By Erik Klevar
The 1st of November saw Kvinneprosjektets (The Women’s Project) kick-off at DNBs office in Trondheim. A hundred or so young women and a handful of men were attending to learn more about entrepreneurship and meet like-minded individuals.
Kvinneprosjektet wants to inspire more women to pursue an entrepreneurial career. Today was about showing that there are plenty of role models for female entrepreneurs in the world and Norway even though they are by far outnumbered by their male colleagues. The kick-off featured profiled female entrepreneurs like Kimberly Larsen, the founder of freelancer platform TimetoRIOT and Silje Landevåg who is the brains behind the webshop Get Inspired, one of Norway’s biggest online retailers.
Selma Selbæk and Elise Irgens from Engage and Silje Granås from Spark* are the people behind the project who have worked tirelessly for several months to make Kvinneprosjektet a reality. Selma took some time to comment on the background and future of the project.
Kvinneprosjektet originally started as a Spark* project. A research study showed that only 11% of the people who utilized startup guidance from Spark* were women and these numbers are also common in the private sector. Only 3 out of 10 Norwegian founders were women! There is no good reason as to why it should be like this and it’s not good for business or the development of our society.
With this as a background, we started Kvinneprosjektet and our vision is to inspire more female students to venture out on their startup dream. Vetle Øien and Elise Marie Irgens conducted the research study that showed the significant lack of female founders in Spark*’s pool of entrepreneurs. Elise took her project to Engage who today is financing the project. In January myself and Silje Beckmann Granås were recruited to the project group, Silje is employed in Spark* and a student at STS (Senter for Teknologi og Samfunn) and I am a student of medicine. My entry was the involvement I’ve had with Start NTNU for the last two years. Together with Elise, who is now employed at the School of Entrepreneurship, we have worked together on the function and vision of Kvinneprosjektet.
Raja Skogland is one of the leading women in Norway when it comes to fintech. She talked a great deal about the importance of having the right passion when launching new ventures and believes that this is what separates those who succeed and those who don’t.
It was a challenge to find our place within the university innovation ecosystem, but we have been met with support and a lot of goodwill. After the kick-off we are sure that Kvinneprosjektet is a project that deserves to live. In August we got DNB as a partner. Their focus on equality and their campaign on female finance investments corresponds well with our vision. For the spring we will have a solid amount of events going on. First of all, we will have a five-part lecture series for female students who want defined tools on the journey from idea to sustainable business. In the end, we will have a competition in using these tools and the group with the best idea will get a big prize. In parallel, we are going to arrange some inspirational lectures with well known female entrepreneurs and known female business leaders. We also aim to have lowkey social meetings where we can focus on network building, idea exchanges and good food. The program for the spring semester is beginning in February and all our events will be posted at our Facebook page.
NTNU School of Entrepreneurship alum Viljar Rystad from his design sprint consultancy Løpe gave the young hopefuls an introduction to design sprints. With a workshop where the goal was to give the participants insight into the importance of early prototyping when you want to create a product. Before you start building a product you must know that the customers want it.
All women should come by one of our events even if they don’t want to start their own business. There is a lot of learning going on and many exciting people to meet. The best thing about this kick off was that almost 100 young women decided to sacrifice their Halloween party, pizza night or Friday night out to come. This shows that there is a need and interest and it gives us the motivation to keep on working and scale the project up. There are a lot of resourceful young women with a business founder within them and I hope I get to meet a lot of them this spring and read about them in Dagens Næringsliv in a few years.
All pictures by: Peter Fistonic/Spark* NTNU