Paris-based Valerie Hoffenberg is a serial entrepreneur, former diplomat, frequent traveller, and recognised expert on gender equality.
In 2013, after several years in politics as former French special envoy for the Peace Process in the Middle-East, appointed by President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, and five years elected as Representative of Paris; Hoffenberg decided to leave politics and use her vast and unique international network to create the Connecting Leaders Club, an international event and consulting company for CEOs, institutions and countries.
In 2018, she created the think tank Agir pour l’Egalité (Acting for Equality) in partnership with Marie Claire magazine, with the purpose of advancing gender equality.
Hoffenberg is a regular speaker on gender equality for global organisations including UNESCO, French Parliament, UN, King’s College London, Kelloggs University, LUISS University and at events for private corporations.
Continuing her efforts to promote gender equality, Hoffenberg founded SHe Travel Club in 2021, the first and only label to grade hotels by their efforts to meet the needs of female guests, empowering women to travel “safe and happy everywhere”
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
All my life I have been travelling both for leisure and business as an entrepreneur and an ambassador. After a few years in politics and as a diplomat, I decided to create a company which organised think tanks such as the think tank acting for equality with the magazine Marie Claire.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I met so many women who complained about their business travel conditions, especially the frustrations in the hotels that didn’t adapt their offers to female needs that I decided to launch an international study in 5 countries. I was shocked by the results which shows that 9/10 women consider that they have special needs as female travellers which are not met by the hotels. 7/10 women travelling for business consider that company should take in consideration their comfort and security when booking a hotel.
How did you achieve awareness?
We have communicated on the survey towards large hotel chains, travel managers, associations and media to open the eyes of the hospitality sector about the importance of adapting their offers to meet the expectations of 64% of their customers. Today this is not an option, but it is compulsory to attract and retain their female customers.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
My experience as an entrepreneur, my expertise as a gender equality expert allowed me to raise money among my vast networks from the Connecting Leaders Club, from different groups of funders such as people coming from the tech industry, the hospitality sector who understood the need and the potential of this new kind of label.
What are the key successes?
To implement a new label in the hospitality sector just after the covid was quite a challenge but I believe so strongly in the idea that I decided to move quickly. As I am not coming from the hospitality sector, I gathered around me experts with experience who helped me to transform female expectations into actionable recommendations for hotels. To launch a company, you need to be bold to trust your intuition and above all to have the capability to handle roller coasters.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
We started the startup just after the covid and we had to convince th hotels to invest in the label after facing difficult years,
The majority of the C level and General Managers are still today men who had less understanding than women of the need to adapt their offers to female travellers’ needs.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We plan to reach 5000 hotels with the label in 2025 and that the label becomes a must have for the hotels. Female travelling is a growing trend representing today 64% of global travellers. We also plan to launch some e-learning training for the hospitality employees on the awareness on how to welcome and address women travellers.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Entrepreneurship is a real journey full of passion, and incredibly rewarding. Don’t wait for the others to find solutions for you, but go and search for them.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
1 Find your drive, what makes you happy
2 Identify what makes you unique. You will need this to convince people to trust you and invest in your company.
3 Listen to advices, comments but be prepared to decide by yourself and trust your intuition
4 Find a good team to believe in your project
5 Be flexible, adaptable and ready to change your bracket when needed
6 Work hard and enjoy what you are doing
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Sebastien Bazin, CEO of Accor, he was so positive during the crisis and always looking at the silver lining.
Simone Weil, she used her scars and her terrible experience during the war to lead with humanity and strength.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
My request as a woman is that my difference is taken into account and that I don’t have to adapt to the male model.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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