Women are a driving force in the American economy. They run 40 percent of all U.S. businesses (a 114 percent increase over the past two decades) and often run more successful operations than their male counterparts; a Mass Challenge and BCG study found women-founded businesses deliver higher revenue — more than two times as much per dollar invested — than those founded by men.
Yet only a quarter of women seek business financing, and when they do, they have fewer options, and receive less favorable terms and fewer dollars than their male peers. For example, only 7 percent of all venture capital (VC) funding goes to women-led companies, and women of color receive just 0.27 percent of VC funding despite accounting for nearly two-thirds of all new women-owned businesses.
“These are shocking statistics and are surely a call to action for everyone,” said Sarah Friar, co-founder of Ladies Who Launch (LWL).
To mitigate these and other barriers, Friar and Kelly McGonigle founded LWL, a non-profit organization dedicated to elevating and empowering women and non-binary entrepreneurs and small business owners. Today, LWL does this by providing free educational resources, direct access to funding, critical mentorship and advisory services, and a welcoming, authentic network where founders can grow and succeed in a supportive community.
Exploring and accessing capital
Committed to helping women and non-binary entrepreuners scale the businesses of their dreams, LWL is on a mission to break down barriers, including access to capital. To do so, the organization provides educational resources and tools to help founders learn about various options for funding their businesses, and what might be the most appropriate form(s) of capital for them based on their current situation, preferences, and needs.
“Some women and non-binary business owners want to maintain 100 percent equity, while others are energized about the opportunity to secure venture capital,” said Jennifer Warren, LWL’s executive director. “Yet, most business owners aren’t sure which path to take, and even feel pressure to pursue hypergrowth and give equity away, when that’s not truly what they want. LWL wants to empower women with innovative ideas and solutions, to build and benefit from their businesses.”
Specifically aimed at increasing access to funds, LWL is hosting its third free virtual summit, Pathways to Capital, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT on March 24. The summit will take a deep dive into the current avenues available for funding (e.g., grants, public and private loans, VC funding), empowering women and non-binary business owners to explore and ultimately choose the best-fit pathways for themselves and their businesses. To sign-up, visit ladieswholaunch.org.
In addition to connecting women entrepreneurs and business owners with funding resources, LWL provides direct funding. Created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, LWL offers the Launch Program, which grants hundreds of thousands of dollars per cohort in a six-month initiative that provides a $10,000 grant, business education, mentorship, advisory support, and amplification opportunities. To learn more, and apply before the March 27 deadline, visit ladieswholaunch.submittable.com/submit.
Finding trusted resources
Small business owners and entrepreneurs have never-ending to-do lists, and with no shortage of information available, it’s often difficult to sift through the noise to find the right resources for their particular circumstance or business need.
LWL aims to mitigate this challenge by aggregating, distilling, and sharing critical and practical information to support women founders’ success through the LWL Academy, a digital education hub. The hub features webinars, templates, and other tools designed to help business owners hone their skill sets in key areas like business planning, marketing, and so much more.
You can access all the materials LWL Academy has to offer for free by visiting ladieswholaunch.org/lwl-academy. While you’re there, consider joining LWL’s newsletter to learn more and share your feedback to inform the continued build out of the LWL Academy.
Grow your network
“We founded Ladies Who Launch because women business owners often lack the networks and connections they need to scale their businesses,” McGonigle said. LWL aims to close this divide by connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with peers, mentors, and funders, as it knows a strong sense of mentorship and sponsorship is imperative to every entrepreneur’s success.
Join the LWL community to be inspired, build your network, and connect with the tools, advice, and support you need to succeed in business. Access educational resources, sign up for summits, and apply for the LWL Program by visiting LadiesWhoLaunch.org.