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Coffee talk: Gesche Haas, trailblazer and founder of Dreamers // Doers — September 7, 2015

Coffee talk: Gesche Haas, trailblazer and founder of Dreamers // Doers

Gesche Haas is the dynamic force behind Dreamers // Doers, a high-impact community of trailblazing women. Aiming to power the sharing economy 2.0 by capitalizing on human capital vs. fixed assets, she works tirelessly on building the powerful community with an innovative approach. We talked with Gesche about what it’s like to work full-time on a dream, where she finds inspiration on difficult days, and how Dreamers // Doers is helping women leverage each other as a powerful resource.

How did you get to where you are today?

A lot of it has to do with my diverse upbringing: I’m half German, half Chinese-Malaysian, and due to my father’s work in development aid, lived in various countries growing up. I was born in Africa (Kingdom of Swaziland) and went to college in Hong Kong.

Being exposed to a diverse set of experiences and people has made me very open-minded, highly appreciative of diversity, and obsessed with “understanding” over judgement. It also contributed to my insatiable appetite to create, because I somehow think anything is possible. Seeing this much variety while growing up also led to my slightly rebellious, non-conformist nature.

How did you come up with the idea for Dreamers // Doers?

Dreamers // Doers started by accident early 2014 out of a personal need, when I was working on my first venture and lacking a support system. I thought a lot of the struggles I was facing as a founder were unique and that “I must just really suck at this!”. I started by organizing weekend coworking brunches every weekend with fellow entrepreneurial women, so that I wouldn’t have to work on my own all the time.

It was game-changing. For the first time, I found other women who I could not only in-depth talk about the slew of work-related issues we were facing, but who also understood the existential fears that can come with being a trailblazer. Best of all, each one of us would go out of our way to help each other, increasing our cumulative success.

Why is Dreamers // Doers female-focused?

As a trailblazing woman, it can sometimes be harder to identify like-minded women. Partially, because in areas such as tech, there are simply less of us. In addition, per Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant: “Women help more but benefit less from it.”

Dreamers // Doers, photograph by Lloyd Johnston

I want to change that. I believe that we have a prime opportunity to level the playing field in tech (and beyond) by enabling women to tap into each other. And, at Dreamers // Doers, we couldn’t be bigger fans of men! We’ve just noticed over time, that women act differently if they are in the minority vs. majority, especially around topics that hit close to home. While our online community is mostly women-only, our offline events are always co-ed.

What made you decide to work full-time on Dreamers // Doers?

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision working full-time on this, but the trends are in our favor. In 2020, half of the U.S. population will self-identify as a freelancer — and women are taking up an increasingly bigger portion of the freelance pie. Also, women dominate every single social media platform, except LinkedIn. We believe there is a huge, growing, unmet need that technology can help solve, and we’re uniquely positioned to capitalize on this.

I’ll be honest, taking the leap was incredibly scary, there was a lot of self-doubt. But learning to become comfortable with uncertainty has been one of the most exciting learning lessons.

Dreamers // Doers counts nearly 3,000 incredible women part of the growing, thriving community. What kind of woman is an ideal fit for the community? How do you find and reach these women?

We curate for personality and potential over purely pedigree. For us, it’s all about cultural fit. We view Dreamers // Doers as a “secret weapon” in making dreams happen: The community enables members to do more, together, by allowing them to efficiently and effectively leverage each other as a resource. For this to work, it takes a certain woman with a strong burning desire to elevate other women just as much as herself.

So far, all of our growth has been organic, via word-of-mouth.

One of Dreamers // Doers guiding principles is authentic connecting, rather than merely networking. How can event-attending professionals best do this?

We use this approach because we subscribe to the belief that we help who we “know, like, and trust”. Furthermore, with trends in social media, it can be increasingly hard to catch real glimpses of each other’s true journeys which has a real impact on how we perceive our own journey.

At Dreamers // Doers offline events, we conduct mini introduction/sharing rounds which usually include discussing most recent struggles as well as wins (we rarely celebrate them enough!). It’s hard not to feel truly connected and eager to offer actionable help after going through this exercise.

This is also super applicable for any type of networking event. Ask interesting questions, allow others to open up, want to truly get to know the person across from you. Authenticity always wins.

Positivity and encouragement reign at Dreamers // Doers, which is incredibly refreshing and inspiring! What’s been the most difficult part of maintaining such an upbeat journey on darker days?

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Positivity breeds more positivity, i.e. less darker days. That being said, part of the positivity derives from sharing and speaking honestly about the low points. The more we can embrace all parts of our journey and openly talk about it, the less darkness there is.

Dreamers // Doers, photograph by Lloyd Johnston

What, if any, other communities serve as inspiration for you?

We learned a lot from the Sandbox post-mortem, in our mind, a must-read for anyone interested in online/offline community-building. Our two biggest takeaways: The need to put in place sustainable infrastructure and how important the creation of trust (we do this via vulnerability) is for a thriving, tight-knit community.

One reason that I created Dreamers // Doers was that none of the communities that currently exist fully covered all of our specific needs as entrepreneurial women. These needs include high impact, relevancy, positivity, and convenience.

What do you hope to learn in the next year?

I achieved the most important milestone this year, learning where some of my prior indecisiveness came from. Not surprisingly, it was (irrational) fear-related. I believe that we don’t often spend enough time on getting the mindset right, which is our operating system. Nothing works if it’s out of whack.

Now that I’ve checked that off the list, I’m looking forward to becoming a truly excellent manager/leader. This is a skill that cannot be honed enough, and especially as a founder, is essential if we want to scale ourselves, ensuring our vision has legs.

Where can we find you in NYC?

I’m one of the people who lives to work, especially since I’ve turned my passions into my full-time dream. I’m a huge fan of coworking and love mixing it up — you may find me working out of at least 3 different locations in a week. On weekends, I like working out of Soho House.

Last, How do you like your coffee?

I’m naturally high energy so I stick mostly to decaf, usually with almond or soy milk and stevia.

Photos by Gloria Cavallaro and Lloyd Johnson.

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