The interview with Eventify Life’s Founder & CEO Evgeniya Slinko was inspirational, eye-opening and authentic. Her company accelerates communication between people who are providing personal-development activities, and those who are searching for such activities. It is in high demand among parents and others who seek valuable pastimes.
Her mission? Connect and inspire people while helping them building a healthier lifestyle. During our interview by Kelly Rogan, Women With Ambition’s Co-Founder, you will discover:
- The true journey of becoming an entrepreneur
- How Eventify Life is connecting people and improving ROI for activity studios such as fitness classes, workshops, yoga and more
- The benefits and downsides of being a female entrepreneur
- How to manage being a mom & an entrepreneur
- The benefits of keeping your partner involved in your company
- Ways to increase the number of women investors and founders
- How female founders can work together towards achieving our goals
(Kelly) How would you describe the journey of becoming an entrepreneur?
(Evgeniya) It is a really hard journey and it’s a matter of choice between a life when you just obey the system and (in my case) you do something that you don’t have a passion for that has boundaries where you cannot express yourself or fully realize all your ambitions or capacity.
I made a choice of becoming entrepreneur, which allows me to express myself completely as I could never do before.
It also brings a lot of challenges, really tough challenges, which don’t always allow me to sleep comfortably. But in the end I still love this and I’ll be extremely happy if I can continue doing this in the coming years.
(Kelly) When did you start considering yourself an entrepreneur?
(Evgeniya) There were two phases actually. 8 years ago I was a co-founder of one startup, it was a mobile banking application. I didn’t have any financial obligations and in the beginning I was a developer, but I was still a co-founder and we did it together. Through this project and another one I could see what the startup world was, how it builds things, connects with the market, adapts to the market and builds the product, which match market needs.
One year and a half ago was the point of becoming a real entrepreneur myself. It was the beginning of December 2017 when I decided, based on my tiny MVP and a nice idea, to make it serious and start looking for investors, which happened surprisingly quickly. From the moment that I decided to find investors it only passed two weeks until I actually brought the first investor who became my co-founder and invested 40,000 EUR.
(Kelly) And so in terms of being entrepreneur, what would you say is your favorite part?
(Evgeniya) My favorite part is the freedom! But it’s not the freedom that I can go to the gym in the morning, which is also a nice part of course, it’s the freedom of mind and freedom of making decisions without being involved in the political rumors in the company and being able to actually drive my team and the clients and other people to inspire and to bring the dreams to the reality. That’s my favorite part.
(Kelly) And in terms of your company can you describe your mission and how you identified the initial problem? What was the spark that started this journey?
(Evgeniya) It all started with the fact that it was extremely hard as a consumer to find activities in the area of culture and sports for me and for my kids and in the world which is full of technologies and social networks it’s absurd. But you cannot easily find a nice yoga class, which matches your scheduling, language and location in the right way. You have to spend a lot of time for that.
And it’s obviously not just about yoga, it’s about any kind of good meaningful activity in the cultural and sports domains. I talked to other people and I saw that I’m not the only one, that it’s not just me getting crazy and not being able to use Google, but it’s a common problem. And that was my initial point of building the most efficient, I would say, activities aggregator which is based on a lot of useful criteria, based on real people demands.
I could see that all the existing solutions like social networks or Eventbrite or Meetup or Belgian local solutions or even from other countries… they all miss something. And everybody complains that they are not as good as they could be. And why not finally build something which is good? And which doesn’t have advertising and actually reflects the needs of people, especially women. Because women are typically those who love these kinds of activities a bit more. I don’t say that always but typically. They are the ones who plan the kids activities and even family activities. Again, I would say 80% of the cases.
Being a person with a strong IT background, being a woman and being a person who is deeply involved in music, sports, a bit of yoga and arts is quite a weird and not really common combination of qualities. I also believe that I have leadership skills, which made me think that it can work and this is my unique sales proposition coming from the origin.
I have realized that many people don’t have healthy hobbies or lifestyles and spend so much time on Facebook or other social networks, youtube, gaming, etc. They are losing the connection with the real world and the real communication with people, which causes them to feel lonely because of these fake communities in social networks.
I’ve seen the clear difference between people who don’t have good hobbies and people who do have good hobbies. And I realized that the fact of connecting people in the right way is not just about satisfying the needs of those who search but it’s also about giving an extra promotion and inspiration to those who don’t think of it enough. Because sometimes you just think: “How would I spend my free evening?”. And if you have a single place where you can find something within a minute, similar to finding a good hotel, but among activities, that will probably grab your attention.
Another point is that typically those who organize these kinds of activities the thing that they hate most is marketing and IT. They all love their yoga, their music, sports, but all hate managing the website, promotion and tech. And this leads to the really poor quality of their websites and they way how they are presented. So it’s a combination of many aspects and I decided to take care of that.
I’ve always found that there is something very important that I need to do and especially in that area of helping to inspire and to connect people and get a better lifestyle.
(Kelly) What would you say are the main problems that your company is solving?
(Evgeniya) If I put it in a short list the problems that we are solving are:
For the consumers: It’s the problem of being able to find something really quick, that’s the first thing. Then to get inspiration to connect with others.
Then from the perspective of providers, how we call them, it’s a matter of being able to sell more spending less. The global mission is to improve the general trend of people that are getting addicted to technology, we want to pull them out of it and to connect them to each other as well as meaningful hobbies that actually enrich them. That’s the key thing.
(Kelly) As a woman identified as an entrepreneur, what are some challenges as well as benefits you face?
(Evgeniya) I will start with the benefits. As a woman, I’m able to see other sides of the market which are not seen by men like the dark side of the moon. Actually those are all the uncovered niche markets that women are able to see and men, that are 90% in IT, don’t see. So this is the good side – we can cover new niches of the market.
But the negative side is that the world is still ruled by men. And those men are those who rule the investment funds and even the business angel groups, the majorities of the investors are still men.The challenging part is that when you come with this idea they don’t look at it as a person from the perspective of a female, they see it from their perspective, and they see it very superficially.
Men investors (I don’t talk about different type of men who are doing yoga or go to a nice concert, of course it’s not about that) are hungry for artificial intelligence, for blockchain, all these kind of things which are trendy and sexy for them. Or if it’s an event, it’s a business event or if it’s sports it’s football etc. which is all extremely different from just nice classes for the kids or a yoga or drawing class or a concert from an amateur orchestra. They just don’t know this world. So those are the challenges that I face that people don’t get it.
Another challenge is very different, it’s a fact of being a mom. And I cannot avoid being a mom. I want to spend time with my kids and when the kids are small I have more obligations towards them both mentally and physically. So the period of being pregnant and breastfeeding you cannot substitute yourself with anybody unless you give a bottle but maybe you don’t like it and you still want to be a good mom. So either you dedicate yourself to be just a mom, or you delegate your kids and then you don’t feel good as a mom or you get crazy and you combine both but then it’s a tough life, the one I’m experiencing. It’s a good challenge and actually I’m fine to deal with that challenge as soon as I overcome the first challenge with male-dominated investors.
(Kelly) What is your biggest tip for being both a mom and an entrepreneur?
(Evgeniya) Try to find any moment to be with your kids when you have the time. Try to allow your kids to understand what you’re doing. For instance, my son who is almost five, he totally understands what I’m doing, he always talks about Eventify, he wants Eventify T-Shirts.
Make your children engaged with the company so they feel passionate about it and they share it with you. Make your family your team members.
Also with your husband, the same story. Another tip, get a lot of force. Get ready for the energy that you have to spend. Do sports. It brings you a lot of energy. You spend energy to get more energy. Try to get a nice hobby, it takes a little bit of time but it recharges your batteries. And… it’s not something that I follow very well. Try not to think of yourself too bad that you’re doing a business and you’re not a full time mom. Think that if you run a business it’s because you internally really need it and maybe you will not be yourself if you don’t do this. So don’t feel guilty, because if you’re not yourself then you’re unhappy. And by not having a happy mom the kids are actually suffering. It’s unavoidable. So don’t sacrifice yourself, just try to find this balance. There is no unique tip, no standard answer for that. It’s really tough.
(Kelly) As you mentioned, the investment world is ruled by men, how do you think we can start to change this disparity?
(Evgeniya) Very good question. I think that it should be step by step. This should be very gradual because just shifting is not going to work. Even females are not ready for that, we are not going to oblige women to become entrepreneurs because it’s tough and especially when you become a mother etc.
But there is a way how I see it can be improved already at this moment. In all the advisory boards of the investment funds you almost always have men, very rarely you can see women. And among those who pitch there are also many men but you cannot force women. When you see during the pitch there is a woman in the board it’s not enough. You need an equal number of men and women on advisory board or at least 60/40. Because like this it will not be dominated by the men’s opinion. When you see that it’s only one woman among 9 men, the situation that I’ve always seen, these women they typically tend to act like men.
They start being really aggressive and they don’t want to show themselves as women. They just clone the other’s behavior.
But, if you make it 50/50 then women start acting naturally and they are not afraid of being different because they are in a group and it’s a collaboration between women and men. There also can be disagreement between them but it feels less scary for them to show a different opinion than the majority. That’s what I believe. And this can be something really important that the boards, both funds and angel investment networks, should involve more women. Or maybe when we talk about business angels, who typically are men, maybe they should start involving their wives more to get their opinion and to see. They can ask: “Do you understand this market? Are you familiar with this thing?”
I will tell you an interesting thing that when my first investor was in a moment of taking decision he asked me to have a meeting with him and his wife in order to get her opinion as well. So it was a mandatory thing. And I had another story when I also had to convince a wife of the person. So I think it was smart and actually the wives were like: “Ok, I get it! That’s true!”. And they were putting a validation of the whole story. That what I think would be helpful. It’s a big step. And then when women see there is a better reception of the market, there is less risk for them to build a new business. Then it will build more confidence to go to that and you will see more and more females pitching in front of investment funds. Because they are no longer going to be scared of wasting time and putting at risk all their lives.
(Kelly) You mentioned a husband and wife act like a team. So what is the dynamic between you, your husband and your company?
(Evgeniya) Well, my husband is aware of everything that’s happening. Actually about 80% of our conversations at home are about how things are going with my business, about all the details. And yes, of course he provides feedback also he provides his opinions on some aspects. And obviously he is part of my team because he is totally involved in the process, passively.
(Kelly) Do you think that you would advise another female founder to involve her partner in her company?
(Evgeniya) It depends on the partner, because my husband, Miguel, is also a business minded IT person so we can share a lot of things. But I would say it’s a good thing not only for women sharing with husbands but also for husbands sharing their businesses with their wives. And there is a really funny thing. I recently read from Richard Branson who said that he was giving an advice to the male entrepreneurs: “Always get advice from your family members!”. Actually I don’t think it was only for men, it was for everyone. It was advice to always share it. And he was talking about a case where his wife saved his ass by not making a wrong decision that would partly destroy the brand of the company. So I’m not the only one who is doing that.
(Kelly) What attracted you to join a group of ambitious women in Women With Ambition? How do you think we can have an impact in terms of changing the landscape of startups and investors for female entrepreneurs?
(Evgeniya) I think that women are brought up with less confidence, especially in the business world. And for many of them it’s really tough to start their own business. Just even think of it. And for me the fact of joining the Women With Ambition community is a fact of reinforcing other women by bringing my own example, which is not the easiest one.
Also, to get support from other women, I would like to see other women running their own businesses and just to feel less alone and to share solutions, challenges and tips.
Just being together. Because it’s hard when you always end-up in a man’s world. It is somehow similar to people who are gay who want to join together just to feel less lonely by being so different. Yesterday I heard a TED talk. The speaker was gay and said that when all gay people are open and it will be so natural and nobody would see it so differently, there wouldn’t be need of a gay parade. Because it’s normal and everyone is different. Same thing with women. When women entrepreneurs will be something so normal and regular there is not going to be a need for this. But now we need to collaborate and to support each other.
(Kelly) From your hands-on experience and journey so far, what would be your number one tip for a female founder just getting started?
(Evgeniya) Be ready for challenges. First ask yourself, what is your goal and why are you doing that? The goal shouldn’t be definitely just about the money. There are so many ways to earn money in the corporate world. So you really need to base it around something valuable and good like in my case it’s my mission. And you should be aligned with the people you’re doing it with. That was the first tip.
Second tip – build a team of people who are your deep protection and to whom you will be a real leader. Being a leader for the team is extremely important. You cannot be just an introvert person giving them orders and expect that it will work. No way. You must become a leader. Even if you were not before. And then your team will be a repayment for it. So those are the two things and by doing that it will help you to reach your goal if you’re insisting enough. That’s a third thing. You need to be insisting, insisting and insisting, like in sales. Never give up! 🙂 And believe in yourself! Elaborate your own feeling of your identity and feel who you are. Not by profession, I mean, but find you inner-self. It will help you, by going through a lot of challenges you train yourself like a muscle, in a good way.