Tara Roberts is the type of entrepreneur who instantaneously captures hearts and inspires minds. Like many of us, Roberts was a victim of the recession, losing her journalism job at CosmoGirl which folded alongside every other teen magazine on the market (with the exception of Seventeen). Rather than sulk, Roberts sold her stuff, packed her bags, and headed to 15 countries across the globe. Her quest? Travel with no agenda. Her discovery? An opportunity to connect female change-makers within a platform where collaboration collides – a girltank.
Girltank is a worldwide hub for female innovators to share stories on their entrepreneurial pursuits and access resources needed to ignite community change. We caught up with Roberts who shared her story on social entrepreneurship, connecting collaborators for the greater good, and Girltank’s latest program launch in Atlanta.
What is your background and why did you launch girltank?
I have a background in journalism – I worked for women’s and teen magazines like Essence, Heart & Soul, and CosmoGirl before jumping into this more entrepreneurial role. CosmoGirl was my last publication before starting girltank. When I worked there, it was amazing to discover that the magazine wasn’t just about beauty and fashion. We did work to help empower communities of girls across the country, giving them grants for change-making, training them as volunteers and training them to one day run for president. It was very cool work that opened my eyes to this world of change-making and social entrepreneurship.
I was still working at CosmoGirl when the magazine folded in 2008. Unfortunately, many publications died during the downturn of our economy. But it became an inspired, turning point for me. I thought, ‘Do I go back to the publishing world? Or do I take this opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do?’
I wanted to tell stories in my own way and travel with no agenda and experience the world. So I decided to pack up my bags, sell everything I had and empty my savings account to travel and tell stories of cool women and girls making change in their communities. My vision was to write a book and be a witness for these incredible women change agents by writing about the great work they were doing for their communities.
I ended up traveling to about 15 countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia. By the end of it, I was like, you know what, maybe these women don’t need a book. Maybe they need an organization that can act as a connector to each other and to other resources that can help support their great work. Women were starting organizations that had a lot in common, but they were not sharing best practices and learnings, and they were often getting stuck with the same problems in their businesses.
When did you officially launch girltank and how did you build it into the organization we see today?
I came back in 2010 and started thinking about the idea for girltank. I brainstormed alongside my co-founder Sejal Hathi, who was a young changemaker with her own nonprofit and brilliant ideas of supporting girls around the world. We incorporated the organization in 2011, and in 2011-2012, we incubated the idea in Chile with Start-up Chile.
Girltank started as an online platform that helped women and girls raise funds and connect with resources, partners, and mentors. But we learned that the deeper collaborations we were seeking needed a local component, so in 2015 we began rolling out in-person programming that we are continuing today through city chapters and events. Our vision is to serve as a connector and help female social entrepreneurs connect to the resources that can help grow and scale their big ideas for social change.
How has this experience been for you over the last few years?
It’s beautiful. Over the last few years, it’s been all about inspiring moments. The women I’ve connected with as I’ve traveled have touched my heart in so many ways. There are no barriers between these women. I am from Atlanta, but there I was sitting in Mumbai with a girl who’s living in a slum, talking about educating girls who live in slums and we’re laughing and understanding each other. Consistently, I found this camaraderie and connection with women who are passionate about change and are stepping up to do something in their community. It was such a gratifying and inspiring moment in my life.
Can you tell us a little bit about what girltank hopes to accomplish at the TankEd event on June 10th? Why did you decide to host an event like this?
In our TankEd events, we bring female social innovators, mentors, corporate executives, capacity builders, and funders together in one room to brainstorm and co-create solutions to the problems these female innovators face in their business. Our goal is to connect them to local resources and to encourage tapping into the creativity and genius of the crowd. It’s magical to see everyone come together in this space to connect and share in an open and transparent way. This year, we are doing our event on Friday, June 10th in collaboration with Google. And we’re focusing on marketing and helping entrepreneurs to perfect their marketing plans with a group of great coaches.
Why did you decide to choose Atlanta as the next target for girltank programming?
We started globally. Then we created programming in San Francisco. Atlanta was our next target because this is my hometown, and it’s such a vibrant and open city around social change. We love Atlanta, and we think it’s a great place to learn.
What’s next for girltank and what type of future do you hope to see for women and girls across the globe in the future?
My co-founder, Heather Burke, who has been with the organization almost since its conception, is taking over. And she will be bringing more events to more cities, building more city chapters and delving deeper into the storytelling. We want stories of the women in our network to spread across the world so that more people can support this great work.
What’s your advice for women and girls hoping to pursue a career in entrepreneurship?
Get started! 🙂 Really, just start something. You’ll perfect and grow it over time and with the contribution of your community, but get something going!