Geri Stengel

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Women-Owned Businesses: A Tale of Two Types Of Entrepreneurs

Just the facts, ma’am

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of opportunity, it was the age of necessity. It was the epoch of unicorns (start-up companies valued at a billion dollars or more), it was the epoch of struggling sole proprietors. That is the story revealed by 2012 U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Small Business Owners for women.

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Entrepreneurs Slow to Market Via Equity Crowdfunding Platforms

Equity crowdfunding platforms are providing a new and innovative way to raise money from angel investors that centralizes, streamlines, simplifies and shortens the fundraising process. Equity crowdfunding pools money from a group of investors via internet platforms, using social media and other types of marketing.

You might be surprised to learn that entrepreneurs, who are known for innovating in their products and services, are not innovating when it comes to the way they raise money. And angel investors, who put money into innovations, are not innovating in the way they invest. Few entrepreneurs are marketing their securities offerings to angels online via crowdfunding.

That’s unfortunate, since angel investors provide about half as much financing as venture capitalists: $24 billion compared to $48 billion, according to the Center for Venture Research and MoneyTree, respectively. Angels, defined here as accredited investors who earn $200,000 annually (or $300,000 as a couple), or have a net worth, excluding their homes, in excess of $1 million, are more likely than VCs to focus on seed and early-stage companies.

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How To Make The Connections That Make Things Happen

Research shows that entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger. Yet, networking can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re an introvert.

Leave it to an introvert, Dorie Clark, to write a practical, actionable e-book, Stand Out Networking: A Simple and Authentic Way to Meet People on Your Own Terms, that anyone can follow. It maps out how to make meaningful connections that can lead to an investment, a major new customer or partnership, media coverage, a publishing contract, a speaking opportunity, and much more.

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Profit Is Nice. Margins Are Even Better

Most people who own a company would say that a big reason they’re in business is to make money. There’s more to being successful, however, than the absolute dollar amount you bring in.

Revenue and profit are important, but alone they do not provide the full picture of a company’s overall health. Revenue shows how much you’ve earned and profits show how much money your company has made in absolute terms. Margin ratios, however, offer a look at your profitability by telling you how much you're making relative to your revenue. It's not an absolute metric, and that's a good thing.

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An Agile Mindset: Not Just For the Leader

What sets highly successful leaders apart from the rest? Agile learning does, and entrepreneurs are better at it than corporate executives, according to The Korn Ferry Institute. They should know. The Institute researches leadership and has found that the ability to navigate through novel situations—and to learn from experience without becoming rigid—is a key leadership skill set.

Agile learners are better able to work through complex problems drive innovation and grow a bottom line. The three traits characterize of an agile learner:

  • Tolerance of ambiguity: Comfort with vague or contradictory information and the ability to make decisions when things are uncertain.
  • Intellectual curiosity: The extent to which a person is likely to tackle problems in a novel way, see patterns in complex information, and pursue deep understanding.
  • Emotional intelligence: The ability to influence, collaborate, and communicate effectively with others and use interpersonal awareness in a way that advances collective goals.

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Agile Mindset Sets Entrepreneurs Apart From C-Suite Execs

The agile mindset of entrepreneurs and their ability to learn and pivot quickly gives them a leadership edge over corporate executives. According to The Korn Ferry Institute, there are three main attributes associated with agile learning: tolerance of ambiguity, intellectual curiosity and emotional intelligence, each of which is a key predictor of leadership success. They’ve found that agile learners are better able to work through complex problems, drive innovation and grow a company’s bottom line. These skills are critical whether a company is creating new products and services or responding to disruption. And while entrepreneurs have these qualities in spades, executives often struggle to develop them or leverage their power in a corporate climate.

“Think Pac-Man (the popular video game series of the ‘80s), in which the player controls Pac-Man through a maze,” said Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprise, an accelerator for women-led businesses seeking equity financing. “When entrepreneurs hit a wall, they act like a skilled Pac-Man player. They figure out another way. Dead ends don’t happen.”

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6 Common Misconceptions About Equity Crowdfunding

Only a tiny percentage of wealthy people—less than 3%—who qualify to become angel investors actually do so. When people decide to claim their accreditation wings, angels are the most likely investors to focus on early-stage companies.

In 2014, angels invested $24.1 billion in 73,400 U.S.-based ventures, according to the Center for Venture Research. There is now a new way to reach angels that centralizes, streamlines and brings transparency to the financing process for both entrepreneurs and investors: equity crowdfunding. This is done using platforms like AngelList, CircleUp, Crowdfunder and Portfolia. Yet, only $787.5 million was raised via equity-based crowdfunding in 2014, according to Massolution’s 2015CF Crowdfunding Industry Report. What gives?

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9 Ways to Perfect Your Pitch and Investor Presentation

Whether you’re pitching to investors at a business plan competition, angel group meeting or one-on-one, your goal is to interest them enough so they want to know more about you and about your company.

“You need to present a compelling business case that makes them believe not only that your company will generate significant returns on their investment, but also that you have the capability to execute that vision,” according to Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprises, an accelerator for women-led businesses in technology, media and life sciences. Millman should know, because for more than 15 years, the organization she heads has been helping women raise financing from venture capitalists (VCs) and angels.

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6 Lessons For Rocking A TED Talk Or Any Speech

TED and its independently run TEDx events are carefully curated, concise talks on a cornucopia of topics. I love to find a topic that I didn’t know I was interested in, then watch the talk online.

Presenting a TED Talk can bring you attention and even business, but it is no easy feat to be chosen as a speaker. Don’t expect your PR person to land you a gig. Professional speakers need not apply either, though some do land an appearance. It’s not about being polished. It’s about saying something extraordinary, said Aaron Sylvan organizer of TEDxFultonStreet and an event producer. Speakers at TED talks are the world’s most inspired thinkers and their topics have not been seen elsewhere. The ideas presented  change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

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Women Entrepreneurs Get Their Game On With Angel Investors

The media has been awash with stories about the decreasing percentage of women decision-makers in venture capital (VC) firms, which certainly deserves attention. But what has gone relatively unnoticed is the dramatic rise of the number of women angels over the last 10 years. This means both women entrepreneurs seeking angel funding and women-led, angel-backed companies.

Women are swinging for the fences. An astonishing 36% of entrepreneurs seeking angel financing are women—an increase of 83% from the previous year, according to the Center for Venture Research.

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