Sunday, August 16, 2015

Outbox IncuBAEtor

45 teenage girls under one roof, 24 hours a day, for six weeks. It sounds like a nightmare, right? That’s not the case, and here’s why:

I think everyone who will reading this will have been aware of the Outbox Incubator. If you haven’t heard of it yet, I simply have to ask: under what rock are you living, and does it not get wifi?

The Outbox Incubator has been three busy weeks of captivating sessions on entrepreneurship, run by impressive session leads, and organized by the incredible Stemettes. Girls from all over Europe with an interest in STEM have been brought together to be prepared for life ‘outside the box’ in the world of business. Outbox has featured surprise pitches, a trip to Birmingham, all-nighter coding sessions and of course, plenty of food! My experience culminated at pitch day yesterday, where I presented my company PurchaseMate and was awarded the title of Most Investable!

To be honest, it’s really impossible to express what the Outbox Incubator means to me after my three weeks at the program. The Stemettes have succeeded in creating a warm, welcoming environment for the OB Execs. The house almost feels like a cosy little bubble where we can de-stress, take a break from the outside world, and focus on what really matters: us and our projects.

What’s interesting in programs like this is that I’ve often found that the very reason we are there fades into the background, and other things become much more important. For example, if a girl is in STEM it is common for society to define that girl by that interest. Her enthusiasm for science becomes her defining characteristic. She becomes ‘the science girl,’ and her personality becomes secondary to this preconceived notion others have of her. But bring a number of these people together, and the very characteristic they were brought together for becomes obsolete, because everyone shares this interest, and it just cancels out. In these situations, you can be defined for who you really are: your personality, sense of humor and passions, which are so much more important. In these situations, people can be seen for who they really are, which is what makes friendships formed at places like Outbox so much more special and genuine.

Anyway, what I’ve found over the past few weeks here is that the core of the Outbox Incubator is not really about the sessions where we learn business skills, or the esteemed guests and speakers we have welcomed into the house, or the endless swag we have been treated to by Salesforce and our other generous sponsors. It’s about the friendships formed, the connections made between participants, the global network being visibly fused together with every singsong, conversation, or laugh shared between new friends. It’s about late night tea parties, midnight conversations where the topics of conversation range from physics, to politics, to one direction. It’s about the people.

No matter the environment you are put in, it’s the people that make the place. Which is why the Outbox Incubator house is not a nightmare, it’s a home. It’s a family.

Okay, so now for the thank yous, which will take forever:
To Anne-Marie, Mary, Jacs, Charlotte, Jess, Yas, Josie, Debbie, Aleena, Lucy and Emily, thank you for creating Outbox.
To all my fellow Outbox participants, thank you for the many memories we have shared, for the cups of tea, the stimulating discussions, the smirking, and the laughter.

To the sponsors of the Outbox Incubator – Salesforce, O2 Think Big, and Telefonica to name but a few – thank you for making this adventure happen!

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