Last summer, Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer launched their curated online shop, Witchsy. They describe their site as an "ONLINE COMMUNITY FOR OUR FAVORITE ARTISTS, KNOWN AND UNKNOWN." Witchsy has done very well in it's first year selling $200,000 worth of merchandise. Their inventory is mostly made up of weird art and silly clothing. For example, this hat.
However, Gazin and Dwyer had a hard time getting things going. In an interview with Fast Company, Dwyer says, “When we were getting started, we were immediately faced with ‘Are you sure? Does this sound like a good idea?’ I think because we’re young women, a lot of people looked at what we were doing like, ‘What a cute hobby!’ or ‘That’s a cute idea.'”
Many of the people they initially worked with didn't respond to their requests quickly, and took a condescending tone when they did get back to them. They even worked with a web developer who tried to delete everything after Gazin refused to go out with him.
To combat these problems Gazin and Dwyer made up a third co-founder, a man aptly named "Keith Mann." Naturally, Keith would only communicate via email but Dwyer says having him there (for lack of a better word) made a huge difference. "“It was like night and day. It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.”
In those early days they would use Keith whenever they had to, and Keith always got results. In that same interview Gazin recalls one developer who always defer to Keith despite him not being real. Gazin even went on to explain how this developer barely acknowledge the two people he was working for. “Whenever he spoke to Keith, he always addressed Keith by name. Whenever he spoke to us, he never used our names.”
The experience didn't deter them, though. On the contrary it made them want to work even harder as they saw this as their chance to get into the male-dominated world of tech. Dwyer explains that, “I think we could have gotten pretty bent out of shape about that. Wow, are people really going to talk to this imaginary man with more respect than us? But we were like, you know what, this is clearly just part of this world that we’re in right now. We want this and want to make this happen.”
Women in other male dominated industries have had to do similar things in the past.
Good on ya! I work in automotive. I use Chris for correspondence, no questions asked. When we do meet, they look at me with such confusion.— Christine Mooneyhan (@roadmastersgirl) August 29, 2017
Others are applauding their ingenuity.
But most people still can't believe that this is what women have to do in order to be successful.
It's the plot of most women trying to innovate while being questioned and patted on the head by men who don't take them seriously.— Mr. Cara Patricia (@CaraPatricia) August 29, 2017
As of right now, Keith is no longer with the company, which is to say that the two real founders haven't found a reason to use him recently. Still, they recognize that a day may come where they need him again.
[h/t Fast Company]