82. Emily Wazlak – CEO + Co-Founder, Shine Registry

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“The thought that the lack of women at tech events is a signal that women “just aren’t interested in entrepreneurship” is deeply problematic.”


Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.


My days usually include some combination of talking to some of the 70+ founders that have profiles on our site, going over new designs we’re working on for the website, managing our social media content, and meetings with potential partners and investors. My cofounder, Ashley, lives in San Francisco so we usually talk over the phone a little later in the day.


How do you stay passionate in your career?


When I started building Shine Registry it was because I had a gut feeling about this idea of creating a new kind of tradition and a gift registry for entrepreneurs. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought about what it would mean to build a company to bring the idea into reality, the more I thought, why not?
Since starting there have been plenty of ups and downs. I think every entrepreneur has experienced their share of existential lows. But I also believe so strongly in what Shine Registry is becoming and am thrilled to be moving forward towards that vision.


Did you have a traditional path into tech (i.e.: CS/IT degree transitioned into tech job)?


Ha, nope! My undergraduate degree is in Politics, War and Society. Before getting into entrepreneurship I worked in political organizing and advocacy in Washington, D.C. I was an organizer on President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.
My first job that could be considered tech-focused was managing digital advocacy for a fair courts non-profit. I also worked in a program implementation office for a federal agency before getting my Master’s of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College.


Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?


I honestly don’t know what I would do without my Casio watch. It’s not the most high-tech tool in my kit but it’s my trustiest.


It’s common knowledge that women often face obstacles in the tech industry based on their gender. Have you ever had to deal with this type of experience and if so how did you handle it?


With the exception of events that are by and for women, I’ve gotten used to being either the only, or one of a handful of female founders at tech focused events. This was especially frustrating when I was starting out. Because Shine Registry is focused on just female founders. The lack of women in these spaces emboldened people to ask me if women were interested enough in entrepreneurship for Shine Registry to have a viable market.
Well, women are starting companies at 2.5 times the national average at a rate of about 1,812 new businesses a day. The overall number of women-owned businesses has surged 3,000 percent since 1972 and the thought that the lack of women at tech events is a signal that women “just aren’t interested in entrepreneurship” is deeply problematic.
I’m lucky that building Shine Registry has meant building a strong community of female founders. I’ve had this community to rally when I was feeling worn down and I’m so so grateful for it.


What’s your favorite thing about being a woman in tech?


There’s change in the air. The numbers are still pretty dismal but the attention and the urgency to change them has noticeably increased in the past few years. Funds raised by black women founders increased 500%, from $50 million in 2016 to almost $250 million in 2017. Companies led by women are returning 78 cents per dollar compared to 31 cents for men. There are articles about women led VC funds investing in female founders coming out nearly every week.
Change isn’t easy, and there’s so much more work to be done, but it’s a privilege to be doing this work at a time when urgency is leading to change.


How have you given back to the WIT community?


In some ways, building a company by women for women is my love letter to the WIT community.
The idea for Shine Registry started a few years ago when a friend was getting married and our other friend was starting a business at the same time. We had so many obvious ways of celebrating the friend who was getting married –  an engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party, wedding and post-wedding brunch. But without traditions to fall back on it was unclear how we could support and celebrate our friend and her new company. Not because we lacked enthusiasm. We didn’t know how to celebrate and there were no obvious ways for her to ask us for support either.
Professional accomplishments can and should be celebrated the way personal milestones are. Shine Registry is being built so that anyone who has an idea can feel supported when they bring that idea into the world. We facilitate the process of asking communities for support and, while we do that, increase the visibility of Women in Tech who are building the future.


What is a piece of advice you would give to others wanting to or currently pursuing a career in tech?


If you are anxiously imagining the worst case scenario when taking a step into the unfamiliar, challenge yourself to imagine the best case scenario too.


Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past year.


A few good things all happened at the same time recently. Shine Registry was accepted into the advisor led track of YC’s Startup School program, which means we were placed into a group of companies to meet weekly with a founder that’s an alum of YC’s accelerator program. After meeting our group in virtual office hours we realized that one of the female founders in our group was already using Shine Registry!
Shine Registry has seen steady growth since we launched. I still work closely with many of the founders on the site but more frequently people I’ve never met are signing up. The person who was in our group also received over $100 worth of equipment through gifts from Shine Registry users wanting to support her work! She’s one of over 70 founders that has received support from over 120 users that have fulfilled over 585 asks on www.shineregistry.com!


Favorite quote:


“To reach a port we must set sail – Sail, not tie at anchor Sail, not drift.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt