Author Archive

Hey Obama, Women Entrepreneurs Need More Access to Capital

Friday, March 28th, 2014

A new report from the U.S. National Women’s Business Council has confirmed what many of us already knew: women entrepreneurs rely heavily on personal savings to start a business because they have access to lower amounts of start-up capital.

As it stands today, almost no women-led firms use venture capital investments to expand.

Here’s the good news: The NWBC has done extensive research to prove that not only will more access to lucrative loans and investments lead to more profitable growth – but that now is the time to do it.

They didn’t just say it for the sake of saying it, either – they said it to a whole bunch of folks who can make the necessary changes happen.

In its annual report to President Obama, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, the NWBC stressed this limited access to capital as a major issue – one that’s holding back too many talented and capable entrepreneurs.

“The research that the NWBC has done shows that companies that are very well capitalized at their commencement essentially have a better survival rate and therefore probability rate. We’re in a great economic environment for women-owned businesses, possibly a perfect storm,” says Carla Harris, chairwoman of NWBC.

This is the kind of storm we can most definitely get behind – and while it’s a small step, it is most definitely a step in the right direction.

We’ll keep you posted regarding policy changes – and we’ll keep giving out Amber Grants because as any woman entrepreneur knows, every little bit counts.

Smile: Getty Images & Sheryl Sandberg Are Making Stock Photos of Working Women More Empowering

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

No one can argue that original photography beats out stock photos every time – but sometimes stock photos just make sense. Unfortunately, until now – stock photography hasn’t represented professional women very well.

Search “working woman” on any popular stock photography site and you’ll get a whole bunch of stereotypes, and not much else. Women seductively pushing their glasses up as they peer over a typewriter, perfectly done up women in stiff pant suits holding a cell phone the size of a brick, and the occasional professionally dressed lady sporting a hard hat.

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Getty Images and Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org have partnered to produce a refreshing new collection of images that represent women and families in more empowering ways. Sure, there’s a pant suit or two to be found but you’ll also find the photos included below – and that’s certainly a step in the right direction.

The Lean In Collection has more than 2,500 images “celebrating powerful images of women, girls and the communities who support them,” Getty says in a statement. “The collection will serve as a resource for marketers, advertisers and media for use in their campaigns and communications. It arrives in time for Women’s History Month and the one-year anniversary of the publication of Sandberg’s best-selling book Lean In.”

While stock photography may seem like a non-issue, Sandberg notes, “You can’t be what you can’t see. In an age where media are all around us, it is critical that images provide examples that both women and men can emulate.”

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10 Inspiring Small Businesses Launched by Women Entrepreneurs

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

As we kick off the New Year, we can’t help but take a look back. As we reflect on the past two years at WomensNet.net, we get even more excited about what’s to come. It’s an incredible cycle.

2013 introduced us to some brilliant emerging small businesses and thousands of bright hardworking women entrepreneurs.

We were able to give out more than a dozen small business grants and truth be told, selecting a recipient has become increasingly more difficult – but only because there are so many worthy endeavors to choose from.

We wanted to share 10 of the grant winners who have inspired us over this past year because we know they’ll do the same for you.

Business: ReFresh
Founder(s): Eliza Becton
Website: http://www.re-freshwater.com/
What they do: The ReFresh 2-way water vending kiosk filters, flavors, carbonates, and bottles water at the point of dispense, instead of in a bottling plant, cutting out operators’ variable costs and reducing CO2 emissions by 80%.

Business: Dsg.nr (“Designer”)
Founder(s): Nancy Quan
Website: http://www.dsg.nr/
What they do: Dsg.nr is a low-cost way for small interior design businesses to collaborate with clients, vendors, specialists, CAD artists, and everyone else. Think of it as a cross between Pinterest, Houzz, and Polyvore for millions of independent designers, craftspeople, contractors, students, and individuals who are decorating on a budget.

Business: Go Go Games
Founder(s): Alexis Hiniker
Website: http://go-go-games.com/
What they do: Go Go Games is an award-winning suite of iPad games designed to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) learn to quickly notice multiple features of the objects in the world around them. All of the games are grounded in Pivotal Response Therapy, a behavioral intervention known to have broad benefits.

Business: Nighty Night Nursing Light
Website: http://www.nursinglight.com/
Founder(s): April Lowell and Patricia Gilbert
What they do: NNNL is a one-of-a-kind safety product for breastfeeding moms designed to help make nighttime feedings easier and reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Business: Build & Imagine
Founder(s): Laurie Peterson
Website: http://www.buildandimagine.com/
What they do: Build & Imagine is developing a line of constructible play-sets that girls (and boys!) love. They’re putting the child in the role of designer and architect, and providing a launching pad for imaginative play that helps to build the spatial and design skills needed to succeed in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Business: Tillie Polish
Website: http://www.tilliepolish.com
Founder(s): Andrea Matillano-Funkhouser and her 2 sisters Amber and Alexa Matillano
What they do: Tillie Polish is an organic, toxin-free nail polish start-up. The three founding sisters used their passion for trendy colors, a long-lasting formula, and toxic-free ingredients to create a fast drying opaque formula that they can share with other nail polish fanatics. Even better, customers can buy Tillie Polish with a clear conscience because all of their products are animal cruelty free and 4-Free, meaning they do not use the 4 main toxic ingredients found in other brands.

Business: Kiddologic
Founder(s): Laurie O’Nion
Website: http://www.kiddologic.com/
What they do: Kiddologic’s mission is to offer “the best of basics” – innovative products that are smart and practical solutions to the universal challenges of parenthood. Their core offering is the bibit-all http://www.kiddologic.com/shop/bibit-all/, a fashionable full-coverage bib that even has sleeves!

Business: Sitter Cycle
Founder(s): Helen Adeoson
Website: http://sittercycle.com
What they do: SitterCycle provides online classes for nannies and caregivers to learn from the best experts in childcare.

Business: Stone’s Throw Urban Farm
Founder(s): Robin Major
Website: https://stones-throw.herokuapp.com/
What they do: Stone’s Throw Urban Farm is redefining local, sustainable food in the Twin Cities. They convert vacant lots in St. Paul and Minneapolis into beautiful, productive micro-farms and grow food for a CSA, farmers markets, and various local wholesale accounts.

Business: Cambria Equine
Founder(s): Hannah Rivard
What they do: Hannah teaches her self-developed, completely unique, unheard-of method of horse training through in-person services (ex., lessons, clinics, and seminars) as well as online. Her training is focused on empowering people to train horses intuitively, through beauty and joy, rather than generalized techniques. Her website caters to the artistic equestrian and even has a marketplace for people to buy and sell horse-related products.

For those in the OuterBanks NC area…not doing anything today

Friday, March 1st, 2013

If you are in the area today…….

Outer Banks Entrepreneurs is pleased to announce the first OBX Women’s Winter Expo, set for Saturday, March 2nd, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ramada Inn in Kill Devil Hills. The Expo will feature 53 vendors, including women artists, crafters, direct sales vendors, service providers, and more. National guest speaker, Camille Allen, reinvention strategist, results coach, branding buff and marketing maven will be the guest speaker; sharing “Coastal Climate Change – It’s All About Attitude.” Raffle prizes will be drawn every ten minutes, so be sure to mark your calendar for March 2nd at the Ramada Inn. For more information on the Expo, please visit www.outerbanksentrepreneurs.com or contact Kim Twiddy at KIM182@aol.com, or Lindsey Truesdel, at LindseyMarieTruesdel@gmail.com. The Expo is a free family event for all to come out and enjoy.

Crowdfunding: ALow-Risk Way to FundWomen Start-Up Businesses

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Opportunity for your woman-owned start-up business is just a website away. We are awash in opportunities, thanks to “crowdfunding” and the government’s approval for the practice of crowdfunding in the United States. Have you heard about this? If not, you could be missing out on a great way to find financing for a new product, business or creative endeavor.

Congress and President Obama enacted the JOBS Act, which includedcrowdfunding provisions, in April. Crowdfunding basically entails asking a crowd of people to donate money to your project. There are a variety of crowdfunding websites where you can submit your proposal that outlines your project, your deadline, what rewards you may offers to your donors, and your fundraising goal amount.

Benefits of crowdfunding

Small investments work: The great thing about crowdfunding is that it can make it easier for women-owned businesses to find money. Instead of requesting thousands from a few wealthy contributors, you can draw small amounts, potentially as little as $1, from a large number of people. Because the donations can be much lower, people are more willing to support you.

Low-risk for donors: Crowdfunding is relatively low-risk for donors. For one thing, they probably don’t have a large chunk of their savings involved. On many crowdfunding sites, if you fail to meet your fundraising goal by your deadline, the donations will revert back to the donors. This means that if they support your effort, but no one else does, they won’t lose their money. Some sites do have a “keep-it-all” model where creators get the money either way, so it’s important to read the guidelines before participating.

You still own your work: The big perk for you is that unlike traditionally large investors, these people really are donors, rather than investors. They will not be financially rewarded, nor will they own a stake in your business or product rights. That will belong to you. Many websites offer opportunities for you to offer a reward to donors – most often that will be a copy of the CD you made, the toy you invent or something of that nature.

Where to find crowdfunding opportunities

We’re awash in crowdfunding sites just now. There are a variety of platforms available, but here are a few you might consider.

Kickstarter: This funding platform is for creative projects – films, games, music, art. The site launched in 2009, and more than $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people. A look at statistics on the site shows about 44 percent of projects are successful in their fundraising goals.

RocketHub: This international community has helped thousands of artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists raise millions of dollars. If you want to proceed cautiously with crowdfunding, this is probably one of the safest sites to use. RocketHub actually testified to Congress about crowdfunding and has since also published a whitepaper about the future expansion of crowdfunding in the United States. Alon Hillel-Tuch, founder and CFO of RocketHub, believes “social funding is going to dominate the online space for the next five years,” according to a Forbes article.

We Funder (business start-ups), Startup Addict (no niche needed), Quirky (inventors), New Jelly (arists/films), Cofolios (small local biz) – the list goes on and on.

Tips for crowdfunding campaigns

Get an early start: Before you set up your project on a crowdfunding site – which will require a deadline for fundraising – try building some support on social media beforehand. If you can get commitments for about 50 percent of the project before you ever put up your proposal, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

It’s all in the marketing: As with anything, it’s all in your pitch. Make sure the video you make to introduce your campaign captures your passion and vision. Convince people that this is a project that is going somewhere. Remember: Creativity sells! The more unique you are, the more attention you’re likely to get. If you tell a great story about why you’re pursuing this goal and win people’s hearts, you’re on your way.

Get social! As noted earlier, crowdfunding works best when used in concert with social media. Work to build support on Facebook, Twitter and so forth. If you’re not a social media user, you will struggle to build a successful crowdfunding campaign. If you’re not taking advantage of social media, now is the time to get with the program – crowdfunding or not – as it is a top business marketing tool these days.

Help your supporters: Give your supporters the tools to fully back you. One suggestion is to provide emails or posts they can give to their own friends to expand your network of support.

Work really hard: Crowdfunding and building social media support take work. Don’t expect it to be easy. You need to invest time, energy and creativity if you want to see it pay off.

Kevin Lavelle, CEO and Founder of Mizzen+Main, an apparel company took advantage of crowdfunding when invited to do so. In a Forbes article, he recommended that you consider these questions before pursuing crowdfunding.

Is this the sole method of sourcing capital for your business or a part of your overall strategy?

Are you using crowdfunding for a specific initiative or to build your entire business?

Can you handle the increased demand for your products if your campaign takes off?

Will you be able to fulfill the rewards or perks you are offering to those funding your business?

Lavelle points out that it is important to understand the rules of the crowdfunding platform you use, and the ins and outs of the perks being offered to donors. Be sure your business can meet whatever incentives are offered.

If you’re a young woman-owned company, crowdfunding can be a fantastic opportunity because it does not require you to give up your business equity. And while building your support for your funding, you may be building a following for your business, as well.

The SEC is examining crowdfunding, and there are more changes likely to result. So be sure to keep an eye on the regulations as they surface, and be well-versed in the crowdfunding platform rules so that you can make the most of the opportunity to win capital without finding yourself in a difficult position.

Amber Business Grant Awarded to Chicago’s Heavenly Skinny Kitchen

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

We’re thrilled to announce the October WomensNet.net Amber Grant Winner…. Is Fernanda Chacon from Chicago, IL.  Fernanda is the owner of Heavenly Skinny Kitchen. We love Fernanda’s story as a young women entrepreneur who used her passion for healthy cooking to fill a niche in the Chicago downtown marketplace.  We’re sure you’ll be inspired by the short interview we did with Fernanda below.

BTW, we’re currently taking applications for the November WomensNet.net Amber Grant.  We’d love to hear your story, and you just might be our next winner.  But there are only a few weeks to get your application to us.  So if you’re interested, please don’t wait.  We will announce our winner the first week in December.  

WomensNet.net:  What made you want to be self-employed?       

FC:First, thank you Women’s Net so much. What a blessing!.. I think the main reason why I’d wanted to be self-employed is because I like my ideas to be heard.  I always like to go the extra mile and think about all the options, either good or bad, as well as the growth potential.  Most corporations just want you to follow the manual and don’t leave room for opinions or imagination.

WomensNet.net:  Tell us about a little bit about your business, Heavenly Skinny Kitchens.

FC:  I started the business earlier this year and went full steam this summer. The idea started out of my own need for healthy and tasty food.  Working long hours in downtown Chicago with limited options for healthy foods made realize the need for a healthier option.  I can’t remember how many times I found myself eating the same salad for a whole week straight.  Heavenly Skinny Kitchen is dedicated to creating the best lunch experience for busy downtown workers who want to have a balanced diet – but struggle with the same old unhealthy choices. Right now, Heavenly Skinny Kitchen works as a catering service for individuals, but my goal is to open a location to the public.

WomensNet.net:What will you use the $500 Amber Grant for?

FC:I will use the money towards marketing to get the word out on healthy eating and getting more customers for the business.  I might also use it toward a delivery truck. 

WomensNet.net: Have you always had a passion for cooking?  We ask because we’re true believers that women-owned businesses that are built on passion survive over those businesses that women just do for “a job.”  And because we drooled over the menu on your website! J

FC:  LOL, yes, I do have a great passion, not just cooking but eating well and fitness. While in college, before starting my business, I always found a reason to have people over so I could cook and try new recipes. I think food is such an important element of life and it has a huge influence on your overall health. With those ideals, I decided to create a kitchen where people can eat delicious meals on the go – while staying fit.

WomensNet.net:  What have been the smartest decisions you’ve made with Healthy Skinny Kitchens? 

FC: Well, I always dreamt of opening up a restaurant but the initial investment can be a huge barrier. My best decision has been to adapt the idea to a set menu with catering options and membership packages. That’s how I’ve been able to progressively grow and increase my capital.  By sticking to this motto, not only did it take away pressures of investing a huge amount of money in a start-up restaurant, but it has given me the experience for when that time comes.