Inspirational Female Leaders Series #5 ~ Marisa Warren, CEO, Chair & Founder ELEVACAO

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When Marisa Warren CEO & Founder of ELEVACAO met Karen Jacobsen, the Australian voice of Siri in your iPhone & GPS devices, in an elevator they quickly connected through shared  experiences of being sabotaged by other women in the workplace. 

As an entrepreneur, Marisa has built three global businesses from idea stage to revenue producing, and worked in Australia and NewYork for companies such as SAP, Microsoft and Workday.

What started as a passion project to elevate women to higher levels and foster environments where women and men actively help each other - led to starting a global charity. 

Since ELEVACAO’s launch mid 2015, they've helped over 80 women get pitch ready for investment funding across New York, Sydney, Melbourne and San Francisco launching April 2018. 

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEM IS ELEVACAO SOLVING?

Only 3% of tech companies are founded by women, yet when funded, women deliver on average 35% higher ROI than male led firms. You would think with this ROI more funding would go towards women founded tech businesses...but unfortunately no, currently women secure less than 2% of venture funding in the US.

is a global not for profit empowering women tech entrepreneurs to get pitch ready for investment funding across San Francisco, New York, Sydney and Melbourne. We play an important role in helping more women get access to the funding they need to build and grow their businesses.

WHAT DID THOSE FIRST STEPS LOOK/FEEL LIKE? (FOR EXAMPLE: THE FIRST 6 MONTHS)

ELEVACAO started as a pure passion project.  I met the Australian Siri in your iPhone and GPS devices, Karen Jacobsen, yes there is an Aussie Siri, in an elevator in New York City.  We both had similar experiences of being sabotaged by other women in the workplace.  Karen as an entertainer and myself in corporate tech.  Frustrated by this and wanting answers we did a video interview together titled 'Why Women Sabotage Each Other’.

As you can imagine that video received a lot of attention in New York city and we were invited to host an event at the Harvard Club New York.  From there the conversation exploded and the overwhelming response was to take our idea global.  What started as a passion project wanting to elevate women to higher levels and foster environments where women and men actively help each other - led to starting a global charity.  July 2015 ELEVACAO was launched in New York City.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO THE SUCCESS OF ELEVACAO?

The determination to succeed and never give up.  Mindset is critical in achieving what you want.  

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FAILURE? WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN?

I’ve had many failures…..non are favourites but all learning experiences.  I have this core belief that everything’s happens for a reason and there is ALWAYS a solving lining, that’s what get’s me through the tough times.

Lesson #1 Trust your intuition it will always lead you in the right direction.  I have many examples when I didn’t trust my gut and it resulted in failure.

Like when my first business failed because of a bad partnership. I had to rent out my house, move in with my younger sister and started waitressing at a funeral home. Talk about hitting rock bottom. From there after many tears and soul searching, I managed to rebuild my confidence and go back to corporate life.  I seriously felt like a failure from running my own business, to waitressing, then corporate life.  But 8 months later I moved to New York which completely changed my life, and for the better!  That’s where I founded ELEVACAO.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP? OR, WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER MEAN TO YOU?

A leader inspires people to action and helps them realize their full potential.

DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR? HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT ACQUIRING ONE?

Over the years I’ve had many mentors across all areas of my life.  Sometimes I go out seeking mentors, and sometimes they just show up when I need the help.  I’ll typically reach out to my network individually or on social media and ask for help.

WHAT SHOULD WOMEN BE DOING MORE OF TO FOSTER LEADERSHIP SKILLS?

Women make great leaders.  Confidence is a major inhibitor to a women’s leadership success.  A big focus in our programs is on building confidence and encouraging women to think big.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT IMPOSTER SYNDROME, AND HOW DID YOU COMBAT IT?

Absolutely!  Even at 38 with almost 20 years working under my belt, I still suffer imposter syndrome from time to time.  Typically its when I’m doing something new.  I just push through it and come back to my 'why am I doing this’.  That helps motivate me.  Doing something outside of your comfort zone every week also helps to push through the fear.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE FEELING "OVERWHELMED"?

Ah I’ve been feeling this a bit lately with our San Francisco launch!  I remind myself you can only do 1 thing at a time.  

I’m a big list maker and that helps focus my thinking and calm me down.  Also big into daily meditation, early morning exercise and eating well.  They all impact your mindset which is critical to overcoming anxiety. 

WHAT IS ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY?

I have a few….

"I can achieve anything I set my mind too" - from my grandmother Joy Warren who led the most extraordinary life starting as an actress, to journalist, to teaching Yoga to princesses in Jordan, to running her own highly successful fine art gallery in Canberra and at 88 awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her service to the Arts.  

"Everything happens for a reason and there is always a silver lining" - from my mother who has the most amazing strength and taught me so much.

“There is no such thing as can’t do. Get back up there and do it again” - from my high school gymnastics and platform diving coaches. When learning to do new routines or dives you have many fall on your face moments….and you just need to get back up there and keep trying until you get it right

WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?

The barefoot investor.

IF YOU HAD ONE TIP OR LIFE ADVICE, OR MANTRA TO SHARE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? 

Just do it.  If you are incredibly passionate about something, act on that idea and see what happen’s.  It’s amazing what happens when you follow your passion.

ANY THING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO INCLUDE?

After 3 years of successfully helping 80+ women build the confidence, skills and connections they need to pitch and secure funding across New York, Sydney and Melbourne, we are super excited to announce ELEVACAO’s launch in San Francisco.

Applications now open for both our San Francisco and New York locations. Only 10 women tech founders accepted. APPLICATIONS CLOSE April 13. Apply here:

San Francisco April 23, May 1 & 7 - http://bit.ly/2p66yAx 

New York City April 26, May 3 & 9 - http://bit.ly/2HvzE3g

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