How to be a (Woman) Entrepreneur
By: Kim Kastorff
Being an entrepreneur certainly has its challenges - money, time, talent, niche, customers, technology, communication, leadership, focus, turnover - and the list goes on. With so many challenges, it is no wonder the failure rate is a whopping ~ 80% during the first 18 months, according to Forbes.
Yet, we are hearing that many women are now generating higher revenues, greater returns on investment and are achieving high success rates - both in the U.S. and developing countries. So, then why are such few women starting businesses?
Some plausible reasons are the dominance of men in engineering fields and tech industry; that less than 5% of women receiving VC funding; the lower acceptance rate for leading accelerator programs, and the relative lack of good mentors and support for women. Check out this March 2015 Q&A for more key insights from some of the top women VCs in the industry.
As a woman entrepreneur, and founder of Kimpacto (a San Francisco-based Impact Investing Advisory firm working in the U.S., Europe & Latin America) - I have faced many of these challenges mentioned, and more. For these reasons, I have begun to mentor other women entrepreneurs, and to offer support regarding personal challenges and business goals.
Over the years, I have been collaborating with numerous social impact organizations that support women entrepreneurs globally, one of which is Change Catalyst in San Francisco. My inspiring friend Melinda Briana Epler just provided a great "List of Accelerators for Women", as she continues to empower women leaders, specifically women in tech.
So in our pursuit and mission to empower women, here are some additional programs, information and resources to help you become a successful woman entrepreneur -
Accelerator & Training Programs for Women -
Among the leading accelerators is Y Combinator, which according to Forbes, have a mere ~ 4% female founders. Given the low acceptance and application rate among women - it is no surprise that women-specific programs are in demand. We encourage you to check out these programs specifically tailored to women entrepreneurs:
Astia is a community of over 1000 experts committed to building women leaders and accelerating the funding and growth of the companies they lead. Astia programs include providing access to capital, ensuring sustainable high-growth and developing the executive leadership of the women on the founding team.
Prosper helps women get their ideas off the ground by offering training and mentoring during a 3-month program, in addition to providing capital investments annually.
Count me in is a not-for-profit provider of business education and community support for women entrepreneurs desiring to turn their micro businesses into million dollar enterprises. Count Me In accelerates women’s business growth with online resources, live events, mentoring, peer exchange, technology support and business-building products.
Springboard Enterprises provides a U.S.-based but global premier platform that helps women build ‘big businesses’ with 500+ women-led participants, raising more than $6.6 billion, plus thousands of jobs. Springboard’s success rate is impressive, with roughly 80% still in business.
Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program is a national competition sponsored by Ernst & Young that selects high-potential women entrepreneurs and helps them scale.
Newme Accelerator offers online mentoring from Silicon Valley experts and coaches, based on its mission to educate and empower tech entrepreneurs globally. Note: Currently undergoing a re-launch.
Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA) is an Ohio-based non-profit offering mentoring, education, shared office space, connections with other women, plus online support and resources.
Merge Lane seeks to both accelerate and invest in women run business, and promise to offer support until it is no longer needed. The program includes a residency requirement, virtual mentoring, an early stage curriculum and personal executive coaching.
Women Launch is a new program in 2015, which provides a Leadership & Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (LEAP) that is tailored for women founders with busy lifestyles.
Avinde is an Austin-based accelerator offering strong connections and relationships, as their core strength. Avinde’s founders are successful entrepreneurs with 25+ years of experience leading multimillion dollar ventures.
Other Networks, Resources & Conferences for Women -
Ogunte - a global platform for connecting and helping women social entrepreneurs make a positive impact on our people & planet.
Women’s Venture Capital Fund - currently expanding the pipeline and increasing the VC funding rate for women.
Women 2.0 - provides networking events every month around the country, and a conference in the fall.
SOCAP - a global impact investing conference held in November in San Francisco, which includes gender related themes for social investors and entrepreneurs.
Anita Borg Institute - promotes women in computing and technology and organizes the Grace Hopper conference in Houston, Texas in October.
To all the women entrepreneurs (or those thinking about it) - please know there is a lot of support for you and opportunities are expanding. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized equal rights in allowing same sex marriage. Just maybe this momentum will also lead to changes for women in the workplace (i.e. equal job offers, promotions, pay). Still today, women hold very few board seats and many also maintain their traditional responsibilities at home - and as you know, the list of challenges and demands is far greater. Yet, some of us continue to follow our dreams. Without a doubt, I am confident that together we can create sustainable and permanent change, and provide equal freedom and empowerment for women around the world.
Finally, my dream is to allow other women to follow their dreams. So, please reach out to share your thoughts or ideas, or to seek help or connections. I would love to support your dreams!
Sending much love to all the women entrepreneurs around the world ~
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Kim Kastorff has 15+ years of international finance experience and two Masters degrees - MBA and a Masters of Research in Impact Investing. Specific areas of expertise are in banking, financial and investment services, energy and sustainability, consulting, and financial education. Years ago, I told my students the purpose of business is to "Maximize shareholder returns." Today, it seems that stakeholders care about both "Maximizing financial + social impact." So, I am dedicated to helping impact investors and entrepreneurs adjust and remain competitive in this new environment. My goal is to promote impact investing and financial inclusion as we collectively strive for a more educated and financially sustainable global environment.