There’s a popular meme that promotes being “the woman who fixes another woman’s crown, without telling the world that it was crooked.” That’s one way you could think about Violette de Ayala, the founder of FemCity. Her company is on a mission to give women the tools, resources and community they crave to improve both their personal and professional development. Through live masterclasses, podcasts, webinars and online classes, women are able to actively engage their knowledge and empathy — and all of the other soft and hard skills that can propel someone forward. In cities across North America, de Ayala is also giving women a physical space in which to network and build connections. Her mission is simple: every female deserves a shot at happiness. And confidence. And friendship. And success.
She sat down with us to speak about her background, why she started FemCity — and what’s next for her growing online-offline women’s network.
What inspired you to start FemCity?
For 10 years, I owned a Pilates studio for women, and then launched a public relations and marketing firm for environmental and community initiatives. I was craving community and couldn’t find a local group that connected with me. I attended hundreds of local networking events and grew frustrated in the lack of connectivity each seemed to produce.
After a few years of searching, I decided to create a small group of local businesswomen with the intention of meeting monthly to support one another, and serve as a way for each of us to grow our businesses together. It started as just a small group in Miami with only 15 women. The next month the small group grew to 40 women, then the following month it grew to 60.
Months later, women started to request a FemCity chapter in their community. Through a series of ‘aha’ moments, and listening to what businesswomen requested, we created more local chapters and online business classes for women [who are] launching and growing businesses. I’m happy to say we just celebrated our 10th year!
That’s incredible. Are there some successes you’re particulate proud of?
One of the biggest pivots we were most proud of – and served to shift us into teaching business classes for women – was a partnership with Google years ago. At the time, Google Hangouts was new and their reps hosted classes just for our community at a few of their locations and also online.
It was so successful for us that we started to create more and more classes for women launching and growing businesses. Yelp soon followed as a partner to help our members create Yelp accounts and grow their businesses through their platform. FemCity now hosts hundreds of classes and has a robust online library for women to access classes on the latest business trends.
When we launched in Toronto, that was really amazing as well. It was such a wonderful move for us and launched our international growth and scalability. It propelled us to launch dozens of locations in Canada and it was all so exciting for us.
Though it’s fulfilling, there are definitely some hurdles to starting your own business. What’s been the hardest as a female entrepreneur?
Lack of funding is #1. It’s the hardest part of being a female entrepreneur. Female mentorship is also challenging when starting out and scaling businesses. The challenges of balancing it all out while raising children is also a difficult component.
And what’s been the best part?
In a personal way, I can create new projects and grow as much as my vision can conceive. From a business prospective, the best part is getting to witness the success of thousands of women because of our programming and local communities. It’s all so beautiful. I am grateful for it all.
Where do you see your company in a year? Five?
We look to continue to grow across Canada and the U.S. We are excited to launch local chapters in Europe and more islands. We believe all women should have local and online [business] support. We are on a mission to help millions of women achieve their dreams and design their lives through launching and growing businesses.
When you’re not working, what do you do to recharge?
I love to recharge while lounging by the beach giggling with friends, and I thoroughly love spa days. I spend an hour a day hitting the gym and I find it makes me happier, more balanced and a better human for those around me. Meditation is a daily to-do as well.
We believe in creating a chain of good. What do you see as your lasting impact?
I personally want women to have more belief in themselves, higher confidence in all they do and to give them the resources to create the lives they envision for themselves. Our FemCity programming, local teams and communities inspire women to take the leap of faith and go for it. We are all very passionate about women rising together in business with positivity, and impacting the world in a bigger way.