Community, Entrepreneurship, and Badassery: An Interview with B.A. Women Founder Emma Sievers
The first time I saw Emma Sievers in her element was March of 2018. She was hosting her first B.A. Women event on the historic Grain Exchange trading floor at Fueled Collective Downtown. It was an event meant to bring together inspired, motivated, and risk-taking women. Emma was hard to keep up with— mingling with guests, dancing with the DJ, posing with friends, new and old, at the photo booth. But when she took to the stage and introduced the panel of keynote speakers, all eyes were on her. What followed was a conversation of bravery, community, and self-worth— every woman left that room empowered, motivated, and eager for more.
Now, a year-and-a-half and two B.A. Women events later, I sit next to Emma in WeWork Uptown’s colorful, plant-filled third floor lounge. “B.A. Women is a conversation,” Emma tells me as she sips her coffee and reflects on her journey thus far, “it’s a conversation which has resulted in a community.” Emma has just completed her first marathon over the weekend and is glowing from bravery and accomplishment. As she tells me about her next ambition, her Twin Cities Startup Week event, I can’t help but think: this is what an entrepreneur looks like— cheeks flushed from the excitement of her latest adventure, and eyes wide at the curiosity and possibility of what’s to come.
B.A. Women is a conversation which has resulted in a community. I create events, experiences really, then it’s a conversation around a specific topic. The conversation is always changing, but the root and the source of it comes from possibility. From my first event we have these boards that say “I am a badass woman creating the possibility of: _.” and there’s a blank space. I remember at that first event women said, “what do you mean possibility? What do I write?” And I was like, “anything, you can write anything that you want!” I’m just creating spaces where we can talk about what we want. I want women to gain permission, I want them to say “I’m giving myself permission to do this now.” They’re not waiting for someone else to tell them to do something, they’re just doing it.
Ultimately, the inspiration for B.A. Women came from a course called the Landmark Forum. It’s personal and professional development, total transformational work, and for a weekend workshop you get to see your life from an outside perspective. I’ll never forget the first day of this course. I walked into the room, there were 150 people in it, and a man and woman leading the course. The man was talking and I was listening, then the woman started speaking and the moment she started speaking I just totally changed my perspective thinking, “who does she think she is?” I remember going and speaking to her about it, because they encourage you to face anything that comes up. I went up to her and said, “I know this sounds crazy, I don’t know what’s up, but I’m having the hardest time listening to you.” She was like, “Okay, let’s look at that,” and I really saw that my relationship with women was non-existent. I’ve always been best friends with guys, been in groups of guys, but have been very hesitant to be around women or in a clique of women.
The moment I changed that perspective, I started noticing all of the women in my life that were badass. All of a sudden I was like, I actually do have a lot of women in my life that are super cool. So I decided to throw an event, to bring everyone together and celebrate why we’re badass. It wasn’t niched, it wasn’t like, you have to be an entrepreneur, or you have to be a woman in corporate America. It was: do you want to be powerful and badass in your life? Then you should come.
Think of it this way, you know when you say “I’m going to workout at 6am tomorrow,” then you wake up at 5am and say “Eh, I don’t know if I want to do this, I just want to stay in bed.” But you’re like, “I said I was going to do it,” so then you get up and you go do it. And the experience you have with yourself is: oh fuck yeah, I just did that.
Verbal is an opportunity to say “I’m going to do this, by this time.” You’re verbally saying it to someone out loud. You’re manifesting it. So I started interviewing women, and the medium we’re using is podcast. I’m talking to women about what they’re up to, what they’re up against, what’s not working, and at the end I give them an opportunity, a space, to declare what they want and what they’re doing. I really want to create something that encourages actual, tangible actions.
I never thought I was going to be an entrepreneur, I honestly didn’t even know what the word entrepreneur meant. But I’ve always been an entrepreneur, I just didn’t realize it— it took other entrepreneurs around me being like, “you’re doing that already.” I went and created a whole new life for myself in Australia and was a scuba diving instructor, at one point I was selling salmon when I was in college, I was an Au Pair for awhile. I wasn’t necessarily creating my own businesses, but I was my own business.
Before B.A. Women I was working in medical sales 60 hours a week, I was traveling every other weekend for trade shows. With B.A. Women I was just so excited by what I was doing and I felt so much purpose in what I was doing that working all night, in the mornings, whenever I had spare time, was all I wanted to do. I think it was my vision. You have to have a vision that’s so big that you play bigger, then the little stuff doesn't matter anymore.
I think you learn so much from women. I am still working on having a powerful community of women around me, because like I said before, it has always been men. But I think that you’re missing out if you don’t have a powerful group of women around you— we just need to support each other more. I’ve become really aware of how often women fight each other. I’ll speak for myself, I look at other women creating similar types of businesses and I’m like “oh, they’re my competition.” It’s the scarcity mindset, like there’s not enough seats at the table.
We’re at the point now that we’re aware this fighting is going on, and we can keep talking about how we need to be a community, or we can do something about it. We need to have a win-win mentality: if you win, I win. Doesn’t it feel way better when you’re cheering someone on? Perfect metaphor: the marathon that I ran this weekend. We were all trying to get to the same destination, the same goal, and regardless everyone was cheering everyone else on.
I would not be anywhere without the women who have helped me. There are women who have introduced me to people, there are women who have given their free time to do graphic design, there is a woman who got me on Fox 9 news. I think we all generally want to give to each other.
Start with one person at a time, just one cup of coffee, then after that ask if there’s another person that they know who would like to meet. Kind of like a referral program. I think we get so overwhelmed with needing everything right now. Just one person at a time, because one relationship or connection could be more powerful than 100.
There is also social media, there are so many different platforms now. You could probably find a Slack Channel for “women who love dogs in dog parks while eating ice cream.” I’m very old school, I like one on one, face to face interactions. I get that people don’t always have time for that— but also, you can’t afford not to have time for that if you want to grow in life.
I’m super excited about this, it's the first time I’ve collaborated with another business on an event. I’m working with Wynne Reece from The Creative’s Counsel, she is a lawyer and basically represents every creative in Minneapolis (if you need legal work, she’s your woman). The event is going to be about scaling your business, so we’re working on putting together a panel from three perspectives: non profit, corporate, and creative. Wynne will do a litigation, so she’ll talk about the actual legal work, stuff that you don’t usually think about. A lot of creatives ask, “why would I need legal work?” but it’s important to protect yourself.
I started getting involved in Twin Cities Startup Week last year. I was at the final party by myself and went and spoke to one person. This one person happened to be Reed Robinson, who created Twin Cities Startup Week. If anything my biggest advice to women is 20 seconds of courage, all it takes is 20 seconds to change your life— to go up and ask the person on a date, to send the email. So I was like “okay, I’m just going to go talk to this person,” and it happened to be Reed. I said “so why’d you come here?” and he’s so polite, he was like, “well you know, I created this.” I asked him why he created Twin Cities Startup Week and I will never forget his response. He looked me dead in the eye and said “I want people to take more risks.” Then of course I scrambled to tell him about B.A. Women and he just looked at me and he was so calm, he said “how can we get B.A. Women involved? How can we get more women involved?” It’s going to be awesome. It’s an opportunity to expand into a totally different world.
About the Author: Olivia Wickstrom is the Founder & Editor in Chief of Nectar Media. Skilled in travel & culture journalism and creative non fiction, she is passionate about inspiring others to explore and question new ideas, social constructs, and the world around them.