about lofty degrees, dozens of patents, and impressive teams and I thought, oh man, how am I ever going to convince anyone that I’m a good pick for them, that I’m the CEO they’ve been looking for. But talking to Alicia put the right kind of tears in my eyes. It reminded me of the strength and grit I have developed due to what I’ve been through and reminded me that the mountain of starting a startup is much smaller than the mountain of breaking the ceiling of the trap that is poverty. That experience is my education. That’s my degree. We’ve each got to find our gifts and own them.

I eventually went on to leave my place at the Y and even ended up working for Zillow, the company I applied to while sitting on my humble homeless shelter bed. And not only do I want to be swept up with the mission of FFA and show the world that women can lead successful startups too, but I want to specifically tell poor women that you too can get out. You too can succeed. Even if you have no degree and no one else by your side, there’s space in this startup world for you too. Let’s find and support one another.

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