Harness had the wonderful opportunity to interview Georgene Huang, founder of Fairygodboss and all-around inspiration to women in the workforce.
What is the mission of Fairygodboss (FGB)?
Our mission is to improve the workplace for women. But, we don’t want to just touch the lives of a small group of women or help employers in any one industry improve their culture and benefits. We want to reach the hundreds of millions of workforce women around the globe for various employers.
It sounds like there is quite an interesting backstory behind the founding of the business. Can you tell us how this company was born?
Great choice of words! The idea for FGB came to me after, what I describe as, a very bad day at work. On that day, I was suddenly fired from my executive role at a major company as part of a management shakeup. At the time, I was two months pregnant and hadn’t yet told anyone. So, I was in this position of looking for a job and going on interviews — and feeling quite pressured to hide my pregnancy.
While interviewing, I wanted to ask certain questions around benefits and policies like maternity leave and work-life balance — but feared being judged as less than fully committed to my career if I asked. I also wanted to hear directly from other women about their experiences and how they overcame similar challenges. So, I turned to the internet for answers, and was surprised by the lack of information I found, which is why we’ve formed the FGB Community, or rather how FGB was born.
Do you have any advice for women currently pregnant that may be seeking a different job or career opportunity?
Do your research and take advantage of all of the great, free resources that exist! Don’t be afraid to ask about things related to maternity leave or coming back to work after having children. Today there are so many resources online where you can find the information you’re looking for. Read what other working moms have to say about the company you’re interviewing with or looking to work for to see how it’s really working for them. First-hand experiences are extremely valuable and can add more color to a company’s culture.
How has FGB evolved since its inception in 2015?
When we first started it was literally me and my co-founder, Romy Newman, working by ourselves in our apartments (and a lot of cafes!). Every day we would send out hundreds of emails hoping someone would respond. I remember waking up at 5:00 a.m. to talk on the phone with our website designers who were located in Armenia to go over new features, additions, or issues we were having. Starting a company takes a lot of determination and consists of a lot of no’s (or no replies!), but I knew there were other women who could benefit from a resource like FGB so we just kept going until we started getting responses. Today, millions of women turn to us for a sense of community, to connect with other women, and to use our free career resources — and we’re no longer working out of our apartments. We’re 50 employees with our own office!
You recently raised $10 million in funding to evolve the FGB product and add to your team. Can you expand on what’s to come for the community?
Our first goal was to grow our team and today we have a team of 50 across four different cities across the United States. Now we’re focusing on continuing to improve our product. The FGB site recently went through a major overhaul and we’ve created a new platform with a brand new look. Adding new features that our users want to help improve our platform is our main focus.
We would love to hear your insight on raising seed funding and Series A. For other small businesses, this is a goal they may plan on achieving someday. Any tips?
Raising funding can certainly be difficult, regardless of who you are, but recent data has shown that female founders only received 2.2% of venture funding in 2018. So if you’re starting a company whose products or services cater to women, you have to spend even more time thinking about how to convince a potential investor (who is typically an older, white male) that you are solving a real and important problem. The best tip I have is to learn and practice how to pitch to every type of investor to ensure that you can make them not only understand what you are doing with your product, but also make them understand why it’s so important.
With the expansion of FGB, how has your day to day changed? Do you have any tips for moms who may be balancing a growing business and family?
As CEO and co-founder of a growing company, my job is constantly changing every year. What works one year, or even one month, might not work the next year or month. That’s what makes startup life so challenging, yet so exciting. In order to succeed in the long run, you really have to adapt very rapidly to the new situation and new role you play.
While there’s no formula that works for everyone, for me the key to balance is ruthless prioritization and being present in whatever I’m doing. To help make sure I’m giving my full attention to the task at hand, I really rely on my calendar and build in time for not just meetings, but things like deep thinking, working out, and of course, having my evenings to spend with my family (then, it’s back to work before going to bed!).
Hindsight is 20/20. What are a few important lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I’ve learned the importance of listening before trying to leap into “problem-solving” mode. I’ve come to realize that because I’m always trying to get stuff done, it can impinge on my ability to really listen and be empathetic. I’m working hard on not always trying to get stuff done at every moment.
What is the future of FGB? If you could wave a magic wand (no pun intended) what would the company look like in the future?
We’re focused on connecting with more women, continually improving our product, and building a company that our employees love working for. I believe doing this means we’ll end up being the career community for all women in the future.
We always love ending our interview with a quote. What is a quote or saying that has inspired you?
“Seek out rejection. Seek out failure.” My co-founder, Romy Newman, said that to me once and I love it because it’s so contrarian. What I take from it is the fact that growth requires putting yourself out there and there is nothing better than growth.