As a business leader who happens to be a woman, I know the unique and frustrating challenges women face in today's world. Things are difficult across the board, but just breaking in can sometimes be the hardest part.
Founders need funding in order to transform a business into a viable organization. The 2019 Women-Owned Business Study, conducted by online credit provider Biz2Credit, which included 30,000 businesses, found that 13 percent more women-owned businesses applied for funding in 2018 than in 2017. However, the average funded amount for women-owned businesses ($48,341) was 31% less than men-owned businesses ($70,239) in 2018. If women are to get equal representation in the business world, they need better access to funding.
Even though it's still nowhere near equitable, there are now more channels than ever for women to seek funding for their companies. Places where women can start their search for financial backing include:
1. Women-Focused Venture Funds
Though women have been historically excluded from the upper echelons of venture capital, more funds than ever are trying to change that. Organizations like the Women's Venture Capital Fund and Hypatia Capital are focused on exclusively promoting women in business and supplying the money necessary to help them succeed.
There's also a number of funds dedicated to providing capital for diverse business leaders more generally. These organizations, like the Intel Capital Diversity Fund, tend to be somewhat larger than women-exclusive funds and can provide greater opportunities as well.
All of that being said, the one of the greatest assets to women out there remains those massive venture capital funds that continue to serve as kingmakers (or queenmakers, as the case may be) across the startup landscape. These funds are increasingly earmarking larger amounts of their money for women founders and CEOs. The right connections and a good pitch are sometimes all it takes to get your company the funding it needs to make an impact.
Getting backers of any kind in the first place is impossible without a solid foundation, a top-notch team and a striking pitch. While you may have some of what it takes already, no one ever really makes it alone.
Accelerators are great opportunities for women to develop and refine their company into something that really catches potential investors' attention. While standby accelerators like Y Combinator continue to be some of the best bets in terms of boosting your company's success, there are large numbers of organizations that offer similar programs specifically for women leaders.
In 2019, any professional relationship can lead to potential funding opportunities for your business.
Accelerators like Project Entrepreneur and Women Startup Lab are boot camp-like programs designed to take your company to the next level. Participating in one of these programs is a great way to get your business investor-ready.
3. Networking Groups
One of the best ways for women leaders to access capital? Other women. Particularly in the male-dominated business world, women in power are often on the search for up-and-coming women to whom they can offer assistance.
Look for powerful women in your sector, and reach out. You never know who is willing to help you. See who's willing to network and give you advice on what your next move should be. In 2019, any professional relationship can lead to potential funding opportunities for your business.
There are also women-focused networking organizations that themselves offer funding. Groups like SheEO are powerful organizations for any businesswoman to be aware of that also provide direct routes for capital. Connecting with groups that fit your goals is a great way to not only help gain access to new sources of funding, but to also make lasting connections with women in your sector.
4. Loans for Women Leaders
Banks and other organizations are looking to back smart, driven women more than ever. Small-business loans for women can be a great way to get the capital you need at a good rate for your business. Reach out to the banks you work with to see if they offer special loans for women business leaders.
Some loans are even offered as part of a larger development process. The Tory Burch Foundation, for example, is a leading accelerator for women-led businesses that also offers loans through its Capital Program. Getting a loan while having additional resources to grow your business is an invaluable opportunity for developing as a leader.
Women in business still have to face numerous challenges across the board, but there are now more channels than ever for getting the funding necessary to get a company off the ground. Traveling one (or some) of these paths may be exactly what it takes to get your business where it needs to be financially.
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