Jeff Hoffman Interview: Part 2

This post is in follow up to our first interview segment with Jeff.

So what inspired you to found Women’s Entrepreneurship Day?

The video above is about last year’s event. This year’s event will be held on December 2nd.  More about Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED): “The mission of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is to celebrate, support and empower women worldwide. Our main initiative is to engage women and men globally to pledge their support with a women owned business or cause through our pledge to support a business woman in their community with Talent, Time, or Treasure”.

It has taken on serious momentum, but I will tell you that it started in the US for sure. It really became more important to me during my mentoring. The last couple of years, I kind of dedicated myself to mentoring entrepreneurs around the world. I am not running a company now or anything, so I just took this time off to be a mentor. In doing that, I am spending more time sort of engaged with people and their everyday lives because you have to ask all those questions to be a good mentor; you’ve got to understand the person.

The women’s plight became bigger when I started leaving the country. When I was driving through a couple of Arab countries, I noticed that all the streets, restaurants and offices were filled with only men. Women are not allowed out during the day; they have to stay home until men get home. In some African countries, women were not allowed to go to school and get an education.

Through these, I also saw some amazing change examples. In Egypt, there was a woman who took me to Tahrir Square right after the Revolution. She took me to this spot and she said,”Right here.” I said “Right here - what?” She said, “Right here is where I held my brother while he bled to death the night of the revolution.” Stunned I said, “What are you doing here?” to which she replied, “Oh, we fought, too. The Egyptian women were there arm and arm with the men.”

So I visited all the Arab Spring Countries (Algeria, Tunisia, etc.), where all this happened and this just isn’t “yesterday” anymore. The women are fighting these battles as well, but that is a whole different decision because if the man loses his life in war, his kids would still have a mom to care for them and feed them. If moms go too, that’s a big risk for the children. The woman who fought in Tahrir Square that I mentioned earlier is trying to start a company now and she has an amazing start in Egypt now. I stood there thinking about her whole different set of decisions. If women get killed in battle, some people are inevitably going to say “how dare she do that to her children.” No one would say that if a man died in war. He would be a hero.

Arab Spring Countries

She wants to help free her country but she also understands that she is a mom. I started just thinking about all the different decision sets you have because everyone knows them. From Lean In to everything else, now just the focus on the fact that women’s dynamics are different. That’s when we said, “let’s do something.”

So Wendy Diamond - an entrepreneur in NY, with a company called Animal Fair which is focused on animal rescue - called me one day and said, “Everything is different as a woman entrepreneur and a women business owner, so let’s do something about that.” Now we are co-founders of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.

The idea was awareness. Wendy came up with the idea to host a pledge on that day asking people to pledge to help one woman with a business in their community. No matter if you’re male or female, if you are either good at it or you are not, decisions and sacrifices made from being a full-time business owner and/or a parent are difficult. But it may be more difficult for women. Then when you move internationally and into cultures where women do not even have the same rights, it is even harder. That is why we want to bring awareness because there is a lot of women who can build great businesses, but never get the chance.

It’s interesting that you bring up and state the distraction of the female entrepreneur. When we were writing an article about female entrepreneurship, we were trying to decide if we should use “female” or not in the title. It seemed kind of strange to have to call it out - but at the same time, necessary, since that was the point of the article. 

I agree, we’ll get there it is still awkward…

You talked a little bit about what you do to prepare for a speaking engagement but are there other things other than researching that audience what else can you do to set yourself up for success.

One of my favorite things to do the night before I speak is to join the company that I’m speaking to for dinner or cocktails.  I have had some great learnings at a cocktail when they just thought I was one of the employees. I can get so much information and I don’t mean things they shouldn’t have said. I just get the feel of the company and what’s going on; the pulse of the people.

One time at a dinner, I said something on stage that made the CEO ask “why?” afterward. I told him  that it was “all your people talked about last night”, to which he said, “Wow, I didn’t even know that was a problem.” During my speech, I addressed the concern in a positive (and not political) way. Afterward, they said, ‘Thanks! We were afraid to tell him that, but it was easier for you as the third party to deliver this concern so none of us had to go face-to-face and tell him that.’ So just the chance to hang out a bit is really cool. Almost every time I have done that, I wound up rewriting part of the presentation that night before I went to bed. 

I bet people really appreciate that!

Yes, it usually comes up. Afterward, people will laugh and say, “That is the guy that was at our table last night.” So I don’t ever try to get them to tell secrets that they should not share. I usually fine tune my approach and bring up some things that they really wanted on the table or answer questions that they didn’t know needed an answer.

I have to tell you guys this just for fun about the silliest thing that I have ever said. I’m in a reception the night before and the CEO of this company is a woman and she’s pregnant. She has no husband and no boyfriend and she’s now showing (that she’s pregnant). Everyone was talking about whose baby it was and she is refusing to say. The next day, I get up on stage and said, “Look before we start, I just want to be perfectly clear on one thing: It’s not my baby.” I couldn’t believe that I said it. But the place erupted because everyone else thought that was funny. The crowd roared even louder when she grabbed the microphone and said, “Jeff we don’t know that yet.” It worked because the audience had a sense of humor, but that could have been so offensive to make fun of her unknown baby. 

About Jeff Hoffman

Jeff Hoffman is a successful entrepreneur, proven CEO, worldwide motivational speaker, Hollywood film producer, and a producer of a Grammy winning jazz album in 2015. In his career, he has founded multiple startups, been the CEO of both public and private companies, and served as a senior executive in many capacities. Jeff has been part of multiple well-known companies, including,, CTI, and ColorJar.

Today Jeff serves on the boards of companies in the US, Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia. He is on the board of directors of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the US State Department’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology program, the Asia Pacific Economic Council’s Startup Initiative, and others. He supports the White House, the United Nations, and similar organizations internationally on economic growth and entrepreneurship initiatives.

Jeff has been invited to speak in over 50 countries on topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and business leadership. He is the author of SCALE, a how-to guide for growing your business, and teaches innovation workshops to major corporations.

Jeff received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the national CEO council for his contributions to the field of entrepreneurship, the Champion of Entrepreneurship Award from JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, and Rising Tide Capital, and the George Brown Award for International Cooperation.

Outside of the world of technology, Jeff has produced movies in Hollywood, and musical events including concerts, tours, and charity events with such artists as Elton John, Britney Spears, NSYNC, and serves on numerous charity and non-profit boards.

To learn more about Jeff, you can check out his speaker profile on the Orate website. 

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