Mar 15, 2024

Empowerment, Innovation, and the Unyielding Spirit of Women: A Chronicle of the Female Founders Forum

In the heart of Jacksonville, Florida, the Female Founders Forum unfolded as a symphony of voices on March 8, a day that now stands as a beacon of inspiration for women venturing into the realm of venture capital and entrepreneurship. Emmy-award-winning News4Jax Anchor Melanie Lawson set the stage at the University of North Florida for the state’s Largest Celebration of International Women’s Day. “Strength, courage, and wisdom—it’s inside of you,” Lawson said, echoing the collective ethos of the gathering.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo at the PS27 Female Founders Forum

As the forum progressed, Sheila Lirio Marcelo, the visionary Founder behind and, shared her epiphany during the Keynote address, “I needed to stop playing the game and start changing the game.” This sentiment became the unofficial mantra of the event, resonating through the halls and in the hearts of every attendee. Marcelo also talked about how, in the US, women perform an average of four hours of unpaid work compared to men’s two and a half hours. In a recent article by Fast Company, Marcelo shares how her new company,, can scan emails and create calendar events, manage scheduling conflicts, delegate tasks, and even book appointments that require a phone call. People can use artificial intelligence tools to free up their time not just to do more but also to be more. Marcelo’s talk ended with a standing ovation from the 350 women in the audience.

From the panels emerged a mosaic of advice, rich with personal stories of resilience and evolution. Rebecca Smith, Founder of Thrifty and startGNV Board Member, articulated the emotional odyssey of entrepreneurship: “It’s because I know I’m capable of doing hard things. I’m no longer scared.” This statement captured her journey and illuminated the path for others following in her footsteps. Smith is a serial entrepreneur who incubated her company at Santa Fe College’s Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED). Smith sold her first company, which allowed her to launch Thrifty, an app that allows people to buy and sell second-hand goods.

She Kept Going Panel featuring Megan Hayward, Rebecca Smith, and Demika Jackson, Moderated by Melanie Lawson

Megan Hayward, Founder of Temporary Assistance Guru, shared insights on redefining success: “You have to measure success in tiny increments.” Hayward discussed how when you start a company, you will experience failure, but it does not reflect the founder. Founders should take growth one step at a time, testing their target market and staying focused. Her perspective offered a compass for navigating the tumultuous waters of startup life, emphasizing growth and self-belief over external benchmarks.

Demika Jackson Founder of ReInVentU

The forum was not just about narratives of success but also offered practical wisdom. “Watch out for your facial expressions. Practice that poker face and then respond,” advised Demika Jackson, Founder of ReInVentU and the Jacksonville Veteran’s Chamber of Commerce, highlighting the importance of composure and presence in high-stakes situations.

But it wasn’t all about the grind; the event also celebrated the essence of entrepreneurial freedom. “Time freedom, Autonomy,” shared Hayward, encapsulating the quintessential allure of forging one’s path.

As the day drew to a close, the air buzzed with a renewed sense of purpose. The Female Founders Forum was not merely an event; it was a declaration that the future of business is undeniably female.

To all aspiring women entrepreneurs, remember: the journey to venture capital is paved with challenges, but armed with the right mindset, a supportive community, and unwavering belief in your values, the world is yours to change. Let the insights from the Female Founders Forum light your way, and may your ventures flourish, breaking ceilings and setting new paradigms in the world of business. Learn more about the PS27 Female Founders Forum and get tickets at

This blog was written as a collaborative post by Lauren Gibson, Hale Bullen, and Christine Caven.

Keep up to date with PS27: