“Dream, Girl” Director Erin Bagwell initially shot down her own childhood dream of creating a film because it seemed too big. She took a corporate job, but was unhappy, her work was undervalued, and then her boss made an inappropriate comment about her clothing.
“But in my time away from the office, something wonderful happened: I found inspiration from a community of feminists I found online,” Bagwell says in the movie. “These women were strong, passionate, and supportive. I realized I wasn’t alone. I felt empowered and wanted to pass this feeling along to other women.“
Bagwell founded her blog Feminist Wednesday and eventually followed her dreams right out of her big corporate office’s front doors. And the women’s stories she’d been sharing through her blog materialized into the premise for “Dream, Girl”.
“Our mantra is to give people role models,” Bagwell said of the film crew. “We wanted to give women an arsenal to support them whether they’re starting their first or their third company. Having a community is something women need, but especially women entrepreneurs. It’s really draining, really exhausting, and that can be really difficult if you don’t have a great tribe around you.”
More and more, women are taking the leap to start their own businesses, and this significant growth has outpaced that of their male counterparts.
“Between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45%, compared to just a 9% increase among all businesses,” states the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. “Therefore, over the past nine years, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate fully five times faster than the national average.”
- 78% of these net new women-owned firms are firms owned by women of color
- 842 net new minority women-owned firms launched on average each day over the past nine years
- About 11.3 million total women-owned businesses in the United States
- Nearly 9 million people employed by women-owned businesses
- More than $1.6 trillion ($1,622,763,800,000) generated in revenues by women-owned businesses each year
“We need more brave women in the entrepreneurship realm; it took my second bout with cancer to get me out of the corporate chair,” said Pink Petro founder Katie Mehnert, who was one of the film’s Kickstarter backers. “Pink Petro is not just about ending the gap in the workforce. We see the supply chain as a place where we have plenty of work to do: That is to say that more women-owned businesses are out there. We need to find them and give them a chance to bid and be a part of the energy sector. This is another way we’ll get at the gap.”
The film features interviews of elementary-aged girls talking what they want to be when they grow up alongside larger vignettes of women entrepreneurs and investors who are fulfilling their wildest dreams.
One such entrepreneur is Suzanne West, President and CEO of Imaginea Energy Corp., a private oil company in Calgary.
The “Imagi-who?” section of its site says, “We produce oil and gas. Over 5500 boe/d…for now. But what’s really interesting is the way we go about it. We’re defying industry stereotypes by focusing on sustainability and community responsibility in everything we do. We’re the oil company for the 21st century. We care about the planet and people just as much as we do about profit—which is to say, a lot. We believe the energy industry can be a force for good.”
Its slick, modern site features profiles of what appears to be the entire Imaginea family—not just the top leadership—and sprinkles in words like “hellbent” and “Aces” to describe their drive and personnel, respectively.
“Business has done a bit of a disservice in teaching us that being vulnerable is weak,” says West in the film. “It is absolutely wrong. Being vulnerable is one of the most powerful places that we can be. It’s where we deeply connect with people and engage people in causes that are bigger than themselves.”
She knows plenty about putting herself out there after having raised $300 million for Imaginea, the latest of five startups in her 15 years as an entrepreneur.
“[Pitching] is a wildly vulnerable place to be because you are sharing everything about you—what you think you’re great at. No one is going to give you money if you do not share and if you do not believe that you rock.”
Bagwell pitched herself to her online audience, and raised $100,000 on Kickstarter to produce “Dream, Girl”. She and Komal Minhas, who is featured in the film as one of the girl bosses and later became Bagwell’s business partner, are even bucking the trend of how films are distributed. Rather than selling their film and walking away with a lump sum of cash, in true girl boss fashion, they have created jobs by licensing their film directly to individuals for public and private screenings.
Since its White House launch in May on the South Court Auditorium for The White House Council on Women and Girls’ Women and Entrepreneurship Event, “Dream, Girl” has been screened 96 times in 19 states and 8 countries.
“Our goal every day is to make sure everyone in the world knows the power of the female economy, and what happens when we stop telling girls they can be anything they want to be and actually show them what it means to be a leader,” states the film’s site.
And it appears to be working. Girls and women of all ages approach them after screenings with encouraging feedback.
“Suzanne’s story and the stories in this film show me it’s possible and keep me going knowing I’m not alone,” said Mehnert. “I’m honored to be a part of this sisterhood that Erin and Komal have created.”
To host your own public or private screening of “Dream, Girl”, visit the film’s screening page.