The scene at the gorgeous Oceana hotel in Santa Monica, CA is one that I've seen played out dozens of occasions throughout the past four years of being a startup founder in business. Sunlit tables facing the ocean side and across the back outdoor patio are dotted with women and men in workplace appropriate attire are engaged in conversations as they munch on chopped salad and fresh salmon. Two men laugh and shake hands over espresso near the door while a trio of women takes a seat in the adorable back corner booth. One by one, they unload stylish handbags and unpack smart phones as formalities and cards are exchanged.
This is how business is often done in the executive world. Sometimes it's over breakfast, sometimes its lunch or dinner and drinks.
"I rarely have meetings in the office," laughed one female founder as we chatted at a recent event. "Honestly, it's only when there's a deal to be signed," chimed a second. When it comes to connecting and conducting business, many women executives and entrepreneurs are similar to male counterparts. They rely as much on chic restaurants and hotel lounges to discuss projects and deal points as they do conferences rooms and offices.
MyItThings.com co-founder and President Yuli Ziv closed her first angel round at the Silicon Alley hot spot Tarallucci E. Vino in New York. Entrepreneur and TV consultant Jen Grisanti can often be spotted at Melrose-area business hot spots in Los Angeles. The first company I sold was over hamburgers at Bar Marmont in Hollywood in 2007. One of my early VC calls took place poolside at the Westin Palo Alto.
Power Girls don't just rub elbows with the business elite around the country. They're a part of the equation.
"For me and my publishing clients, it's a comfortable way to get to know each other, plot strategy in a relaxed, comfortable environment," said Carol White, of RLI Press. White cites Starbucks as a good go-to place for low key business meetings. For Whitney Keyes, Principal of Whitney Keyes Productions, Volunteer Park Café in Seattle is a favorite.
"I meet my clients at any location that is convenient for them and most of them ask to meet at local cafes," Keyes shared, adding that, "I do some of my best consulting work when meeting with clients at cafes."
In San Francisco, it might be the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel or W. In New York, the women entrepreneurs I've met and know cite everything from Balthazar to The London to The Modern at MoMA for business get-togethers. For Los Angelinos, it can vary depending on what area of the city you're in. Il Fornio in Beverly Hills and Mani's on Fairfax near Third Street are two Hollywood favorites. Entertainment types talk shop over comfort food at Mo's in Toluca Lake, while Oceana or Cora's Café are go-to places for meetings in Santa Monica.
"My ultimate meeting place must haves are wireless connection, friendly yet subtle service and great food/drinks," said Julie Parrish, CEO of CG Media, who prefers meetings away from the office because it "helps put people at ease."
Regardless of where they get together, today's women entrepreneurs and executives know the value of holding court in the right environment - and just the place to do it.