Reimagining Events for Female Founders: An Interview With Stephanie Agresta

By Randi Zuckerberg

August 15, 2017 6 min read

I met Stephanie Agresta at an event a few years ago. She was known for creating comfortable networking environments for women, and this was one of the most well organized events I had been to in a long time. I met a few women who I still partner with and credit Stephanie for putting us together.

That's why I support this woman's work.

Stephanie Agresta is an award-winning digital-first marketing executive and co-founder of Virago, a strategic advisory supporting female entrepreneurs. The Scale Collective, the inaugural event produced by Virago, was in New York City last November. I talked to her just before that event.

1) Why are you launching a new event for female entrepreneurs?

I have worked in the digital marketing industry for almost 20 years and have lived at the intersection of our changing media landscape and the global startup ecosystem. The high-tech industry has finally acknowledged the need for greater investment in female-led companies and increasing startup opportunities for women. However, there remains a great need to scale and sustain these efforts in a way that provides real revenue growth and materially significant exits for women entrepreneurs.

Along with my co-founder, Jory Des Jardins, we realized that we had the opportunity to curate our extensive and unique networks in a new way to accelerate growth for women entrepreneurs. Bringing together female founders and executive leaders of early-stage startups, early-stage VC and angel investors, corporate partnership leads and successful growth hackers and experts — we are creating an event focused on real outcomes that result in strategic growth for participating companies.

We are also taking a very data-driven approach to our programming. In addition to including inspiring material from luminaries who have built and exited startups, we will be breaking out one-to-few panels addressing specific pain points for early-stage startups and one-on-one meetings. Our goal is to set up at least one one-on-one meeting for any attending founder with an investor, key client company, or scale expert, on top of the other content we're providing. And on the flip side, we are providing key exposure to investors and advisors who want to meet with companies matching a specific profile.

2) What is a virago?

A virago is an exemplary woman with heroic qualities. These noble roots waned over time as more pejorative associations (shrew, bossy lady) came to be. While developing the brand for our new company we came across this word and realized that for us, Virago was and always will be a woman of excellence.

3) Why did you leave your big corporate job to launch a startup that helps startups?

I spent seven-plus years working as a change-agent inside large global PR firms to integrate digital strategies into communications. I learned the importance of public relations as a discipline and worked with many smart, talented professionals. I traveled the world. I got an inside view at how the world's biggest brands are approaching innovation and worked with the talent driving that change.

But my entrepreneurial spirit was calling. Last year, I relaunched my consultancy to pursue my passion for startups and to be more in charge of my time. I love what I'm doing and I am very excited to add Virago and the Scale Collective to my list of projects.

4) What does it take for a startup to accelerate growth?

In response to the slowdown in the funding market, many startups need to shift their strategy to accelerate growth. There needs to be a greater emphasis on sales and developing customer relationships. New strategic partnerships and thought leadership that drives conversion are important as well. It is also critical to up level talent and bring in knowledge that exceeds your own. More startups are also looking for alternative sources of fundraising — corporate partnerships, grants and crowd funding to name a few.

The Scale Collective will bring together an ecosystem of people that are experts in execution in all of these areas. Attendees will be mutually incentivized to find tangible ways to work together.

5) What are some of the other events you find incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs?

You have to focus on the events where you are most likely to connect with people that can make a difference to your revenue, growth potential or knowledge base. If you come away from any event with three conversations that will result in significant next steps, you've got a winner. The events where I consistently achieve this goal are SXSW, Cannes Lions, every Girls' Lounge gathering and Brand-Innovator events across the country.

Randi Zuckerberg is the founder of Zuckerberg Media, a best-selling author and the host of a weekly business show on SiriusXM, "Dot Complicated." To find out more about Randi Zuckerberg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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