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how we survived 2020 as a young organization

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

2020 was an exhausting and challenging year on so many levels for all of us and yet when it came to the growth of our company it exceeded all our expectations.

The past 12 months were definitely a rollercoaster for us as founders, but we wanted to share how we survived 2020 as a young impact-driven organization and also take a moment to reflect and be grateful for what we've achieved.

Here are our top 5 learnings how we survived this challenging year as a startup:

1. Dual (remote) leadership paid off

When Tanja and I founded the female factor in 2019 with the goal of building an international community for (future) female leaders while setting up our entire company structure for a remote team and operating out of different countries ourselves, people told us:

„This will fail. - You cannot build and lead an organization remotely.“

Well, they were wrong.

Once March 2020 hit, we were faced with all our offline events having to be cancelled including our limitless conference for +1500 women. However our operations did not suffer thanks to the previously built remote structure and processes.

In times of crisis I got reassured that having shared responsibilities as two co-founders and CEOs was the best decision we ever made.

The secret to us as a successful duo has been pretty simple: same values, different skill sets and eager to constantly work on our relationship.

2. TEAM is everything. I repeat: EVERYTHING.

We always took the concept of hiring slow and firing fast seriously. As we don’t want any investors on board, a lean approach to building sustainable operations has been our utmost priority.

This is only possible with the right people who have complimentary skills and a strong belief in our mission and our values. Prior to onboarding our first team members/employees, there was a thorough vetting process and a longer than common testing phase.

Once the crisis hit, we immediately cut costs but not people. Because we believe that people for us as a community and service provider is our biggest and most important asset!

Luckily, we were able to get through this year with extremely low costs, some public support from the Austrian government but without sending any employees on furlough.

What makes us most proud is that in 2020 our team even grew to 28 wonderful family members from 13 nations.

3. We pivoted. A lot!

With the best team you can do anything, literally anything.

So we looked at our business model about once a month, asked our community for feedback (a lot) analysed, tested, tested, tested…. until eventually in mid 2020 everything finally seemed to be crystal clear (at least for the stage that we are in).

Getting more women in leadership roles and opening business & job opportunities requires not only services for individuals but also work on a structural level with inclusive companies who are eager to give women a seat at their tables.

So next to our mentoring program, career success program, regular masterclasses, active job openings, and our first fully digital limitless conference for +300 curated participants from all over the world, we started putting an emphasis on changing “the system”.

As we understand the needs and wants of the next generation of female leaders, we decided to work with large and medium-sized companies and support them on their diversity & inclusion journey to attract and retain female talent.

4. Mindful Self-Reflection for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Having a business with responsibility over the financial future of other people often feels like having to bear the whole world on your shoulders and no matter how much time you spend on practicing self reflection and mindfulness - it’s a freaking rollercoaster with no security belt. One day you are jumping around out of joy, the next day you are crying out of fear. And again and again you need to remind yourself that there is no such thing as certainty or control.

You may only control three things: your actions, your words and how you handle your emotions.

5. It’s a marathon. Not a sprint.

This sentence won an entirely new meaning for us in 2020. It meant to go back to our purpose, reset the focus and learn to say no to projects that don’t serve our direct mission or don’t have a proper resources spent vs. benefit ratio.

Tanja and I still have to remind ourselves of this mantra on a regular basis tho as we are used to being hard-working (and mostly impatient) women with a big vision.

So far our big dreams and impatience led us to creating programs that impacted over 10.000 women in 47 countries.

All of this would have not been possible without an incredible team, our community, mentors, advisors, family, friends (and fools ;)) and partners who trusted us.

Now let’s all pet ourselves on the shoulder for making it this far. And get ready for what is still to come.

This is only the beginning. We’re here to stay. ;)


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