Are you introspective? Are you open to listening to others’ advice and stories? Are you willing to share? And not simply business cards or company information, but share the tools you use to maintain balance in your life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are the perfect candidate to join 3WCircle, a forum founded by Caroline Scheinfeld for women from all different walks of life to inspire and support each other as they become happy women, not just successful professionals.
Scheinfeld, who was originally a venture capitalist at Zelkova Ventures, was inspired to start 3WCircle after becoming frustrated with the failure of other female networking groups to address issues and goals that women have outside of advancing their careers, such as her dream to become a wife and mother.
“It was always, ‘Women can have it all and we can do everything.’ I really felt that was just not possible and that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything. And where were the women who are going to be honest with me?” said Scheinfeld.
She knew she was not alone in feeling this void, and when she couldn’t find a group or forum that would provide the conversations she longed to have, she created one.
“I wanted to create a place where women could redefine success beyond power, beyond money, beyond a title, but about personal achievement in terms of what you want as a woman. A place where I can help women change that voice that says you have to be perfect and have to do it all to, ‘You’re doing a good job, doing what you need to be doing and this is normal. You’re not alone.’”
Launched in April of 2013, the first Circle Chat occurred in May and consisted of a group of 20 women, all strangers to one another, who gathered at ClosetDash in the Flatiron District. The group shared wine, snacks and conversation. The discussion focused on the value of self-love and the importance of being vulnerable in order to truly connect with people. Scheinfeld also had the women complete a short exercise.
“I had everyone answer two questions: What are you? What do you want to be? And I just had them think about that and self-reflect. I wanted women to determine if they are in fact on the path to whatever it is they want and I wanted them to be aware of it.”
Upcoming Circle Chats include “How Do You Define Success?,” “The Tyranny of Shoulds,” “Ruling Out Negative Voices” and “Turning it Off, Shutting Off Your Work Mode to Have a Life.” Themes that are inspired by Scheinfeld’s family and friends of all different age groups, as well as by her own personal struggles and topics covered in the self-help books she loves to read.
Many of the future discussions will again be hosted at ClosetDash, thanks to Jennifer Lee, CEO of the company, and a fellow female entrepreneur with whom Scheinfeld had bonded with while Lee was launching her own startup.
“I love being in a space that was created by a woman who really took the leap of starting her own business and decided to be happy. It’s empowering.”
Attendance for each Circle Chat will stay under 20 people in order to allow for more in-depth and personal conversations, although there are currently 60 women enrolled as members of 3WCircle.
Membership is free, but there is a small charge to reserve a seat at any of the Circle Chats. Women must request an invite into the group, which includes a brief message about how they learned about the forum. Ideally, membership will be obtained through a referral basis, where another member can potentially vouch for you.
“I don’t want somebody in my group who is very narrow-minded and who thinks, ‘Well, I just need my friends, I don’t need this type of environment.’”
And while Scheinfeld hopes the referral basis will ensure a proper personality fit with the forum, the goal is to get individuals to grow and learn from “weak ties” – women outside of their usual, close connections. This is a term Scheinfeld read about in Dr. Meg Jay’s The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now, and is a founding principle of 3WCircle.
“There’s some kind of common thread even though we all have different perspectives. I hope that we can learn from each other.”
Scheinfeld’s natural ability to connect with people on a personal level and maintain those connections was what she considered to be one of the most rewarding aspects of her job at Zelkova Ventures, as well as a precursor to her startup. It is these same interpersonal skills that she feels are essential for all successful entrepreneurs.
“I might not have tech skills, but if I’m personable and have a lot of other skills that I can offer, and can explain that, then I can attract the right team members, so being communicative is very important.”
And while she was always intrigued by the idea of being an entrepreneur, Scheinfeld worried that she didn’t have the stamina to run her own business. It wasn’t until she thought of the concept for 3WCircle that she felt she had to take the chance.
“It was like there was no option.”
Taking that leap of faith was made easier by the support of her family, boyfriend and friends. Aside from encouragement, her family has also helped to fund these early stages of her startup, which is now primarily funded by Scheinfeld herself.
For Scheinfeld, New York has been the perfect place to launch her startup, where women truly support each other’s endeavors and where she finds an inspiring amount of commitment and follow-through amongst everyone.
“The New York tech scene has really become a hub of camaraderie and it makes me proud to be a part of it.”
But while this support is something that Scheinfeld is grateful for, the amount of people and opportunity in the New York community can be overwhelming.
“The challenge is learning who to take advice from, who not to take advice from, who is genuinely interested in helping you and who is trying to self-promote. It’s learning to develop that filter, which is hard because there is no structure in this environment and there’s no boss telling you, ‘That’s not a good person for you.’”
Going forward, Scheinfeld hopes to construct a team to help her build her company and develop even smaller, curated events, such as dinner parties where she brings together new moms and women who have already raised their children, before ultimately creating 3WCircle chapters all across America.
“When I meet people who say they love what I’m doing, or I’m having coffee with a woman who came to my first event and she says, ‘I’m maintaining connections with XY and Z,’ or ‘I felt empowered,’ that ignites my flame. I’ve never felt more alive.”
Some photographs from the first #3WCircleChat…