Cooking, in conjunction with recipe sharing, is an utterly indispensable part of our social existence. The majority of us enjoy it, plain and simple. Cooking channels like the Food Network average more than 9.9 million unique web users monthly.
Given this, it is not so difficult to see why Babette Pepaj, who is also a media producer and enthusiastic baker, decided to create BakeSpace, a cyber haven for foodies dedicated to preserving the uniquely social tradition of gathering in the kitchen. People from around the world gather on BakeSpace to exchange recipes, network, instant chat, and just be passionate about food all around.
Pepaj can certainly be considered a role model and source of inspiration for women aspiring to establish a start-up. She has come considerable distance since the launch of BakeSpace back in 2006, garnering a large user base and attracting a significant number of brands wishing to advertise on the website and app.
To be not only the CEO of an online company in the tech world, but a female one at that, is something that Pepaj addresses quite sharply and introspectively. “I think it's a lot easier for men to start online companies simply because they fit the mold of what a tech entrepreneur looks and talks like, which can be deceiving, and gives them an advantage. Women in tech naturally are fish out of water -- especially if they are not technical founders. Because you have to hire developers to build your online business, it's very easy for a woman to be taken advantage of.”
These points are extremely relevant, especially when taking into consideration that the presence of females in the online segment of start-ups is staggeringly low. Women account for only 25 percent of the computing workforce. At Microsoft, out of 125 executives, only 13 are actually women, while Dell has one female executive and Apple has none. As of January, 1, 2012, 18 Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, but, when zooming in specifically on online startup companies, only 4 percent are led by women. Pepaj asserts, “I think women take a backseat at a startup because they naturally gravitate towards nurturing a team. It's unfortunate that we sometimes let our male counterparts take all the credit for innovation.”
Funding itself is obviously a large topic of discussion for many startup founders. Pepaj sets a clear, definitive outline for her own online business strategy. “I think the one advantage I have over most founders is that I'm not afraid to put my own money in the game. Too many founders are limited by what they can raise. If I need money to build something, I sell opportunities and raise the money without giving away equity. I didn't wait to raise money to build our publishing platform and app,” she said. “I knew I needed to build it now, so I made money. If I would have waited, it would have been too late to launch our technology because the market is moving so fast.”
The low percentage of women in the online startup realm is perhaps not so surprising; it is, after all, not so uncommon to come across the perspective of how utterly tough it is to start a company considering the trade-offs and ups and downs that come with the territory. 65 percent of startups are actually created by people 30-years-old and older, the years which most believe is the time when women begin to think about creating families and having a personal life. Naturally, with that in mind, not all women are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get out there and start raising the amount of capital necessary to fuel a start-up.
Pepaj has in previous interviews commented upon the tendency of people to have predetermined assumptions regarding female founders, especially in the way of what happens after having children. Will they just up and leave? The other age-old argument she brings up is this nagging notion of the female incapacity to be technical and thus incapable of launching a product. Still taking an ardent perspective, Pepaj says, “If women can just focus on building their product and not let their egos or emotions get in their way...They could make big strides in tech. They need to stop wasting their time waiting for validation to move forward with their company. Just build it!”
CEOs like Pepaj are not merely concerned with cooking up dishes of the culinary sort, but also the large, socially relevant kind that demand attention and admiration. Her most recent project is CookBook Cafe, a do-it-yourself platform which allows anyone to market and sell their very own cookbook as an iPad app, as well as an interactive web-based e-book. Let’s see what Pepaj manages to whip up next. Her contributions are certainly making the field of online female entrepreneurship a tad more fertile.