SXSW, BeautyBarX and the Quest to Create a Space for Women


I've been attending SXSW Interactive since 2005. It's amazing and I've watched it grow from impressive to "OMFG where are all these people coming from?!" Last year, there were nearly 20,000 registered geeks in attendance, but many estimated that the event was also subsidized by an almost equivalent number of people who came to enjoy the festivities without a badge. Rough guesses estimated the population of Austin to increase by 40,000 just for SXSW Interactive. What I've also noticed that there are more and more women attending each year. I asked Hugh Forrest, the man in charge of the show, what his estimates on women last year were and he replied, "A VERY conservative reply is that 1/3rd of our signups are women." That's about 6,800 women if my math is right. Wowsers!

What I also noticed last year was that there wasn't much catering to that growing population. From what I could tell, the only women-focused event was Digitini, a really cool event honoring the women contributing to Tech. I've heard that it's probably not happening in 2012. :( Guy Kawasaki, Kirtsy and Alltop also did a fun event called Guy/Gal a couple of years back (I couldn't attend, but I heard it was great). But for 1/3rd of the population of SXSW, I would hope there would be more!

Sure, we're all equal here, right? An event is an event and it's non-gendered, right? Well...yes. Most events are neutral. In fact, life is neutral. Until you realize what neutral is...

Back in my cultural studies classes (where I have my degree), we examined the problem with the center and otherness. The center/neutral/sameness is the cultural pivot point. The idea that there is a characteristic or persona that is neutral makes everyone else necessarily conform. So think UNISEX t-shirts. They aren't really unisex are they? They are t-shirts designed for a male body that are a little bit more tapered. They end up looking boxy on women (and probably fit a very distinct version of a male physique). Think of neutral colors like beige. They work for muted, quiet designs. They don't offend, but they don't express either.

So here I was, running between meetings and panels and events and thinking, "Where can I get a good manicure?" and coming up short and knowing that there wasn't really a place where women could just BE WOMEN (and that doesn't mean anything in particular, but spaces that are built for women do feel different). So I decided there and then that I would create something in 2012 come hell or high water that would be THAT thing. Completely UNneutral.

So here it is:

Beauty Bar X

And I posted it to Eventbrite and Facebook and did mostly nothing with it yet, but am getting a steady stream of signups and messages like, "OMG...this is SO needed!"

But here is the rub...I got Buyosphere to sponsor it, but we have a wee bit of seed funding that cannot cover an event that costs $25,000 to put on (I've asked our amazing event planners if we could cut back and they tried, but SXSW makes the city uber costly). I squeezed $5,000 out of my company (my board and co-founders won't approve more - that's an entire month of runway!). I may be able to put a couple of grand into it from my own pocket as well...but we really need to raise $20,000 (or something close to it) to make this happen.

Crazy awesome part of this is that this is the PERFECT OPPORTUNITY for any brand focused on reaching influential women to do so. We will have a space catering to women at SXSW. Women from all over the world with tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of followers. Not only that, we will be offering them a great space to be pampered in. Hello skincare companies! Hello nailcare companies! Hello health companies! order to make this happen, I've set up an IndieGoGo campaign:

The goal is to raise $20,000 or as close to it as I possibly can so we can make this happen. The sponsorship levels are spelled out on IndieGoGo, but people that want to see it happen can also help out. I was ready to pull the plug last week, but something just made me want to push on. I know we can do this. I'd love to see it happen. Can we crowdsource it? I know it's needed. Let's make it happen!