Meet Femme Palette: A Supportive Community Of Professional Women
We had a chat with co-founders Lucie Neumanová and Klára Gájova about their journey and where the community is heading.
Femme Palette was founded at the beginning of March 2018 by Lucie Neumanová and Klára Gájova as a space for career-driven women in the Czech Republic to connect online and meet in person. It has since grown to over 1 000 members and runs a diverse programme of workshops and events around Prague. But the story of how the co-founders met traces all the way to San Francisco, California.
Although Lucie and Klára both hail from the same hometown of Hradec Králové, they had never exchanged a word before their professional paths coincidentally crossed in the United States. “We knew each other’s faces, we had mutual friends, we went to the same high school, but we never talked,” recounts Klára.
Klára went to San Fransisco for a study exchange programme, where Lucie was working and is still based today. When she noticed on Instagram they were both in town, she decided to reach out. “We met over coffee and we started talking about our interests, our future, and comparing the situation in the Czech Republic with San Francisco.”
Photo by Alice Dix
From this meeting, the idea to connect women for networking opportunities and coffee dates was born. “The one-on-one matching and coffees is basically how we met,” says Lucie. “We didn’t go intentionally to a coffee date to start a business, [but] you never know. Until you meet the person and you broaden each other’s perspectives, you don’t know.”
Since they are from different professional backgrounds with complementary skill sets, they immediately saw a professional match in each other. Lucie is a UX designer at an edtech startup in San Fransisco, while Klára is based in Prague and works as a business consultant at a B2B data company. Their geographical bases also help them bring a different perspective to the startup, as Klára notes: “Lucie has the international experience and I have the local knowledge.”
Their vision of a supportive space for women to connect came partly from observing the success of women’s social clubs in the United States. “In the US, communities are pretty big,” says Lucie. “Everyone is part of something, people like to be part of a community or something bigger than themselves. So that was one of the inspirations.” Back home, Klára also saw the local opportunity for such a support network: “We would like women to have each other’s back a lot more, and want to help that happen in the Czech Republic.”
As the platform’s membership continues to grow, what began as a web app has now expanded into a thriving offline community. Femme Palette currently runs around two events per month in Prague, including networking gatherings and professional workshops geared towards different fields, from tech to marketing and design.
In addition to events organised by Femme Palette, individual members are encouraged to take initiative and contribute to the programme. “When [a member] wants to enter the community, one of the first questions we ask is, ‘What are you hoping to get from this?’ and ‘What are you bringing to the table?’” says Klára. “The community should work on a reciprocal basis, where you bring something others can learn from you, or inspire others with something you’ve done.”
Photo by Alice Dix
Women on the platform come from all sorts of professional backgrounds and levels of seniority. “It’s so diverse,” says Lucie of the types of members who have joined so far. There are freelancers who search through the online database for interesting connections while “some women have full-time jobs and don’t want to be entrepreneurs. Others are like, ‘I don’t even use the online platform, I just go to the events’. So everyone uses it differently.”
To manage the wide scope of interests, the founders began onboarding a team of volunteers to head specialised sub-groups on the platform, divided according to professional sector. “We have groups that are talking about design specifically, or marketing specifically. The same goes for different fields,” says Lucie. Those groups then organise meetups and practical workshops in their topic of interest. “If someone is good at programming in Python and wants to show other women how they started learning to code, they can organise a workshop through the platform.”
While the community is flourishing in the offline world, the Femme Palette founders have to stick to online communication to manage the long distance between them. “I still can’t believe Lucie is real,” jokes Klára. She mentions today is the first time they are ever getting their picture taken together. “It’s great to be together in person but I think the way we operate online is working quite well.”
Thanks to their self-established system of communication, they keep each other productive and in the loop even when working thousands of miles apart. “We both use Slack at work so it’s easy for us to be online all the time,” says Lucie. “We have scheduled calls on Sundays, just to catch up with what’s going on and what we want to do.” Klára agrees that it helps them to expand their professional horizons beyond their full-time jobs: “I really enjoy working on this because it’s completely different from what I’ve been doing so far.”
The fact of managing a startup, however, is not always easy with so much going on. “It’s hard, to be honest, especially if you have a full-time job that you still have to focus on,” admits Lucie. “But I like it. It’s been a great experience and I’m really excited we can do more for this project, and maybe one day it will actually be a business.”
The enthusiasm of the growing membership base is the biggest motivating factor for the founders. “I’m really happy that it might get someone from the first step of an idea to actually starting to bring it to life’,” says Klára. She recalls the story of a girl who got her social business off the ground thanks to the help of other members. “She went to a Femme Palette workshop on business planning and that’s where she developed her idea. Then, she went to another strategy workshop and the girls there helped her build her marketing strategy for 2019. Now, she has a business plan and marketing strategy after just two sessions. She’s running it now and it looks great!”
“It’s a win-win situation,” agrees Lucie. “She can build her business and the other people can learn how to actually build a strategy.” That network of support and learning and growing together is exactly what the platform is all about. “For me, the most important thing about Femme Palette and why I would like to continue this is that it makes sense,” says Klára. “[At networking events,] I see conversations being pretty deep even if the people just met. It’s something I value and I’m glad we are doing.”
As Femme Palette continues to blossom, it is clear that quality outcomes are the number one priority for the duo behind the platform. “Our goal is not to have tons of members but that this community is actually helping people,” Lucie asserts. “We want everyone to have a solid network that they can rely on, and someone who will push them to be more entrepreneurial and encourage them to start the things they always wanted to start.”
My name is Salwa and I’m a copywriter and communication strategist. I have Moroccan roots, an American accent and a British sense of humour. I moved to Prague from London in 2015 and have been based here ever since. I work mainly in advertising and content marketing while freelancing as a journalist. My passions include acting, surrealist literature and complaining that the coffee I’m drinking is not strong enough.
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