After taking over the League of Extraordinary Women (LOEW) as chief executive, Cupcake Central founder Sheryl Thai is heading the development of an app that will connect women entrepreneurs across borders.
Inspired by dating apps like Bumble and Happn, LOEW’s app will let users swipe right to connect with like-minded women around the world.
“I’ve always wanted to change the world,” Thai told Smart Company.
“This is a tech platform that will encourage more female entrepreneurs to be successful.”
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After four years in operation, Thai says LOEW ran its biggest conference yet at Crown Melbourne last year with 500 women attending.
“One of the women was heading back to Iran and she wanted to bring the league over there,” she says.
But with gendered oppression and lack of support or encouragement for businesswomen in the Iranian woman’s community, it would be difficult.
“We don’t have any systems in place to assist her in doing that, so I thought how can I create a tech platform to connect women?” Thai says.
By connecting businesswomen from aspiring entrepreneurs through to fast growth founders and well-established leaders, Thai hopes the app will accelerate LOEW’s mission of growing female entrepreneurship around the world.
“It’s not just about having a business as an owner-operator but getting to that next level as a company that makes a difference, employs people and supports your lifestyle,” she says.
How the app will work
The app works by matching users based on responses to quizzes that identify what stage they’re at as entrepreneurs, who they’re looking to meet and what their specific needs are.
Instead of signing up through Facebook, the app will let users connect via LinkedIn.
Profiles will then show up and users can swap left or right and start messaging each other on the app.
“That starts the whole conversation,” Thai says.
Later down the track, Thai is hoping to add in a feature that will allow women to organise meet-ups on the app.
“That really encourages people to share their experiences,” she says.
Next week, Thai and LOEW brand manager Maeva Haim are heading to New York to host their first US meet-up.
“We’re testing the market to see if there’s a need in the US as well,” says Thai.
Many of the LOEW’s 60,000 plus Instagram followers are from the States.
Thai and Haim will also be meeting with investors to raise $1 million in seed funding so they can get a test version up and running.
“The Victorian government have been very good to us, they’ve connected us with their offices in New York and San Francisco,” she says.
The power of connecting and collaborating with like-minded women
Looking back at her own experience of turning a die-hard love of cupcakes into a nation-wide franchise that bakes 20,000 cupcakes a week, Thai says she couldn’t have achieved it without connecting and collaborating with other women.
“In the startup growth phase, it’s very difficult,” she says.
“If it wasn’t for having other women [around me], I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
She remembers when she started out how daunting networking was.
“I was quite afraid to go to networking events, I was very much an introvert,” she says.
“It’s almost like you feel you’re not good enough to meet people because you’re just starting out.”
But after connecting with a few women entrepreneurs who are now the founding team of LOEW, Thai was able to grow out of her shell and become the success she is today.
“By creating the league and these meet-ups, where we encourage people to talk about their struggles by getting one of our speakers to tell everyone [about their journey], it opens up a conversation to say, ‘Hey, I feel the same way and I have the same problems’,” she says.
“The more we share stories about female entrepreneurship the more young people will go, ‘I want to run a business’.”