It’s before dawn on the first Friday of January. A steady trickle of women climb the stairs to a coworking space in Pioneer Square. In the window next to the door, a small sign reads, “F BOMB HERE.”
Inside, the women take off their bulky winter jackets and sit in a wide circle of chairs and sofas, chatting over coffee and snacks. The swearing doesn’t begin until the group’s founder, Megan McNally, starts things off with an emphatic: “I just want to say, f–k yes!”
This is the first meeting of the F Bomb Breakfast Club, but the women here are as comfortable as old friends. They manage teams of scientific researchers; they are PR agents for tech firms; they own event planning businesses; they consult for nonprofits. But above all, they are founders or aspiring entrepreneurs in a field dominated by men.
The Club was dreamed up by McNally during Seattle Startup Week when she was looking to connect with other female founders and entrepreneurs.
“There’s plenty of happy hours and awkward networking events already on the landscape,” McNally said. She wanted to create a different kind of event, with an environment that encourages genuine conversation, community and, yes, even dropping an f-bomb when necessary.
“I literally just want to create space for badass women to come together, be able to cuss and cavort and support each other. I think that peer support piece is absolutely incredible. To hear each others’ ideas, to be validated. To have other women in the circle say ‘Hey, I faced that same challenge, here’s a couple of the ways that I got over it,’ ” she said.
McNally herself never intended to become an entrepreneur. She earned her law degree a few years ago, taking night classes while continuing her career in nonprofit work. Then she heard an interview with Spanx founder Sarah Blakely, one of the youngest female billionaires in the US, and was appalled to hear about Blakely’s struggle getting her ideas patented.
In the interview, Blakely recounted that she couldn’t find a single female patent attorney in her state, and none of the male attorneys she went to could grasp her idea. McNally was ready to leap into action.
“The idea that there’s these amazing ideas out there that are never brought to market, that’s what really inspired me. I want to change the game for these women,” McNally said. She founded her law firm Doyenne Legal last fall and is specializing in business law for startups.
As a female entrepreneur and a lawyer who works with female founders, McNally has had a front-row seat to the big and small obstacles that female entrepreneurs face.
She recounted instances when judges or other lawyers called her “honey” or said she looked “cute” in a courtroom, and how many of her male peers hadn’t understood why she was upset about comments like these.
“It becomes a barrier, constantly being patronized, minimized, scrutinized, overlooked, underestimated,” McNally said.
Then there are the more tangible obstacles.
“And there’s studies that show us exactly why: most investors are male, and men tend to fund men. Well, those aren’t little pebbles, those are pretty huge boulders when you have a business idea that you’re trying to bring to scale,” she said.
While those obstacles won’t disappear overnight, the F Bomb Breakfast Club is a forum for women to find ways to overcome them, and encourage each other through the challenges of entrepreneurship, McNally said.
They meet the first Friday of each month, at 7 a.m., in the Level offices in Pioneer Square. More information available on McNally’s blog, The Doyenne Project.