Women are on a roll. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses grew 21% to nearly 13 million and revenue from those businesses grew 21% to an eye-popping $1.9 trillion, according to a 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses report commissioned by Amex. In comparison, the total number of businesses increased by 9%, with revenue growth of 20%. Now consider this: the share of women-owned businesses went from a piddling 4.6% in 1972, to 42% in 2019.
When the study’s authors drilled down further, they found that a combination of necessity, flexibility, and opportunity drove women to start their own ventures. But really, people who either are women or know a few wouldn’t be surprised by those insights at all: large-scale corporations don’t frequently boast the kind of flex arrangements and out-of-the-box opportunities that appeal to many women who want to wear multiple hats...and have a personal life at the same time.
So where should women with a fabulous idea turn for funding? That’s where it gets tricky. According to Fundera, female entrepreneurs ask for $35,000 less in financing than men, and receive on average $5,000 less. First step: do your research and know your worth.
Luckily, New York State has become one of the best places for women to get a leg up, thanks in part, to these fierce female-run VC funds.
The City of New York launched women.nyc, a program designed to make sure that New York, New York remains the best place in the world for women to launch businesses, run the ones they already have, or just advance their careers. The org has partnered with the Economic Development Corporation to offer free tech and career training classes, offer job connections and pro bono legal advice...and help fund promising start-ups. Among its gilded list of partners is Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab, Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses, and CitiBank. While women.nyc offers general funding opportunities, several are tailor-made for specific silos in which they see opportunities for growth, such as TV/theater/music production, cybersecurity, training, real-estate, and fashion.
"Award-winning documentary filmmaker Charlotte Mangin used her Made in NY finishing grant for UNLADYLIKE2020, a series of 26 animated documentary shorts celebrating unsung American women from the early 20th century." - women.nyc. Watch them here. Photo: women.nyc
Barclays and Anthemis teamed up to create the Female Innovators Lab, designed to draw more women into entrepreneurship and close the fundraising gender gap. The program is more than a simple fund-raising operation; instead, the Lab aims to identify female founders who have just started down their entrepreneurial path. Think of the Lab as a studio model, versus the classic fund-raising accelerator or incubator model. Grantees are matched with resources and mentors who can help facilitate their launch, and guide liftoff in those early months and years. The Lab is led by Katie Palenscar, Anthemis Principal and Mariquit Corcoran, Managing Director of Group Innovation at Barclays. Applicants are encouraged to get in touch, and are screened on a rolling basis.
The Female Founders Fund is an early-stage fund for women with disruptive and innovative ideas designed to serve their customer better. The Fund was founded by venture capitalist Anu Duggal in 2011 to close what she saw as a gender gap in funding opportunities. In the next several years, she built it into a juggernaut that accessed capital that she could then use to help fund women’s fledgling operations. The first $6 million fund closed in 2014, and included Zola, Tala, the Maven Clinic, and Eloquii, which was recently acquired for Walmart for a reported $100 million.
Graphic by Female Founders Found
Resources, check. Now you just need an elevator pitch for your fantastic idea. Hopefully these wildly successful female-run companies will get your creative juices flowing.
The chic and trendy direct-to-consumer luggage brand packed up $100 million in funding last year, sending it sailing past a $1.4 billion valuation. Co-founder and chief brand officer Jen Rubio is renowned for her social media smarts, and is widely credited for steering Away’s ship successfully through the highly competitive luggage accessory seas. Rubio cut her teeth at Warby Parker as their head of social media, and the Away Zen-like campaigns are whimsical, beautifully shot celebrations of diversity, humanity, and relaxation. Away was launched in 2015 with a $2.5 million seed round.
Direct-to-consumer beauty company Glossier shines its way into unicorn club with a $100 million Series D round led by Sequoia Capital last year, bringing beauty-blogger-turned-business-maven Emily Weiss’ business up to $1.2 billion. The beauty business was created on a simple but rarely achieved premise: makeup and skincare, not too many weird ingredients, in a pretty package, that anyone can apply and look subtly better in. Glossier is part of the booming online beauty market, which VC funds are suddenly eager to support, as projections of a $120 billion market by 2024 are reported.
The one-time and subscription clothing company Rent the Runway, launched just over a decade ago, achieved unicorn status last year with a $125 million round of investments led by Franklin Templeton Investments and Bain Capital Ventures.
At least one of Away, Glossier, or Rent the Runway’s products has probably passed through your hands, and if not, has certainly been through those of your friends, neighbors, and colleagues. They were wildly successful because they created something no one else was, and stripped away the multiple middle men that increase the prices on classic luggage, beauty products, and luxury clothing items you can only get away with wearing a handful of times. But to be wildly successful, they had to first be fierce enough to dream.
Tell us, readers: if you could start a business that would fulfill your own dreams, satisfy a need in the market and fill up your coffers, what would it be and how much do you think you really need to get started?