Women’s History Month is here.
Admittedly, while I love reflecting on history, my favorite place to spend time is what lies ahead. And, because this year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Embrace Equity,” I am going to talk about “What’s Next” for TARRA within the context of equity and how we can deliver on this promise in the years ahead.
Hint, it involves one of the biggest hurdles women face when it comes to growing and scaling a company.
Equity is Access
Equity is the foundation of TARRA’s mission and vision: We support the growth and prosperity of women business owners, entrepreneurs, startup founders and professionals. Our members are creating a world where everyone has equal access to valuable connections and the right tools to thrive.
I believe that equity, at its core, is about access. It’s access to to knowledge, connections, resources, tools, networks, and capital.
The last word “capital”—is what I want to talk about today. I believe access to capital is the key to creating true equity in the world of business.
How TARRA is Creating Access
I’ll pave the path to this realization with a little history and context, particularly for those of you who are new to the world of TARRA.
Since 2015, TARRA has delivered hundreds of hours of business programming, workshops, and networking events. We have reached more than 2,000 women and developed strategic partnerships with over a dozen local women’s organizations and business ecosystem stakeholders. In 2022, we opened our first coworking campus and have a growing community of 250+ members.
Throughout all of this, one pervasive conversation has emerged. Women need equitable access to capital, funding and investment. Without access to dollars, we will never reach our potential in business. Period, end of story.
Where We Are Going in 2023 & 2024
While building this community, I have seen a transformation in the business landscape caused by everything from the rise and fall of the Me Too movement, and Trump-era politics, to powerful movements to push for racial and gender equality, a pandemic, a war in Europe, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, economic roller coasters and extreme climate change.
All the while, corporations have poured billions of dollars behind marketing campaigns, DEI training, educational programs, advertising slogans, and investment funds to create more equity in the workplace.
Yes, we have seen excellent strides to bolster women’s presence and position in the world of business. In many ways, the numbers look promising and are proof of progress.
- For the first time in history 10% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women
- In 2022, women represented 34% of all angel investors and 23% of angel-funded companies in the U.S. were women-led
- US women-owned businesses generate $1.8 trillion a year
- 40% of US businesses are women-owned
- Women started 1,821 net new businesses every day last year
- 64% of new women-owned businesses were started by women of color last year
Yet we still have a long way to go.
- For woman-only founded startups funding was just 2% in 2022, the lowest it’s been since 2016
- Only 16.1% of venture capitalists in the U.S. are women, and only 4.5% of private equity firms have a majority of women decision-makers.
- Only 25% of women business owners seek business financing
- Only 2% of women-owned businesses break the $1 million in annual revenue mark
At TARRA, we are focusing on these key stats. Talk to a startup founder who has looked for seed capital or growth capital and the stories of struggle are rampant.
This is all in spite of the fact that there is ample proof that women-founded companies continue to outperform the broader market when it comes to exit time, growth, and valuation. So what gives?
Historically, women have lacked access to capital to fund business growth and I believe the biggest hurdle to funding isn’t a lack of dollars available to women-owned enterprise, it’s:
- the business owner’s lack of knowledge about the wide variety of funding sources available
- deficiency of capital readiness
- limited social capital, and
- low confidence in their ability to secure capital
The Start of a Solution: Mapping the Colorado Funding Ecosystem
TARRA, along with co-partners, University of Denver Daniels College of Business, Denver Office of Economic Development & Opportunity and Social Venture Partners have developed a public/private partnership to map the funding ecosystem for women and BIPOC-owned Colorado-based emerging businesses looking to scale and seek various forms of capital.
Our thesis is the following:
- Colorado is in the early stages of developing a supportive ecosystem for small businesses and startups
- While there is a robust ecosystem of funding opportunities and dollars available, women and BIPOC-owned companies continue to lack 1) the knowledge about these opportunities and 2) the social capital and networks to access the opportunities
- Many women and BIPOC-owned companies fall through the cracks of the ecosystem due to lack of capital readiness
- By understanding the challenges women and BIPOC-owners face when navigating the complexities of the funding ecosystem, we can develop high-value, impactful capacity building programs that target the individual needs for scalable emerging businesses
Phase 1: Mapping the Colorado Funding Ecosystem
We seek to understand and identify:
- What barriers & challenges women and BIPOC-owned businesses face when navigating the complex funding ecosystem i.e. misaligned expectations, confusion, bias, lack of social capital and access, and lack of knowledge about funding sources
- What ideas and solutions are being implemented to help close the gap
- What program models are most effective at closing the gap of knowledge, access and resources to ensure women and BIPOC-owned businesses can secure growth capital
In Phase 1, we will conduct a series of roundtables to convene entrepreneurs, business owners, and knowledge leaders from banking, venture capital, angel networks, micro-lending and social impact investment.
The objective is to discuss, problem solve and develop solutions that address the unique funding challenges and needs of women and BIPOC-owned businesses.
Phase 1 Objectives
- Develop a research-backed, comprehensive view of the gaps for underrepresented founders in the Colorado funding ecosystem
- Understand the opportunities for underrepresented founders in the Colorado funding ecosystem
- Provide a platform for funders to communicate “what’s working” as they look to provide more investment opportunities for underrepresented founders
- Create a neutral platform to discuss solutions to closing the gaps
- Give founders in-depth information about funding opportunities
- Create two-way conversations between founders and funders
- Understand how to close the expectation gap between founders and funders
- Develop a new and effective programming model using the data
Roundtables will be open to the public so we can reach the widest audience possible and help others to better understand and navigate the complexities of raising capital.
Data Presentation & 2023 Summit
On November 10, 2023, we will host a mid-project data presentation to communicate the findings of Phase 1.
This Summit will be hosted by TARRA and will be open to business owners and founders across the Denver Metro Area and will feature a full day of panels, breakout sessions and keynote speakers around the topic “Financials & Funding.”
Our goal with this summit is to spark conversations about the Colorado funding ecosystem, create connections between entrepreneurs and funding opportunities and establish momentum for Phase 2.
Looking Ahead to 2024: Phase 2
What happens in Phase 2? This is still TBD.
We are going to listen to the research, understand the data, and use that to create programming, tools, and resources that fill the gaps we discover along the way.
I am aware there is no panacea to equity in business. There is no silver bullet or miracle solution.
TARRA is one of hundreds if not thousands of other organizations, nonprofits, financial institutions and individuals who are searching for innovative ways to create more access, more equity and more ways for underinvested founders to get the capital they need to bring valuable business ideas into the world.
My goal—to help women more easily navigate funding options—is meant to be one small drop in the pond that will create a ripple effect across the waters of time.
Someday on March 1 many years from now, I hope Women’s History Month will reflect on 2023-2033 as a decade of innovation, ideas and solutions that TARRA and many others in this ecosystem are working towards.
Together we can move mountains and shape the next era of women’s history. It will take courage to step around the barriers in front of us, and find new ways to create equitable solutions and opportunities. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.
As ever, it’s an honor to serve this community. Thank you for joining me on this journey.