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These Women Entrepreneurs Created A Fake Male Cofounder To Dodge Startup Sexism

Source | FastCompany : BY JOHN PAUL TITLOW

These Women Entrepreneurs Created A Fake Male Cofounder To Dodge Startup Sexism

When Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer decided to start their own online marketplace for weird art, they didn’t expect it to be easy. After all, the L.A.-based duo of artists were bootstrapping the project with a few thousand dollars of their own money and minimal tech skills. But it wasn’t just a tight budget that added friction to the slow crawl toward launching; the pair also faced their share of doubt from outsiders, spanning from the condescending to the outright sexist.

“When we were getting started, we were immediately faced with ‘Are you sure? Does this sound like a good idea?’,” says Dwyer. “I think because we’re young women, a lot of people looked at what we were doing like, ‘What a cute hobby!’ or ‘That’s a cute idea.’”

Regardless, the concept seems to be paying off. Witchsy, the alternative, curated marketplace for bizarre, culturally aware, and dark-humored art, celebrated its one-year anniversary this summer. The site, born out of frustration with the excessive clutter and limitations of bigger creative marketplaces like Etsy, peddles enamel pins, shirts, zines, art prints, handmade crafts and other wares from a stable of hand-selected artists. Witchsy eschews the “Live Laugh Love” vibe of knickknacks commonly found on sites like Etsy in favor of art that is at once darkly nihilistic and lightheartedly funny, ranging in spirit from fiercely feminist to obscene just for the fun of it.

In its first year, Witchsy has sold about $200,000 worth of this art, paying its creators 80% of each transaction and managing to turn what Dwyer says is a small profit. Earlier this year, they received a small investment from Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland and are working with him on creating some Witchsy-exclusive products. Gazin and Dwyer aren’t gunning for massive scale or fortune, but rather just want to offer a sustainable platform for artists to sell their work without censorship or too much extra noise. So far, it seems to be going well.

But along the way, Gazin and Dwyer had to come up with clever ways to overcome some of the more unexpected obstacles they faced. Some hurdles were overt: Early on a web developer they brought on to help build the site tried to stealthily delete everything after Gazin declined to go on a date with him. But most of the obstacles were much more subtle.

After setting out to build Witchsy, it didn’t take long for them to notice a pattern: In many cases, the outside developers and graphic designers they enlisted to help often took a condescending tone over email. These collaborators, who were almost always male, were often short, slow to respond, and vaguely disrespectful in correspondence. In response to one request, a developer started an email with the words “Okay, girls…”

 

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