How people spend their time outside of work hours is something that fascinates me, and I’m regularly amazed by what some people accomplish before and after they leave the office. My friends Janice Liu and Katherine Andrikopoulos are two examples of women whose incredible drive to work and create outside of their 9-5 careers has always blown me away.
I met the two of them years ago when they were working on their online shop, Shoppalu; since then, they’ve both continued to excel in their careers while simultaneously feeding their hunger for the side-hustle. Katherine is one of the founders of Memory Ball, the annual gala event that raises money for the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, and the dream team joined forces again in 2015 to create Filling The Gap — a biannual Toronto-based conference focused on female empowerment through application.
As their next event approaches on November 9th (this time focusing on Ladies Who Tech), I reached out to them to find out more about Filling the Gap, and what inspired them to start this incredible event in their spare time. See below for their answers in the latest edition of #FounderFiles!
Event Name: Filling the Gap
Founders: Janice Liu, Katherine Andrikopoulos, Sadie Simon, Elaine Sanders
GC: Tell us about your event, what do you do?
FTG: Filling the Gap is all about empowering women from the inside out. We bring together successful women from multiple industries to share the unique stories and experiences from their careers that have made them so successful. Our next event on November 9th, Ladies Who Tech, will focus more on the tech industry, spanning across robotics, AI, computer science, advertising technology and even digital content.
GC: How did you start your event? What inspired you to start?
FTG: We started the organization and conferences in 2015 when we realized that there weren’t many events in the city that focused on female empowerment through application. There were many events that aimed to bring women together and inspire but nothing that taught young, professional women how to communicate better in emails, manage up appropriately or ask for that next step in their careers. With these objectives in mind, we went on our way to curate and create conferences in a bi-annual fashion.
GC: What do you love about what you do?
FTG: We get to bring together people we admire in the industry and really celebrate and share their experiences in an evening where the audience comes thirsty and leaves inspired and empowered.
GC: What makes your event special?
FTG: Our events are very intimate. We usually cap it at 100 folks or less and we put a lot of work into curating our speakers and topics. Because our events are so small and focused, we like trying new formats where we focus on what works and get rid of what doesn’t. For example, our upcoming event has a capacity of only 50 people, so we’re trying out this activity called ‘mentorship speed dating’ where audience members, who have opted in, will have the opportunity to attend 2-3 short 15 minute sessions, each with a different mentor. Lastly, we donate all of our proceeds to the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic which offers legal aid to women who have experienced violence. We are so lucky to work in an industry where we can lean on our partners for sponsorship and give all of our proceeds to our charity.
GC: What has been the most rewarding part of your job?
FTG: The most rewarding part is that we know we’re doing something to help better the lives of other women. Even if it’s one night, twice a year where we bring people together, the good vibes and the impact we hear from the feedback is really rewarding. We’ve loved watching the events grow and evolve.
GC: What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from running this event?
FTG: The biggest lesson we’ve learned from running this event is that there needs to be even more! With everything in the news and media right now around sexual harassment, it just proves that there is always more that can be done and the conversation is not even close to being over.
GC: What have been some of the pros and cons of building your event in Toronto/Canada?
FTG: One of the major benefits of having the event in Toronto is the access to amazing speaking talent we have in this market. There are a lot of women who want to share their stories and have their voices heard, so that has been amazing. The only con is that we get a lot of requests to run similar events in other cities. Unfortunately, with our full time jobs, it’s quite difficult to plan and host events in cities that we don’t live in.
GC: What is your #1 piece of advice to keep in mind when starting your own event?
FTG: There are always things that you don’t think of. We have an amazing ‘night of’ team led by Elaine, and they always put their minds together to try to plan and think of everything. Our #1 piece of advice is don’t be hard on yourself. If you have a passion for the cause, then keep at it.
GC: Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting Filling The Gap?
FTG: Just how many women are experiencing the same issues day in and out. We realized there was (unfortunately) this large opportunity to discuss the marginalization of women.
GC: What is a challenge you’d tell future entrepreneurs to prepare for?
FTG: Prepare to take risks. Lots of those. And don’t give up. It’s not about trying something, failing and going back to a day job. It’s about what are you going to do next.
GC: How do you stay organized, balanced and motivated, especially when juggling multiple jobs and projects?
FTG: We all have different ways of staying organized and different tools we each prefer but because we all organize the events remotely, we rely on Gmail, Google Drive and WhatsApp to keep each other up to date on our respective roles.
GC: Who are some of your mentors/role models?
FTG: We all say our mothers have been amazing role models in our lives. They come from different walks of lives and have taught us how to be the people we are today. Some of them have even come to Filling the Gap and participated as speakers.
GC: What can people expect to experience when they come to your event?
FTG: An intimate event where we focus on application and learning of new ways/tools to be used in your own professional and personal lives. Expect some amazing and inspiring discussions across different perspectives. Also, expect a networking opportunity, drinks, goody bags and exciting giveaways.
GC: Who are they types of people who attend Filling The Gap and why should they attend?
FTG: The attendees are young professionals across many different industries. Our upcoming event focuses on women in tech so we’re expecting an audience that comes from a tech, sales and marketing background. Beyond the great speakers, the event will be a really nice forum to meet others in the industry and perhaps even finding mentors and other women to connect with beyond the event.
GC: How can tickets for Filling The Gap be purchased?
See you there!
(top image source: Glamour Italia; second image source: Filling the Gap)