Community building at its best!

Gesche Haas is the Founder and CEO of Dreamers & Doers, a community and agile PR team amplifying extraordinary entrepreneurial women. As of this episode’s recording, Dreamers & Doers boasts a carefully curated membership of 35,000 entrepreneurial women globally. 

In her conversation with Maribel Lara, Gesche shares how her childhood and upbringing shaped her into the human and entrepreneur she is today. She explains how Dreamers & Doers was born and why their human-first approach has helped them grow into a global community of extraordinary female entrepreneurs. Gesche also provides insight into how they’ve curated their community over the years, and how that curation translates into growth.

If you’re a woman entrepreneur and feel you might be a good fit for Dreamers & Doers, you can learn more and apply on their website.

"I dare to say that traditional approaches could be viewed as just as counterintuitive because yes, maybe there are a few things we could do and we could have, bigger short term growth. But I dare to say that it comes at the cost of long term growth.

Gesche Haas

Transcription

[00:00:00] Hankinson: Welcome to Building While Flying a Sasha Group podcast where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies. 

[00:00:12] Maribel: Welcome to Building While Flying. My guest today is Gesche Haas founder and CEO of Dreamers and Doers in award-winning community and agile PR team amplifying extraordinary entrepreneurial women. Dreamers and Doers has built a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem of. 35,000 women globally. Prior to founding Dreamers and doers Geisha held senior positions at several venture backed startups in roles covering growth strategy, finance, operations, and business development. So thank you so much. Welcome to Building while Flying.

[00:00:46] Gesche: I’m so honored to be here. 

[00:00:47] Maribel: We are super lucky to have you cuz I think you have a really tremendous story. I’m really excited for us to record today’s episode and for us to hopefully open up your story to more folks in our network. So, my first question was going to be about Dreamers and Doers but I actually wanna hear about you first.

So we’ve heard some of the categories, some of the topics that you’ve that you’ve touched upon in your career, but tell us what you were doing that let up to dreamers 

[00:01:13] Gesche: and doers. Yes, and I love even like rewinding a little bit more because. One thing that you could . Maybe say different is that I was born in Eswatini.

It used to be called Swaziland Africa. My dad is German, my mom is Chinese Malaysia, and we moved around a lot. So, I went from Africa to Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, Beijing, Hong Kong, New York, and now out of all places I live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, . So, I like mentioning that because obviously we are who we are, not just on the professional side, but like our whole life impacts us.

It, it impacts what we are drawn to. And and, and career wise, like I started out first in finance. I worked at a hedge fund for five years, and then as you read out, I worked at a few startups, but I think. Much more my upbringing and the different countries that led me to doing what I do right now.

My whole life I was fascinated with humans. And having lived in so many different countries, I just saw so many different versions of humans. So, Right. saw every imaginable possibility of that. And I think that’s what, even at a young age, Nurtured me as a community leader. But I will say cuz sometimes people just assume like, Oh, I’m this outgoing person that always was good with people.

And I’m actually flattered that people might even think that because I think I’m so socially awkward even after this day. But it was actually, I had a really hard time making new friends every time we moved. And I think I really had to hone in. On that skill, but also it came from a place of maybe being even like a sensitive human that had me just like so focused on like learning how other people work.

So I’m a very introverted community leader, and I think that is actually not that uncommon. Like a lot of community leaders that I know are introverted. . 

[00:02:49] Maribel: I love it. I consider myself that people don’t believe it, but I’m just like, the pandemic I think, showed many of us, whether or not we were truly introverts or extroverts or whether we were, For me it was, I’m an introvert who’s pretty good at being an extrovert when I need to be.

[00:03:04] Gesche: We, we pass , 

[00:03:06] Maribel: we pass. Exactly. So I’m, I’m in that camp with you so. It makes a ton of sense now, right? Like, as I think through everything that I’ve read about you and, and your notes getting ready for this it builds a beautiful path to Dreamers and Doers. So tell us, what is Dreamers and Doers?

Who do you serve and what do you do for them? 

[00:03:24] Gesche: Yes. So, our official bio or tagline is that we are an award-winning community and agile PR team, but what does it actually mean? So we specifically amplify what we call extraordinary entrepreneurial women, and that can be broadly defined. So that could be, your traditional founder but even within that vertical.

We’re pretty broad. So it could be someone who’s raised venture funding, someone who never intends to raise venture funding, as well as ecosystem players. So it could be someone who works at a startup or who is an investor. And the reason we have this like human first approach is that we find that especially as an entrepreneurial woman, like our role evolves a lot.

So someone who was a founder yesterday might have sold their company or maybe had to close it down, and that person evolve. So we really emphasize that individual that doesn’t have a traditional nine to five, and that can really benefit from having other incredible women around her that help with problem solving and just figuring things out.

And our community itself, one is it’s highly curated, so we really, we curate for two things. We say for women being impressive and values driven. Hmm. So, and that’s where also this human first approach comes. We found that it’s one of the hardest things to do to curate for like being values driven. I mean, even just like saying that, like how do you determine that?

Right. And we obviously have approaches and I’m happy to dive into that. It’s really hard, but it also pays off so much. Cause you can imagine, like, if you. Curate for women that really want to be there, that really want to support each other. Because we have this emphasis on giving, but even giving can become transactional.

If you don’t curate for the right individuals and they don’t show up with the right intention. So ones that community part and then pr, we focus on that because we believe is a core part of creating systemic change by changing who and what gets portrayed in the media by having more women, more women of color be in the spotlight, that really changes the dynamic of who reaches for leadership positions and who dares to change and build a company of their 

[00:05:13] Maribel: own.

So, this leads to my next question. So you’re wonderful at setting me up for the next question. You had decisions to make as you were building dreamers and endures, right? You can listen to that vision and mission of the organization. It could very easily describe a non for profit organization that is not what Dreamers and Doers

is but you certainly had to think through that and, and make a conscious decision about what path you were gonna go through. So tell us about that. But tell us about the other sort of like crossroad decisions that were Yes. Key in, in helping dreamers and doers become what it is today. Yes. 

[00:05:49] Gesche: And crossroads, I love that word because I was at so many crossroads. So even starting Dreamers and Doers people ask me, How did you find this great idea? And it was actually the idea that found me because I felt so lonely as an entrepreneur myself and everything changed the moment I joined forces with one other entrepreneurial woman.

And after seeing what a huge impact was having, I decided to go full-time on it. Even though I resisted it so much, people were like, Oh, you should make that your full-time company. And I kept saying like, No, this is not a business. It’s a community. And these days there’s a lot of community businesses, but when we started nearly 10 years ago, that wasn’t the case.

So one crossroad was just like going all in. Not knowing what this could be, but just knowing like I had to explore what it could be. Then when we were starting to. The, when we built this while flying truly, because I was like, I have no, no clue what I’m doing. And up to this day, sometimes I still don’t.

But at that time, a lot of the input I was getting and I was getting it actually from mostly men and nothing against men. I love men. I’m married to a man. But like a lot of the advice was just like, Very specific from their perspective. Yes. And their own experiences. Right. And it was like, oh, get a cto, build this technology, raise funding, sell, and then do whatever you wanna do next.

And I had given up everything in my life to work on Dreamers endures because I genuinely cared about the women we were supporting.

But I did take some of that advice initially. I had the CTO who’s wonderful, we built out our own tech, we interviewed with Y Combinator, they flew us, Sue Mountain View for an interview.

And all of that just helped me realize that growth at all, cost wasn’t what I wanted. Hmm. And I, I must say, like there were many moments though. Like I was living in New York at that time and I go to tech conferences and people would like size me up and be. What project are you working on? Like how many employees do you have?

How much capital have you raised? And then when they didn’t hear the answers that they wanted, because I hadn’t raced and I didn’t have employees at that time, right? They like find a way to sometimes politely and not so politely exit the conversation. Cause clearly it wasn’t like important enough to talk to them.

Right. And I can’t say that like I definitely, that hurt my ego at that time, but I think just like very consciously deciding like, why am I doing this? and also embracing like what maybe the friction points might be. So from that point onwards, I decided consciously didn’t wanna raise capital, decided we didn’t wanna build our own tech, we wanted to leverage existing technology and we wanted to monetize early, right?

So yes. So maybe some people don’t wanna talk to me at a tech event, but are these the people I wanna talk to? Right? Like and also, . I was self-conscious at that time because like there were so many other companies and some of them female founded that were doing similar things that were on the press that had raced yet another round and yet another round, yet another round.

I’m like, is this path really right for me? Yet I can’t get myself to take their path. And then coming full circle, a lot of those companies actually have faltered since, and so they didn’t, not only did they close down, but in at least three instances I had outreach to me to inquire if I might want to take over some of those companies as a ceo.

So, Right. So like, and obviously not always is set the outcome and not always will you be quote unquote proven right with your path. But even if, if you never get proven right, like, is that this the path. like you could, at the end of the day, can you look in the mirror and be proud of what you did? Even if you quote unquote on paper failed, will you still be happy that you took that path?

Right? Or if you did succeed in your path, will you hate what you did? Will you need like years of therapy to get over what you did? Is that really success? In the end of the day, I, in my book, it isn’t. . 

[00:09:12] Maribel: Right. Well, and this idea of like, you could do it somebody else’s way and sure that might work, but you’ll never know whether or not the way you intended to build it would’ve worked too.

Right? Like that’s sort of the unexplored territory. And that’s usually where the greatest rewards are, is trying, going the, basically going the, the road less traveled.

[00:09:31] Gesche: Totally. And going so against our own nature, against like what we are naturally like gravitating towards. Like, I think like there, there’s a reason that we gravitate towards certain.

[00:09:41] Maribel: Yeah. There was something you said in your pre-production interview about really you had multiple ideas, right? And, and you’ve said in, in this conversation that this was the idea. Found you. I think that’s very, Common territory for entrepreneurs is like a bunch of ideas and you kind of wanna act on all of them, but obviously we are limited in terms of time and other resources that we can dedicate to any given idea.

So what made this idea in particular be the one that like, call to you and chose you and like where you decided to put your 

[00:10:16] Gesche: effort? Yes, and I, I giggle because it was a process I’m in like nearly 10 years into it. And I resisted the idea so much because even though, I was working on, it was the one thing I couldn’t stop working on.

So while I had different business ideas and, and on paper they weren’t bad ideas, some of them are ended up being unicorns Now ideas are cheap in themself, right? Like it’s the execution that really counts. and I’ve learned that perseverance cause I couldn’t persevere with some of the other.

Because as I was working on them, they kept iterating and iterating and suddenly it was a completely different idea or something else sounded more interesting. But Dreamers, endures was my kryptonite. Dreamers endures. I was responsible for all the women that kept showing up for this community that I didn’t feel like I could just walk away.

And now we’ve hit a really amazing stride, but there were many, many times it was excruciatingly. For the first two years I had zero income and I went from being an investor at a hedge fund to running a Facebook group for a living, but I wasn’t making a living. So there are many, many moments where I was wondering like, Why am I doing this?

Yet? I couldn’t stop working on it, and I think that perseverance of like not stopping even if it’s really, really hard and you’re questioning everything you’re doing, sometimes it’s the key to the just. Because like if you continue and you just, keep iterating, seeing what works and what doesn’t work, eventually something will stick.

[00:11:37] Maribel: Love it. So, You’ve talked about, right? The work that goes into curation of a community, right? So this isn’t just like mass application and mass acceptance of people who, who wanna become part of, of the community. There’s an intentionality there. You have your methods for being able to determine whether or not someone is the right fit for dreamers and doers.

It’s counter to how a lot of folks think about growth, right? People think about growth as like scale, like more of, of what you’re currently doing. What does growth look like for dreamers and doers, if not just more because you’re selective and, and you’re intentional about how many people at any given point, right?

[00:12:20] Gesche: Yes. I love that you brought up the point, counterintuitive. And I dare to say that traditional approaches could be viewed as just as counterintuitive because yes, maybe there are a few things we could do and we could have, bigger short term growth. But I dare to say that it comes at the cost of long term growth.

And it depends on the type of company, but especially for something like a community, right? Like if we doubled our size, it would change the culture of the community. Cuz suddenly half of the people in our community have never been part of it. So doing it gradually is crucial for us, but I think for anyone who’s trying to deliver quality, , it’s, it’s important and, and crucial and people join because of the curation and the type of people that they get to meet.

So for us, we love the slow and steady growth for two reasons. One, we believe it leads to more long term growth, but it also means that we can build a sustainable company and sustainable. Right. Like we have so many examples of people being so burnt out, and especially if you’re a customer facing you, you’re off service.

It’s really hard to be genuine and, and show up as your best self if you have nothing left to give. And I say this as we’re currently like working towards building an even calmer company. I think communities inherently are just like very. They, they can be very demanding, a few emotionally and energetically, so I think it’s so important to keep that in mind.

Then for growth, we have increased prices over all these years and we only increase them for new members because our reasoning is that our old members are the members that have really allowed us to get to where we are right now, where we can offer more and more. And that is very intentional because as we increase our prices, there might actually be even less people that we can access, but this is the right approach. When people ask me about community input, I also say that increasing prices and having really intense curation isn’t actually the right answer for everyone. Right, Like just being sure . That, like, do you want to have, a more educational platform that’s maybe less interactive and serve more people?

Then your answer might be less curation and then a lot lower price. So it’s just like really being intentional on your why. And then really like having the levers that you can pull and push and the decisions that you can make and your product really reflect your underlying strategy while being okay, obviously even evolving your strategy.

[00:14:33] Maribel: Amazing. So who, who would you say benefits from Dreamers & Doers or like who are the types of folks you, you wanna be bringing in? Who should raise their hand and reach out to you? Yes. If they haven’t heard about you before. , 

[00:14:47] Gesche: I love this question. So anyone building something who is a woman or non-binary individual, And this could be like building a company in most cases, but it could be building an accelerator or, or various other types, or being part of that entrepreneurial ecosystem as an investor.

So someone. Yeah. Creating something from nothing who really seeks and sees the value of doing this with other people. Right? Because building something, you’re doing so many things for the first time and most of the time you don’t have colleagues or even if you do have a team, right, like you, you can’t go to them for like, everything, right?

Like you have a different, like, role as, as a leader. So being able to leverage a diverse network of women that significantly, exponentially increases your chances of. And then anyone who can really benefit from pr and I think a lot of women are like, Oh, I don’t wanna be in the spotlight, or do I have enough to say?

Like, if that are the things you’re telling yourself, like I think you’re an amazing fit for Dreamers and endures because it’s so important. We do this. Like, it’s important to show other people what we’re doing and then even for ourselves getting that validation is so, 

[00:15:48] Maribel: I. You’ve brought up themes that come up for us all the time in these interviews and also all the time in our conversations with our smaller clients at Sasha, which is one is, it’s the loneliest job.

There is, I think, in being an entrepreneur, right? Like. It’s your vision. You carry the weight of what you’re building, right? There’s that, that burden we carry, Right. Rightfully so, of like the team and sort of like feeling that sense of responsibility and really only other entrepreneurs can understand it.

In the same way. And so I think having a co community of folks there’s tremendous value in that. I love this idea of like, if you think you don’t need to be in the spotlight, you need us more than anything. One of my, my go-tos in, in seminars that I’ve been doing is like, You actually need to tell people your business exists in order for your business to thrive, right?

Like there are so many options out there that if you’re not, Kidding that drumbeat and like announcing it from the rooftops, you’re doing yourself a disservice and really not giving your dream the opportunity to thrive. So I love that you’ve you’ve hit that theme as well. So, we are coming to the end of our time.

It flies our big question, right? You’ve indicated, you’re like, we’re still building, we’re still figuring out. I don’t know. In, in what ways do you feel established at this stage with dreamers and doers, and in what ways do you feel like you’re still building. 

[00:17:11] Gesche: I feel established by hitting certain major business milestones.

So once we had our first full-time team members and then our second full-time team member and then hitting certain revenue numbers and then this and last year, getting serious acquisition interests and offers that we actually declined. Just feels so good coming from a background where people were asking me, how my little project is doing.

Right? So getting that external validation is awesome. And also not being a one woman show anymore is just like amazing and beyond that, I feel like we’re so hard on ourselves, right? Like the areas sometimes that we think like we we’re, we’re lacking the most are probably the areas that we’re actually not doing as badly.

But we’re just like, have this ability to find every little area that we could do better in . Currently we’re. Like doing a lot in terms of operations and the team because we’ve grown and then just like it, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and not know what, what to do. So, I feel overwhelmed there, but we actually, we feel lucky.

I feel lucky because we hire a lot of our own members. So we just hired someone to essentially become our Part-time director of people’s at operations. So it, it, the community has become my own superpower, but that’s where I feel like I’m lacking, but also I’m taking some strides to address it directly.

[00:18:22] Maribel: Gesche, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure having this conversation with you. I’m looking forward to watching the continued growth of dreamers and doers and also sending some folks your way. 

[00:18:32] Gesche: Thank you so much, Maribel. It was such an honor.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Living the dream!

Gesche Haas is the Founder and CEO of Dreamers & Doers, a community and agile PR team amplifying extraordinary entrepreneurial women. As of this episode’s recording, Dreamers & Doers boasts a carefully curated membership of 35,000 entrepreneurial women globally. 

In-flight topics:

  • Approaching “crossroads” in life and business
  • Following your own path in business
  • Choosing which business idea to pursue
  • What growth looks like for Dreamers & Doers
  • Strategically curating a community
  • …and much more!
Connect with Gesche Haas:

Dreamers & Doers website: https://www.dreamersdoers.com/membership 

Dreamers & Doers Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dreamersdoers/ 

Dreamers & Doers LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/dreamersdoers/ 

Gesche Haas LinkedIn: ​​https://www.linkedin.com/in/gesche/

New York, NY
Chattanooga, TN
Los Angeles, CA