TownCrier Interview with Donna Marie Antoniadis, Co-founder of the Social Network for Women

No need to network in a bathing suit anymore
By Kelly Gadzala

October 5, 2009
Neighbourhoods: North Toronto

GIRLS ONLY: Donna Marie Antoniadis of ShesConnected shows how women can effectively manage both their personal and professional lives online.“I don’t want my professional contacts seeing me in my bikini.”

Donna Marie Antoniadis isn’t alone, thankfully.

Sitting in her Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. office, the co-founder and COO of ShesConnected says women from all over the world use her social media website — precisely because they can keep what’s private that way yet still have access to professional contacts and resources.

The website lets women create and manage personal and professional profiles, but users control whether they want those profiles to be public or private, connected or not.

There isn’t a site that does all that, Antoniadis says, only pieces of it.

So far women are really responding to the two profile part, she says.

“I love to help women,” she says. “But most are intimidated by technology.

“So I figured, why not just build the platform and take the technology out of it?”

ShesConnected is geared towards busy women allowing them to perform a multitude of tasks all without leaving the site, such as managing profiles and calendars; connecting and networking with other users; creating or joining groups; blogging and being listed in the blog directory — even interfacing with other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“We get the most technology-phobic women to use it,” she says.

The more information you put into the site, Antoniadis says, the more it can do for you. For instance, it can generate a list of businesses in your area based on your interests, or recommend some groups you may want to join.

Even women who are unsure of how to use Twitter can always join a Twitter group managed through the site and learn about social media that way.

“It’s women helping women,” she says. “We’re just facilitating it.”

With a background in Internet and mobile marketing — she helped the Yellow Pages go online and worked on the first mobile campaign for Herbal Essences — Antoniadis says social media was the next natural progression.

It’s taken almost three years to develop the concept and the site is continually evolving based on user feedback from the last year. It will officially launch Oct. 23.

Users used to be able to list only one business and blog for free, but that changed to five each when Antoniadis learned that many women have more than one business and more than one blog.

A name like ShesConnected hasn’t prevented men from showing interest, but she says the site is for women only.

“Men try to join (but) we just shut them down.”