Alisha Ramos is the founder and CEO of “Girls’ Night In,” a brand focused on women and self-care. Since its launch as an email newsletter in January 2017, it has grown into a larger platform for online and in-person events that promote community and growth.
As someone who recently made the transition to company founder, Alisha seemed like the perfect person to moderate an AIGA DC panel of women entrepreneurs. “Founding Mothers: A Conversation with Female Founders” will be held at WeWork Dupont Circle on March 21.
Alisha talked with AIGA DC about her road to starting and running a business, practicing self-care, and the give-and-take of advice.
AIGA DC: Why do you think it’s important to feature female founders?
Alisha: I think that visibility matters a lot, especially in entrepreneurship. I really love the quote “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I’ve been able to gather the courage to start my own company because I have seen other women out there doing it.
AIGA DC: What’s the best piece of advice you received when you started “Girls’ Night In?”
Alisha: Well, one wasn’t actually a piece of advice, but something that someone said to me that encouraged me to keep going. I told someone my idea, and he said, “I think I’m very worried for you, and I’m not sure that this is going to work out.”
And that drove me even more. I love it when people tell me that they don’t think I can do something, because I love proving people wrong. That was over a year ago, and I’m still standing.
But for real advice … it was from a woman I’d just met, who was interested in the business. We were just chatting over coffee, and I was telling her about all these challenges that I was having. She said to me, “You need to find your Sherpas.” She meant you need to find the people who will believe in you and in your vision, and will do whatever it takes to help you climb that mountain.
I really love that analogy because very early on, I discovered that I can’t do everything on my own. I am a solo founder, but I have a really great team of part-time folks, mostly women, who help me behind the scenes. Without their help, none of this would be possible.
AIGA DC: Do you feel like there’s an advantage to spaces that are just for women?
Alisha: It’s an interesting question. I used to have a negative reaction to women-only events, women-only panels. But eventually I came around because it goes back to visibility — being able to highlight and celebrate women, and to build out your relationships and your network with other women.
I think men have their boys’ club that works for them. I see women-only spaces as a form of resistance. We’re banding together to topple the patriarchy.
AIGA DC: Do you think it’s different when the communities are in-person instead of online?
Alisha: Social media often ends up causing mental health problems rather than helping you become more social and healthy and well. So I really love the idea of physical spaces bringing women together.
The reason for “Girls’ Night In” is that I saw women seeking out connections with other women offline. There was a real desire to connect with other women and build meaningful community.
AIGA DC: A lot of “Girls’ Night In” is focused on self-care. Is that a regular theme when talking about female entrepreneurs?
Alisha: Society has placed this responsibility on us to take care of everybody else: our children, husbands, wives, or coworkers, and it’s never okay to take a step back and take care of yourself. It’s seen as this very selfish thing.
So I think taking care of yourself is very radical, because society is telling you that it’s not okay. And I don’t think it’s selfish. It’s an act of self-preservation and recharging. So you can go back out and do whatever it is you need to do.
AIGA DC: What’s the most common question you get from people who want to start their own businesses?
Alisha: “How were you able to grow so quickly?” When I launched “Girls’ Night In,” it was a newsletter sent to about 100 people. Now we’re nearing 50,000 subscribers, and I think when people see that statistic, they’re like, “Wow, I wonder how I can do that.”
I think people are drawn to a very strong brand. And … this word is out there a lot, and I have mixed feelings about it … but “authenticity.” “Girls’ Night In” comes from a very personal place for me. It’s something that I created because I was struggling with self-care, and I had a passion for gathering my friends around me. I don’t think that you can create that as a brand unless you truly believe it.
So I always tell people to find the things that drive you, and people are going to naturally be drawn to that.
AIGA DC: What do you hope that people will get out AIGA DC’s “Founding Mothers” panel?
Alisha: I hope we can share some of the common challenges that we face in building businesses, and take away some very practical pieces of advice.
Our panelists are really great because they represent a very diverse set of experiences and backgrounds. The ways each of them has built her company is very different from one person to the next.
They are an inspiration to go out and build whatever it is you want to build, however you want to build it.