We first launched the beta of OwnTrail to the public two months ago, and we have been blown away by how inspiring and REAL the trails that women have been sharing are already. The vulnerability and authenticity that we had hoped for is coming to life already, and the feedback we’ve heard from women who are exploring those trails reinforces our belief that our vision can become reality!
What is that vision? While the beta version is a simple create-and-browse scenario, what we’re building is much bigger than that. It only makes sense that we share more about where we’re going with it. After all, you — our users — are the ones that will help bridge the gap between inspiration and action for millions of women.
OwnTrail’s goal is to serve the 75% of women that aren’t giving or getting the mentorship they want by creating a new paradigm for how women inspire each other and lift each other up. We’re doing that by recognizing the problems behind the statements “I want a mentor” or “I want to be a mentor”:
- Women need to see people who look like them (in terms of identity and experiences) in the places they aspire to
- Women want authentic views into the journeys that other women have taken (not just the shiny, picture-perfect end results we see on social media)
- Women want to be able to give back to those coming up behind them (and we feel bad every time we have to turn down a mentorship coffee due to schedule constraints)
These are solvable problems. But we believe the solution is not in trying to scale out the same old mentorship paradigms. Rather, we want to reframe what mentorship looks like by combining the life paths of a large, diverse range of women in order to provide the insight, inspiration and action that women are seeking.
While solving for these problems, we will also be able to share data in aggregate about the life paths of women. When I wrote my recent book, Blaze Your Own Trail, I was amazed at how many gaps there are in the publicly available data about women’s lives. We are excited to fill these gaps with insights that can create a ripple effect of support and understanding for women across different industries and sectors.
When you’ve shared your trail on OwnTrail, you’ll notice that the trails are a series of interconnected milestones, each milestone normalized by a category. Those categories, along with natural language processing of non-categorized fields, will enable us to join all of the individual trails into an interactive network that can be navigated to answer questions, give guidance and build a bridge from inspiration to action.
Imagine being able to look at a place that you aspire to in life, and see all of the trails that different women — even filtered down to those that share your same identities and experiences — have taken to get to that point. Through seeing all these different paths, you have the experience of observing that there is no one right path. Using the planning and visualization frameworks that OwnTrail provides you with, you will be able to take action on blazing your own trail to wherever you are going.
Or imagine you are navigating a particularly difficult circumstance or decision. You could see all the paths that have led many different women to this same point, as well as all the directions they took from here. And you can drill in to see more and more detail relevant to you and your experiences, ask questions, get guidance and find inspiration from other women who have been there.
These scenarios, and many more, are what’s in store as more and more women share the trails they’ve blazed with the OwnTrail community.
Building a company where users aren’t a commoditized product is something we believe deeply in. And we recognize that in order to share authentic and meaningful experiences, we have keep safety and inclusivity as non-negotiables. So we are keeping our core values as our north star as we go.
Each trail is valuable and inspiring in and of itself. And when we combine them, the impact can scale way beyond the sum of its parts. We are grateful to our early trailblazers, and can’t wait to keep building out this platform in a way that empowers women and redefines what mentorship can mean.