Nora Poggi: Her Film “She Started It” Fires Up Young Women to Start Their Own Business

Launched in 2013, She Started It is a feature length documentary film on women tech entrepreneurs, shot on location in Silicon Valley, NYC, Europe, Vietnam, Mississippi and more, that aims to highlight successful role models for young women. It is the first film to show the behind the scenes of running a tech start-up as a young woman. WE spoke with Nora Poggi on how the film came about.

Filmmaker Nora Poggi has fair skin with short brown hair that’s tied back in a hair clip. She is smiling at someone off camera in a black and white spotted blouse with film posters behind her.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
NP:

I moved to the US in 2011 from France. I worked for a French tech company as a journalist, and then started a 5 year journey in 2013.

What was the spark for this journey?
NP:

I was working as a Silicon Valley journalist and I realized I was interviewing very few women. In 2013, there was a tech conference where women were being showcased that we had never heard of. They weren’t in the media. It was my job as a journalist to tell this story (of women entrepreneurs). I wanted to share it with the world. The idea of a film is that it reaches the most people possible so women could be inspired. I met my business partner, Insiyah Saeed (journalist and documentary producer), around this time.

Tell us more about the film. What are your goals for the project?
NP:

We followed five women over two years as they pitch VCs, build teams, bring products to market, fail and start again. Women usually account for “less than 10 percent of founders” for high growth firms, according to the study Sources of Economic Hope by the Kauffman Foundation.1 Our goal is to reach one million women and girls with this film in and show them that if you fall, you can get back up. We want girls who will see the film to know that they can take risks, that failure is okay and that it is worth trying something you are passionate about.

How did you get funding?
NP:

I’m like a startup. We (Insiyah Saeed and Nora) didn’t want to take equity and we didn’t know if we’d make any money. It seems like most films are hybrid productions with some grants, investments and donations. But we only did tax deductible deductions and two crowd funding campaigns. We targeted individuals who would want to support us and we put in some of our own money.

What were some of the hurdles to making the film?
NP:

We started this thinking that we were just going to witness, be flies on the wall, but we became entrepreneurs ourselves. You have to fundraise, you have to build a team and our lives resembled the ones we saw on screen. It became a crazy journey.

White woman artist with long blonde hair leans over a sketchbook she’s about to draw on in red. Wearing a black wool cap, jeans and a grey t-shirt.
Women are beating the odds. If they aren’t quitting then we’re not quitting. Knowing that we would be able to inspire other women is motivating.
Who do you ask for advice? Do you have a mentor?
NP:

We were both first time film makers, but I had been working in a production company for a while and my partner had too. So we had some connections, but it was a lot of trial by fire. We have an informal board of advisors. A lot of friends and colleagues who helped who had worked in film and worked for very little money.

What keeps you motivated?
NP:

The power of the stories kept us going. Women are beating the odds. If they aren’t quitting then we’re not quitting. Knowing that we would be able to inspire other women is motivating. The whole Silicon Valley trend of building whatever startup to just make money is a disaster. Because if you don’t have a passion then it’s not going to work. Believe in why you’re doing it.

Our goal is to reach one million women and girls with this film in and show them that if you fall, you can get back up. We want girls who will see the film to know that they can take risks, that failure is okay and that it is worth trying something you are passionate about.
What has the biggest struggle during this journey?
NP:

Making the film seems like the biggest hurdle, but actually it all starts after. We toured in 400 places around the world, 30 global locations. It’s a lot of work and no one is going to do it for you. Negotiating the relationship with communities—in the sense that you customers but you have an ecosystem. It’s B2B—it’s available to nonprofits, schools, etc. and it’s still going on. They are more than customers. They play a huge part of the goal—how people are impacted by the film. We’re trying to influence VCs and corporations and education systems and parents.

What are advantages or disadvantages to being a women in business?
NP:

In our case, it was only the people who cared about gender equality that backed us and we only approached those people. I think it does affect us. When I went to a film festival and they had good films about just men tech founders. Do we need another one? What about telling stories that haven’t been told yet? A few people doubted us and I don’t think it wouldn’t have happened if we were two men. We’re not given the same flexibility as men.

How do you deal with failure?
NP:

We had constant small disappointments and I worked on detaching from those events. It’s not personal. You have your whole life of making up things. This is just one project. This is why if you’re in it for the money it won’t work. This is the only way I know how to deal.

What will you be celebrating in a year?
NP:

The next project. We’re going to start a podcast to interview a lot of women we’ve met and do episode-based content.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
NP:

That’s too far away. Let’s make it through the year.

 

Thanks for talking with us today, Nora. We hope to see the film and look forward to the podcast!

Our success story Entrepreneur

 

Nora Poggi

filmmaker, director, producer, journalist travels the globe to tell important stories

Besides her director and producer credits, Nora Poggi has been a freelance reporter for websites such as Examiner.com in the US and Usine Nouvelle in France, on technology, entrepreneurship and entertainment. She produced videos for Examiner.com at SXSW 2013 & 2014.
www.shestarteditfilm.com