Rebecca Minkoff and VISA team up to give women-owned businesses the support they need -- Here's how you can get involved
Women's History Month may be pulling to a close but many of the brilliant partnerships, initiatives and activations that began in honor of the occasion are still rolling full-steam ahead in order to make the support of women-operated businesses not only a monthly occasion but an every-day normality.
The two organizations hosted 'Wide Awake: A Day for Female Founders' in New York City on March 6, which featured discussions and workshops for guests interwoven with keynote speeches from esteemed female leaders in the entrepreneurial space, such as Arielle Charnas, founder of Something and Sallie Krawcheck CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest.
In order to make the event as accessible as possible to female entrepreneurs and business owners regardless of capital income, the event was free for all attendees, with Minkoff noting that “It was really important to make [the event] free, so that no one had to pay and that was generously operated by VISA.”
The main goal of She’s Next, Empowered by VISA is to "help women-owned small businesses to grow their businesses, in simplest terms,” says Mary Ann Reilly, SVP of North America Marketing at VISA. "Women-owned small businesses have been growing at 1.5-2 times the rate of men over the last 15 or so years, yet women are getting a much smaller portion of the funding that’s out there. [She’s Next] is really to give [women] the tools necessary to get access to funding.
We did research to really understand what the challenges that women were facing were and it was about getting funding, it was about social media and it was about digital marketing, so we’re giving them the tools and the resources to help to address those challenges and grow their businesses.
I would say that VISA as a whole is really looking at putting a spotlight on women. Women are controlling much more of the spending and women are 40 percent of the workforce. Women are controlling or influencing 85 percent of household spending.”
The global initiative also offers toolkits and workshops with partners such as Intuit, Facebook and Instagram to help get businesses the resources and guidance that they need on whatever front they may need them on.
It’s through the pursuit of these partnerships that She’s Next was able to team up with Minkoff and the Female Founder Collective, as Reilly shared:
“We partnered with Rebecca Minkoff and the Female Founder Collective and Rebecca’s really shining a spotlight on the women-owned small businesses so that women can support other women, and hopefully men will support women by going to those women-owned businesses.”
The Female Founder Collective was something that Minkoff built out of a demand for not only a clear and simple way for consumers to identify which businesses were women-owned and operated but also to create a way for like-minded female entrepreneurs to connect and network with one another across industries, as she explained:
“I formed Female Founder Collective out of need and desire … there was no easily identifiable way to signify a female founder and I came across a study that found that 82 percent of women are more likely to support female founders if they only knew how. And I decided there should be a seal, and there should be a network and there should be a way for these women to use each other as a network and resources, but also have the consumer start voting with her dollars. We keep talking about wealth and equality in the United States and in Europe, and you can bridge that divide a lot quicker if consumers are like ‘Oh, that’s women-owned, that’s not and I want to give [the women-owned business] my money so that was the goal.
My industry is 90 percent female, being my other industry is fashion. The thing that I continually hear from the women I meet and I have been fortunate enough to come into contact with, is that they’re in all male-dominated fields. So in hearing the stories and the challenges, this was really important for me to launch as a place for women to connect and have each other.”
The process of becoming a Female Founder Collective member is simple:
“Businesses apply once they meet the criteria which is that they are 51 percent women-owned or if [the founder] had a successful exit, yay on them, but they still must have involvement with the company in order to guide and direct it and make sure it is still their brand-vision. Once we kind of vet that, then they join, they get sent the seal to use on their storefront, their hangers, their tags, their products. And then you get access to the network which today is a Google group, Slack group, Facbeook group and we’re developing a back-end to have a portal which is just for them as well.”
But besides being majority female-owned and operated, one thing all members of the Female Founder Collective have in common is quite obvious — each business was founded by someone bold enough to take an idea and a passion and take that leap to make it into a reality.
For Reilly, seeking out the resources available and having the courage to ask for them is crucial for those looking to start their own business:
“Look for the resources that are out there. Have conversations with other women-owned small business … it’s always a theme that [women] have had to build that confidence over time and it just takes that one moment to really figure out, how to have someone that’s helping you out or some other business talk about the challenges that they’ve had … don’t be afraid to ask. I always say ‘Just speak up, just find your voice’ because I think that’s the big gap between men and women right now.”
But for Minkoff, there’s one thing more important than having the adequate resources to launch — passion:
“Make sure that you have a product and that you know what you want to do. You don’t necessarily need tons of resources in the beginning, I think there’s a trend now towards raising all this money from [Venture Capitalists] but when I launched, I bootstrapped. My brother and I leaned on credit cards and he mortgaged his house, you can lean on friends and family for this first round.
Make sure you have a really great product that fills the white space and has a very clear value proposition and when you’ve done that and you’ve tested it and really got some momentum behind it, quit your day job and launch.”