I’m Chiara Condi.
I’m an Entrepreneur.
I’m based in Paris, France.
I help women who have suffered from violence become entrepreneurs. I founded Led By HER, a social incubator in Paris that mobilizes business schools and the entrepreneurial community to help women build their own projects and achieve their full potential. We work in partnership with two business schools (IESEG and ESCP) and over 130 professors, coaches, and professionals. Women benefit from collective courses on starting and launching their business as well as individual mentoring. Our mission is to help women rebuild a life around their dreams.
My career path was very non-linear and for most of my twenties I had a very difficult time accepting that. I did not appreciate how those seemingly disconnected and abrupt experiences could have created the path I am on today.
Once I started volunteering at a homeless shelter as an undergraduate at Harvard I became so passionate that I started a program for the homeless, which convinced me that I wanted to be something other than an academic despite my deep love for history and literature. That was what led me to do my masters in economics at Sciences Po and LSE to then pursue a position at an international organization.
I embarked on that first professional opportunity hoping to make a difference, but soon I was unhappy because felt too far from the meaning of my work. If I had to resume those years I would say that I had a difficult time finding a dimension to my work that was right for me, the perfect balance between who I was and what I did. It was only once I had accident and stopped everything in life I was able to start all over again that I asked myself what most gave meaning to my time.
As soon as I started volunteering in women’s organizations I quickly felt the need to make a difference by helping women achieve their dreams. When you know the why the rest just becomes how, my how became finding the right people to put my project into place.
Today, 130 people later I can comfortably say we can make a big difference in the lives of the women we help. When you start building what you love, you can’t stop building more of it and that’s where I am today. I see too many women with unlived dreams and ideas and I want to build a future for myself where I keep making those ideas happen. The future for me will be building and expanding that initial vision and passion that triggered my first experiment. I have no idea where it will bring me, but I am really excited to find out.
Have you found it difficult to enter your profession as a woman?
I think that the key to being accepted by others is accepting yourself and embracing your ideas fully. Men and women will respond equally to people who really believe in what they do. And violence against women is one of the biggest problems we still have to fight together this century. And aside from building awareness things will change through common action. I believe in creating examples that challenge the way we think and that men and women are equally important in creating those examples. I think that when we are working together towards something meaningful, a common goal, we forget our differences.
Did you have any help during your career?
I feel an immense feeling of gratitude towards the numerous people who have believed in me along the way. One of the greatest things I did for myself along my career is that I have always been open to people, learning from them but also letting them help me. I’ve always been very humble with respect to my ability to do things alone and have always looked to others for genius, creativity and input.
With age you learn to select from that mix all that is best for you. And the biggest gift I received throughout this journey was the trust of others. At some point every project is a leap of faith and I could have never done it had hundreds of other people not believed in the same vision and convinced others to follow them.
I could have not done it had women not believed in our ability to help them. In the end I think we forget that the biggest and most important foundation of any project is trust. Eventually the women I worked with became the biggest source of inspiration for carrying forward; they were the real life example that showed me that what I did was real. Having them made it so much easier to push forward no matter what.
What do you wish you had know when you started out?
I wish someone had told me that there are so many ways to do what you want to do and that you haven’t exhausted them all until you’ve found the one that’s absolutely perfect for you. And the more experience I have the more I realize that if I think I was so focused on what had not worked for me, all the things that I had failed at that I looked back at, those things as closed doors instead of future opportunities.
It was only once I had the courage and maturity to go back and open those closed doors to figure out why they had not worked for me that I found myself. Never regret and never cancel your past.
If you could talk to your younger self now, what would you tell them?
I would tell myself that a good part of those years I spent exploring I could have spent looking inside. I wish I had not closed so many doors by regretting things from the past, but that I had had the courage to explore them, ask myself why they were not right for me and build on them.
Something else I wish I had known was that doing things from the heart is the best way to make a difference in people’s lives. People will be touched by what you do and that very contact will produce a change in them. Today all I have are my experience and authenticity and I’ve learned that that’s just enough. Had I known that earlier I would have lived so much more in peace.
Who has most inspired you and why?
The women I work with are my biggest source of inspiration. They have the guts to believe that no matter what has happened to them life can be different and they are fearless enough to take the leap. Every time things look hard I think about that and how everything is really possible if you want it enough It took so many of them doing so before I decided I was ready to start many of my own project. They inspire me because they lead, not through their words but even more powerfully through their example.
What tips would you give someone just starting out?
Before you do anything else start immersing yourself in whatever you want to do. Be curious, be open and foremost don’t expect anything. It is only when you look at things with an open mind and an open heart that ideas come.
What was the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
At some point you have to stop reading, stop exploring, stop learning and look at what you already have inside. If you do not learn to make something out of all of that which is you, you will forever search.
What inspiring quote to you love and where does it come from?
“I don’t search—I find” Pablo Picasso
Do you use any useful apps, systems or websites that you would like to share?
Yes a gratitude app that in addition to everything else tells me how awesome I am every day at around 10 pm no matter what happened that day, for the rest I like paper and scribbles.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Yes—our authenticity frees that of others. Whether it is through our projects or through our words others are freed by our example.