SoMoLend’s focus is helping entrepreneurs acquire the capital they need to launch or expand their own businesses. That being said, we love spotlighting CEOs and business owners we look up to within and outside our industry. Today’s blog is dedicated to an interview with Springboard Enterprise’s CEO and Founder, Amy Millman. Stay posted for other spotlights in the near future.
How difficult is it for female entrepreneurs to secure capital in today’s economy? There is a lot of money (dry power!) out there waiting to be put to work (invested in promising companies). That said, unless you have a successful track record, are married to an investor, worked with investors, have a network that includes close working/social relationships with your colleagues from Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Chicago, and about 10 other universities, know someone who knows someone in those networks and is willing to go to bat for you or you just happen to be in the right place at the right time (luck meets opportunity), it’s difficult for anyone to secure the capital you need to grow fast. Until groups like Springboard came into existence there were few access points for most talented women entrepreneurs. It would also help if there were more women investors. Still, we’ve come a long way (baby!) since 2000 when we launched Springboard.
What strengths and weaknesses to women business owners bring to the table? We’ve found that women have all the qualities necessary for running successful fast growth companies but often undersell themselves. The same qualities that investors want to see in CEOs focused, strategic, big picture view but detail oriented, collaborator, problem solver, etc. – are not the qualities that attract investors to a founder when they first meet. It’s like a marriage, you look for someone who is like you when you are dating but want to marry someone who complements you.
Do you feel that factors like caregiving and family impede female entrepreneurs more than men? What would be some solutions you believe would help or do you feel it should not factor in? Most of the women entrepreneurs we work with are expert at multitasking and that includes raising children. Investors have not shown themselves to be particularly comfortable with pregnant CEOS but perhaps once women CEOs of child bearing age are more visible and investors see big returns from companies led by women who have given birth while launching and growing their companies, investing in women won’t make them so uncomfortable. Changing attitudes and behavior takes time but nothing makes change happen faster than a big lucrative exit.
Why would you suggest a female entrepreneur utilize an Accelerator? Anyone who thinks they can build a company by themselves without the right team and a big tent network to open doors and help with challenges is fooling themselves. Can’t be done. Accelerators are an important player in network building. However, they are not a one size fits all, so it’s important to pick the right one.
What would you say to a woman who wants to start her own business – what would be your most important advice? Owning your own business is one of the most satisfying and terrifying experiences anyone can undertake. If you are fearful of failing, perhaps you aren’t ready or willing to take the plunge. But, if you have a passion and the drive to find the resources to help make your vision a reality, you really need to go for it. You’ll find that you know more than you think you know and that people will be happy to help you succeed. The key is to be someone who reaches out, asks for advice and cultivates a large and engaged network.
What has been your biggest challenge or failure in founding your business and how did you overcome it? I started this non-profit organization with very little experience managing finances and I would say that that has been my biggest challenge. Very quickly I realized that ‘the numbers tell the story’ of what is really going on with the business/organization and you can overcome that challenge if you gave sufficient time and resources to managing finances on a day to day basis. Of course, it’s smart to hire someone early on who does this well. I always say that you should have a lawyer and an accountant watching your back at all times.
Anything else you would like to add? Launching, growing and running a business is not rocket science (unless that what your company is all about). People have been doing this for thousands of years and while it isn’t an exact science there are rules of thumb you must adhere to. Know the rules and start clean, recruit a team you can trust that buys into your vision, build an expert network, hire a good lawyer and an accountant and don’t wing it – build and iterate but follow the plan.
Check out Springboard’s column on Inc.com HERE.
About Amy Millman: Amy Millman is a passionate advocate for women entrepreneurs building Big Businesses Starting Small. In 2000, she co-founded Springboard Enterprises, a non-profit venture catalyst which sources, coaches, showcases and supports women-led companies seeking equity capital for product development and expansion. Springboard has assisted hundreds of women entrepreneurs in raising billions in investments and connecting with thousands of expert resources. The successes of Springboard entrepreneurs include 10 IPOs, legions of high value M&As and a community of accomplished serial entrepreneurs. During her career in Washington, DC, she served as a representative for several industry groups and was appointed as Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council during the Clinton Administration. She served on the boards of many organizations including her current service with JumpStart Inc. and Enterprising Women Magazine. She is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and holds a Masters degree from The George Washington University.