5 Romanian Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Leadership Lessons

Women are often praised for being cultivators of creativity, great planners and organizers, and exemplary team players. But in the entrepreneurship world, specifically, it’s worth distinguishing a few other areas where women thrive.

While talking to women entrepreneurs in the Romanian business ecosystem, we noticed a few recurring patterns.

They are people-oriented – attaching a great importance to understanding the people they work with, their unique strengths, drivers, and needs.

They have high self-awareness – showing concern about their identity, always ensuring they have a clear sense of who they are and of their internal motivation to join or stay in a project.

And they are all down-to-earth – they are rockstars to many, but advise against believing in the “superhuman”, and instead gaining confidence from your unique strengths and your unique surroundings.

Next, we invite to read the interviews below to tap into the wisdom of successful women entrepreneurs in Romania and explore:

  • What benefits can arise from aligning your feminine energy to your leadership style;
  • Why being a good leader starts with learning who you are as a person;
  • Why in other to lead, you need to understand what drives people;
  • What are the key responsibilities of a leader;
  • What key challenges has made these women entrepreneurs stronger leaders;
  • And what is their advice for women entrepreneurs starting from the CEE region.

What is your definition of leadership?

Cori Gramescu: I believe leadership is rooted in strong personal values, ethics, and the ability to inspire others to carve a way to manifest their dreams in their work environment.  As a leader of the organizations I have built, I always felt that aligning my feminine energy is a more authentic approach for my own journey, and I soon discovered that women are amazing multi-taskers, while also staying focused and cultivating creativity. To be a strong leader you have to know who you are as a person, what your mission is and work with your team to build your vision of what your company should become. It’s a beautiful journey, one that you build something out of just an idea. Leadership brings people together, and aligns them to a dream, but also gives the more subtle, unspoken rules about “how we do things here and how we process conflict” at a very human level. In a metaphoric way, I feel that organizations are complex entities, and their soul is exactly leadership and the team’s ability to inspire people to go beyond their job description.

Mirela Mus: Effective leaders understand that the success of their organization depends on several key factors, including the ability to bootstrap resources, set and pursue long-term goals, and select and cultivate the best talent.  Bootstrapping means starting with minimal resources and building something of value. This means being able to identify and leverage existing assets to drive growth and create opportunities for their organizations.  Effective leaders understand that achieving long-term success requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to make difficult decisions in the short term.  Lastly, leaders who are able to attract, motivate, and develop top talent are more likely to build high-performing teams that can adapt to changing circumstances and drive innovation.

Sorina Vlasceanu: As a founder, I believe leadership involves a great understanding of how people in your team function – what drives them, what they strive for and what challenges they’re facing. For example, some people work well under pressure, while other people can find themselves paralyzed in front of a tight deadline. Some team members might need more time to dissect a problem before starting to work on it, while others prefer to dive in and adjust their approach as they go.

Your #1 responsibility as a leader is to guide your team in a way that brings everyone to the finish line, consistently. Understanding that different people have different working styles and respond differently to various situations will help you plan for a better outcome for the entire team. This is particularly important when you’re building a company, as start-ups have to deal with many tight deadlines while having few resources at hand.

Xenia Muntean: For me, leadership means guiding and inspiring my team towards a shared goal, while making sure everyone feels valued and has a sense of purpose. I think that a good leader should be humble, authentic, and resilient, with a contagious enthusiasm and strong work ethics to keep the team motivated.

Leadership should be all about creating a culture where team members feel free to express themselves, challenge the status quo, and continuously raise the bar on themselves.

Simona Gemeneanu: One should lead others the same way he/ she leads himself/ herself and his/ her career. Any disconnect between the two leadership styles can determine derailment. In my opinion, authenticity is the most important thing in leadership.

What is the biggest fear or challenge you have overcome?

Xenia Muntean: As a female founder building her first tech startup in her 20s in Eastern Europe, I’ve faced my fair share of fears and challenges. One of the trickiest was building up my reputation from scratch. With no connections, no big-name tech companies on my resume, and fresh out of university (and not a fancy one), it felt like I had nothing to recommend me.

I didn’t let any of that stop me. Instead, together with my co-founders, I focused on building a product that our customers would adore, getting into accelerators that opened up new doors, mastering the art of networking (despite being a bit of an introvert), and compensating for the lack of experience by always asking advice and seeking mentorship. And eventually earning other accolades, like landing a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list (which looks nice on my LinkedIn and definitely increases my connection request conversion).

So to all my fellow founders out there, remember that it’s not where you come from or what you’ve done in the past – it’s about the passion and determination you bring to your work. Keep pushing.

Sorina Vlasceanu: I started my professional career as a Software Engineer, and spent several years working as a programmer before co-founding Veridion. By then I was identifying strongly with this role so it seemed natural to me that my responsibilities at Veridion would revolve around designing and coding software products. During the initial year after my co-founders, Florin, Mihai and I launched the company, this remained my primary focus and responsibility.

As we started growing, we needed someone to focus on assimilating client requirements and handling delivery processes, so I took on a product and delivery-oriented role. I loved this role, but I had a hard time splitting my time and efforts between the two identities and didn’t really know which one I wanted to stick to going forward. This prevented me from doing a great job at either of them.

After months of struggle, I decided to go with the product and delivery role, as I realized that was the area where I could bring the most value. Having this realization – however difficult – was crucial to my development as a founder, as it enabled me to get closer to the business world and better understand our customers’ needs. As a result, I was able to support my team through their technical development process, as many tough decisions to be made were, in fact, business decisions.

Simona Gemeneanu: The biggest challenge I overcame was to fade away my natural lack of trust in human relationships. The investment business is 100% a business of trust in your partners, advisors, entrepreneurs, authorities, and so on. You cannot function without trust. Hence, I needed to rebuild my ability in recognizing trustworthy relationships.

Mirela Mus: Establishing my first company, with all that it entails: setting up the legal entity, acquiring clients, hiring the first employees, and then growing in all areas. Then, as a company expands, it requires a deep understanding of customer needs, market trends, and the competitive landscape, all throughout the potential periods of change and uncertainty.

Cori Gramescu: I was so afraid to lose my identity once I left Romania. Because for 17 years I had built a personal brand that brought me so much love and acceptance from my clients, going into a completely different field as a startup founder and on a completely different market in the US meant first of all to overcome the fear of not being Cori Gramescu anymore. But just as organizations change, so do we, as humans and then leaders. It was the biggest change in my adult life and the most humbling experience, but I congratulate myself daily for my courage.

What is your #1 advice for women entrepreneurs starting from the CEE region?

Simona Gemeneanu: Stop being defensive and believe in yourself. Always frame your responses to investors’ questions in a promotional way as opposed to a defensive way. This can improve your chances to get financing by 50-100%

Cori Gramescu: To be proud and confident and to start by thinking globally. We have a great, solid background in education here in Eastern Europe and we grew up with powerful feminine role models, it’s best we build on that and start by dreaming big. Because organizations that are created with a global approach in mind function completely differently than the ones who are designed to start small and grow. It’s a completely different mindset and leadership approach.

Sorina Vlasceanu: Entrepreneurs can often be perceived as modern-day superheroes – especially women entrepreneurs, since it’s not as common.I believe the most important thing to assimilate is that founders are regular people, with a vision. We don’t possess superhuman brain power or the ability to function on minimal sleep. Rather, what sets us apart is a high dose of curiosity, extreme work ethics, and a desire to grow and succeed.
My advice would be to start as a human. Pick an idea – any idea – many times execution is far more valuable than the idea itself. Make mistakes, take the wrong route once or twice, learn along the way, seek help when in doubt. Make sure you have a strong founding team – being able to rely on your co-founders when things get tough is crucial to maintaining a good motivation level.

Xenia Muntean: Don’t let any biases get into your head and hold you back. Leverage the unique advantages of the region, concentrate on your strengths, build a supportive network of peers and mentors, and most importantly be persistent in pursuing your vision. Remember, you’re carving your own path, so do it your way.

Mirela Mus: Use all your resources and start the company that you’re thinking of. Cross the bridges as they appear and don’t dwell on worries and uncertainty.