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Reflections on a True Partnership – Outbox Incubator

By November 4, 2015

By: Philip Kenley, Programs Manager, Salesforce Foundation EMEA

Earlier this year we got to be part of something pretty incredible. It’s the kind of thing that you’d think: ‘wow that’s an amazing idea’ but usually ends up being just that, an idea. Not this time!

At the Salesforce Foundation we’re big into empowerment, and in particular, female empowerment; there are all these millions of girls around the world with big minds and big drive, and sometimes (not always) their ideas don’t get heard. Or, there is no one willing to invest wholeheartedly in helping them develop their ideas, and themselves, in the areas they most want to be developed.

We came across the Stemettes by chance really, and luck – because it was right around the time we were on the lookout for a STEM organisation to support, and the fact that they were focussed on girls was a bonus – planets must have been aligning!

But, even if we weren’t looking for this type of organisation, and if the Stemettes had walked into our offices, like they did, all passion and enthusiasm blaring, there is no way we could not have supported their Outbox Incubator project.

For those who haven’t heard about the Outbox Incubator, the picture below hopefully captures some of the essence and energy of what erupted in a big old house in London over the summer. There were 115 of them in total, Outbox Executives that is – who applied and won a place in this STEM business startup bootcamp for young girls, or in their own words ‘an initiative by Stemettes to provide seed funding, intensive mentorship, and support to talented girls aged 22 and under who have innovative business and technology ideas’.

Outbox Incubator London

And while the programme was about developing business ideas, it was much much more than that. It was about building confidence; it encouraged friendships to develop; new business partnerships to emerge and most importantly, a sense of ‘I can do this!’ which was instantly apparent anytime you walked into the house. No shyness, no self doubt – these girls were warriors, smart, driven, not to be reckoned with warriors!

I was struck even more by this on Demo Day – a part of the programme that gave Outbox Execs the chance to pitch to industry professionals and potential angel investors – and yes, you may have heard right, there was an 11 year old on stage, doing something that most adults would have a hard time even thinking about – presenting their own ideas, to a room of people, who were in essence, there to judge them. We bow down!

Mentoring to Make an Impact

A major element of the Outbox concept was mentorship and growth. This was part fulfilled by the amazing Outbox staff and volunteers, and also by the dozens of inspirational speakers who gave workshops at the house over the 6 weeks. If ever you’re looking for a crash course in just about everything you need to know to become a success in the world of business – well Stemettes thought of it – and brought it right into the livingroom. On kitchen chairs, couches and beanbags, the girls sat,  listened, absorbed and took notes – that they would later share (while being filmed in 3D at the same time) as business people, life coaches, and generally great human beings shared what they’ve learnt through their careers and lives. We were so pleased that over 20 people from Salesforce made the cut to share their stories and wisdom 🙂

Recruiting Salesforce speakers wasn’t hard by any means; a simple ask and I had more volunteers than I could have wished for – and what was better, they all knew exactly what type of session they wanted to give, and nearly all of these fit perfectly into the rigorous schedule being planned out by the Stemettes team (joyous when that happens). Feedback from both the Outbox Execs, the Stemettes team and also the speakers themselves has been so positive, giving us such confidence in the programme and its wonderful captains.

I got some feedback recently from two of our really popular (they were all popular so ‘really’ is necessary) speakers, from Salesforce, that I think sum up, both the calibre of girls who take part in Outbox, and also what they as speakers, took away from the experience:

Jeremy Waite, Head of Digital Strategy, Salesforce Marketing Cloud EMEA

“I ran a session during the Outbox Incubator about helping these young girls find (and communicate) their purpose. It was a variation of a difficult session I run with executive teams to help inform and inspire them. What impressed me the most about doing this workshop with the girls is that they ended up inspiring me, as much as I hopefully inspired them.

“When explaining their business ideas, instead of telling me WHAT they were doing and HOW they were doing it, they told me WHY they were doing it. Something that many of the most experienced executives still struggle with. And instead of giving me the facts and the strategy behind their business ideas, they spoke articulately with the kind of passion and emotion that any marketer or PR would be proud of.

“On the way home after the session, I read a story in the press that explained how many graduates today are driven by money making ideas, often seeking to build the next WhatsApp or Uber. It painted a bleak picture of young entrepreneurs, but what the Stemette’s / OutboxIN project taught me, was that if the girls in the house are anything to go by, our future is in very safe hands. Instead of trying to build the next instagram, they were more concerned with solving issues like how to improve healthcare, create efficient energy systems and improve the quality of life for people affected by Parkinson’s disease. Inspiring stuff.

“But of all the topics we chatted about, the thing I will remember most is how much they all adopted a quote from sales trainer Zig Ziglar as their own. “You can have everything you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want”.

Not bad advice for any of us, regardless of how old we are.

Stacey Torman, Head, EMEA Communications,

“One of the best things I’ve done this year has been my involvement with the Stemettes. I was privileged to be at their Outbox Incubator launch in April, and even more exciting, was able to participate in the outbox incubator house as a speaker. It was an incredible two hours, talking with young women focused and poised, at the very start of their careers in STEM. At the talk, we discussed the importance of first impressions and what goes into making a great first impression and a lasting impression of poise and professionalism. It was an incredibly lively conversation and I got a lot of feedback afterwards on social channels that they hadn’t thought of many of these issues before in quite that way. It’s so tremendous to be able to make an immediate and lasting impact on these incredible young women. I’m grateful to work for a company where giving back is so important. It’s truly one of the best things I’ve done all year. “

See Stemettes Founder, Anne-Marie Imafidon onstage at Dreamforce to You Birmingham and Manchester events later this month.

Learn more about Outbox Incubator on their website or follow them on Twitter.