Special Guest Interview: Women Catalysts

Women Catalysts was created by Kim Hunter and Lindsay Jean Thomson on a sunny day in a San Francisco park while drinking beer and flying kites. These ladies conduct networking events to help women connect with other women, inspire them, and be active in workshops and their online community in order to achieve their goals in their career and receive the life they want.

At a Women Catalysts event, you leave with hugs instead of handshakes.
— Kim Hunter

Explain to us newbies what Women Catalysts is all about! 

Kim: Women Catalysts is all about inspiring more women to take action with an active online community, workshops, and inspiring events to connect in real life. 

Now is the time for women to come together and be champions for themselves and each other. Women Catalysts is a spark to help women create healthy, wealthy, and wise lives. 

How and why did you two come up with this project?

Lindsay: One day, Kim and I were flying kites and drinking beers in the park when I blurted out something like, “Hey, do you want to start a women’s speaker series with me?” Kim is one of those people who is such an enthusiastic YES to life that she was immediately on board. And I am one of those people who looks up domain names in the park, so it was on from there. 

It may have seemed like it was out of nowhere, but there was a lot going on leading up to that moment. Kim and I were both in small clubs for women (Ladypreneurs for me and Badass Women’s Club for her). We were meeting a lot of women who were looking to meet and network with other women, but we were finding it hard to really connect. We both love bringing people together, so it was an obvious fit for us. 

Also, a lot of the stories around women and work is around what we’re doing wrong.

“You’re not asking for enough.”

“But when you do, make sure you do it just like this.” 

We know a lot of rad women who are doing incredible things in the world – entrepreneurs, artists, non-profit founders, you name it. We felt the need for a space for women to create and share their own narratives. 

What were you ladies doing before starting this organization?

Kim: Lindsay had been a wellness entrepreneur working with startups. I was consulting social impact startups on strategic communications and partnerships. 

Pictured: Halley Bass in Lightning Talks,  The Assembly , San Francisco

Pictured: Halley Bass in Lightning Talks, The Assembly, San Francisco

What was your first event like? Were you guys nervous?

Lindsay: It was surprisingly big! We had 100 people at the first event. About half were friends and I think the other half must have mostly been friends-of-friends. I can’t remember if we were nervous or not. Definitely excited. I think the number one rule of hosting is if the host is having a good time, so will the guests. So I try not to stress out too much. 

Pictured: Jenni Heffernan Brown,  General Assembly San Francisco

Pictured: Jenni Heffernan Brown, General Assembly San Francisco

Can you walk us through some of your events and what we could expect?

Kim: At a Women Catalysts event, you leave with hugs instead of handshakes. We started in 2015 as a passion project with our signature speaker series, Catalysts Conversations. From CEOs and entrepreneurs to break-out artists and writers, Catalyst Conversations inspires women to follow in the footsteps of these trailblazers and offers the unique opportunity to meet other catalysts via our guided networking. A portion of ticket sales from Catalyst Conversations benefits our speakers' causes of choice. Together, we have raised more than $35,000 to support the important work of nonprofits dedicated to human rights, women, children, homelessness, the arts, and emerging entrepreneurs.

Our latest speaker series, Lightning Talks, offers our community members the opportunity to get on stage and tell a story or pitch an idea. Liz Lee, founder of SOS Online, a nonprofit to combat online harassment and bullying, credits Women Catalysts with helping her win a recent pitch contest and $25,000 for her organization. Lightning Talks has spurred more women to take the spotlight, and to develop the confidence to share their ideas and ambitions to the world. 

In 2017, we launched membership and expanded to bring professional development workshops and community building events to startups, companies, and conferences. Leading high-growth companies like Airbnb and Unity Technologies have found tremendous value in our programming, helping to create happier, healthier people and teams.

What have been some of your favorite discussion topics at your events?

Kim: I love interviewing women who have had non-linear career paths, like Windy Chien’s journey from record store owner to Apple iTunes product designer, and now a working textile artist. Elle Luna inspired me with her story of choosing her “must”and finding her voice. I love talking about taking leaps into the life you want to live! 

What are some things you struggle with when running this organization?

Lindsay: Herding cats. Literally 80% of what I do. 

Kim: We started Women Catalysts as a passion project to bring women together and it has grown an umbrella of activities online and IRL. As we get bigger, it’s challenging finding the bandwidth, but totally worth it! We love our community! 

// Tell us your business mantra! \\

Lindsay: Keep going!

Kim: You got this! Make it happen! 

Do you have any advice for those starting a business/organization?

Lindsay: If you’re thinking of building something, just start. 

Kim: Ask for help! You don’t have to do it alone. 

Pictured: Catherine Mule @catmule

Pictured: Catherine Mule @catmule

You've branched out from San Francisco to LA, Seattle, Denver, and NYC! How did this come to be?

Kim: We have an incredible group of local leaders who make Women Catalysts happen around the country. Many of our leaders attended Women Catalysts events in San Francisco and were inspired to bring community to their cities. We have a pop up in Mexico City in a few weeks with more cities planned for 2019. 

What is your most memorable event and why?

Kim: I loved bringing Women Catalysts to London this past Summer. We had a great turnout with some incredible women in the arts, activism, and technology. I heard from so many women that Women Catalysts fills a gap for authentic community and inspiring networking events. 

What exciting events do you have planned next for 2018?

Lindsay: We’re mobilizing for the midterm elections. Don’t just get mad, do something about it. We’re all about action. 

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