New York City, United States – Central European women founders and entrepreneurs gathered at the annual USA-Central Europe Women in Business Summit in New York City last week. Organised by Polish-American Women Entrepreneurs and Cultural Vistas and sponsored by Kafkadesk, the Summit brought together business leaders, innovators, changemakers and entrepreneurs from across the USA, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany.
An event not about, but for women
The daylong event, the largest and most important of its kind, included networking opportunities with exclusive access to inspiring speakers, dynamic discussions, and engaging presentations on market opportunities in the United States and Central Europe. There were also opportunities for high-level meetings with government representatives from each country and one-on-one consultations with industry mentors.
“Time and again, women are not receiving the same access to opportunities necessary to forge the workplace and business connections needed to succeed”, co-organisers Agata Golubiewska and Jennifer Clinton told Kafkadesk. “Our Summit aims to be one vehicle to address this, equipping attendees with new ideas and connections they can call upon throughout their careers.
“We have assembled a diverse range of over 40 expert speakers, including female founders and leaders across the fields of business, government, and social impact that we hope will create an energetic and engaging atmosphere for our attendees.”
Supported by the honorary patronage of Central European countries, including Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany, the Summit was notably opened by Maciej Golubiewski, Consul General of the Republic of Poland, and closed by Silvio Gonzato, Ambassador and Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to the United Nations.
In an inspiring and insightful morning session, Katarina Králiková, of the Slovak Embassy, and Judit Czako, of the Consulate General of Hungary debated with other government and industry representatives from Central Europe and the United States and provided a high-level overview of economic trends and insight into growth areas, including entrepreneurship and business ownership for women. Other sessions addressed various and equally fascinating issues such as women’s leadership in a transatlantic context, funding options for companies at varying stages of growth and in multiple sectors and the innovative ideas that are shaking up the tech industries.
Central European women entrepreneurs in the spotlight
One of the highpoints and pinnacle of the Summit, the final session was dedicated to Central European women founders and entrepreneurs who shared their stories and gave their insights on how they grew their businesses, the unique challenges they encountered, and what they should have done differently.
Czech entrepreneur Ivana Hronová, co-founder of the AI-based travel agent all in one travel app Travel a la Carte, claims that in order to win, it is really important to learn how to lose. “I think I have become a great loser!” she jokes to Kafkadesk. “We develop in discomfort. You must try and if you fail try again but better.” (From Prague to New York: read her full interview here).
Similarly, Slovak golfer turned investor and entrepreneur Lujza Bubanova, who argues that “the approach of an athlete is the same as in business”, believes that “failure is just a big part of both, like learning to take any opportunity I got from every single bad shot I made.” For her, whose latest venture, youFirst, allows brands to pre-test a video by extracting unbiased emotional responses from facial expressions using a powerful emotional AI program, “the hardest was to crumble the big vision into day to day agenda.” (From Bratislava to New York: read her full interview here).
For Slovak entrepreneur Eva Baskova, CEO and co-founder of Event Advisor, a start-up that offers a complete list of available events, reviews, and ticketing options, the first challenge was also to decide what is the priority when it comes to building a working Minimal Viable Product. “It was very hard to get rid of all the brilliant ideas we all had, and I am still learning not to overcomplicate the process”, she told Kafkadesk. “To overcome it I had to find more experienced advisors, colleagues and team members.” (From Bratislava to New York: read her full interview here).
Polish scientist, innovator and entrepreneur Magda Kordon, is the CEO and co-founder of intoDNA, a biotech company that aims at enhancing understanding and quality of DNA damage diagnostics and to improving any therapies where DNA integrity matters. For her, the biggest challenge at the beginning was the transformation from being a scientist to becoming an entrepreneur. “I felt like it was a struggle between my heart and my head; it was a revolution of my way of thinking and making decisions”, she told Kafkadesk. (From Krakow to New York: read her full interview here).
Inspiring advice from inspiring women
To conclude what turned out to be a very enriching day, these inspiring women, who were joined on stage Zsuzsanna Gedeon, Chief of Staff at Givz, from Hungary, and Johanna Joch, General Manager at Speechagain, from Germany, also gave their advice to the aspiring women entrepreneurs from Central Europe and the USA attending the Summit.
“There will be a lot of Nos!” warned Lujza Bubanova. “Just learn how to separate emotional reactions from pragmatism and use the most functional one for each occasion.”
“Don’t give up!” encouraged Magda Kordon. “Be courageous, always think big and believe you can. “I think being thoughtful, analytical, meticulous and focused, surrounding yourself with excellent people, looking for top expertise, wisely assessing and managing risks and being the driver, not the passenger are the main elements of the right attitude”, she added.
“Just do it!” added Eva Baskova. “Work on your self-confidence and do whatever your passion is, and don’t be sorry for yourself. We are happy that we live in the age we can address these topics openly and we can change it. For us and for the future generation of women.”
Most importantly, “be open to any opportunity that comes to you, there is not only one way to get where you would like to be and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want”, argues Ivana Hronová. “You cannot be shy, if you don’t ask, someone will do before you!”
Women in business
“Our shared goals for developing this full-day Summit are to facilitate engagement where women can identify role models, find mentors, and expand their business opportunities in a transatlantic context”, co-organisers Agata Golubiewska and Jennifer Clinton told Kafkadesk. “The connection between women’s economic participation and prosperity is undeniable; through our Summit, we want attendees to hear and learn directly from C-Suite women on both sides of the Atlantic and build deep connections with each other.”
While giving women a voice and platform is a powerful driver of economic growth and innovation, the connection between women’s economic participation and a country’s economic prosperity is undeniable. For instance, studies show that closing the gender gap in the workforce could add a staggering $28 trillion to the global GDP, and that high-performing companies are almost 50 percent more likely to report that men and women have equal influence on strategy development than low-performing companies.
According to Agata Golubiewska, Central Europe is uniquely poised to take advantage of this growth. In fact, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary are among the EU’s fastest-growing economies with Slovakia, poised to become the fastest growing developed economy in the world.
The highest rates of female-led businesses in Europe are in Poland (30.3%) and Hungary (28.1%). Earlier this year, consulting firm PwC released its annual Women in Work Index, analyzing the representation and welfare of women in the workplace around the world, which found that Poland was among the world’s best countries for female workers. Furthermore, wage gaps in countries like Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary are lower than those in the USA.
For Agata Golubiewska, this provides “an example for how traditional outlooks on gender can shift in a relatively short amount of time”.
See you next year then!