Advice for businesswomen: “It’s time to own it!”
- 1 Advice for businesswomen: “It’s time to own it!”
- 1.1 Q&A with Amy Millman of Springboard Enterprises
- 1.1.1 We have been fighting for equality and access to capital for women entrepreneurs for many years. Progress has been made, but not as much as I expected back then. Are you disappointed?
- 1.1.2 How have things changed for female founders since Springboard was founded?
- 1.1.3 Are you saying the financial system doesn’t work for women, so we have to create our own?
- 1.1.4 What challenges should women face in starting and growing businesses?
- 1.1.5 How does Springboard help?
- 1.1.6 What lessons do you believe female entrepreneurs still need to learn?
- 1.1.7 Do you believe businesswomen lack confidence?
- 1.1.8 Looking into the future, what do you see?
- 1.1 Q&A with Amy Millman of Springboard Enterprises
Advice for businesswomen: “It’s time to own it!”
Q&A with Amy Millman of Springboard Enterprises
Amy Millman has been fighting for women entrepreneurs for decades. During the 1990s, she was the CEO of National Women’s Business Council. The 90s were exciting days for women, who joined the business revolution at the time in record numbers.
Back then, many commentators made predictions about women—for example, some predicted that women would own half of the nation’s businesses by 2000.
That didn’t happen. Women currently own more than a third of America’s small businesses, while Amy is still campaigning for women’s entrepreneurship as the co-founder and president of Springboard Enterprises.
Springboard, a nonprofit organization, is a “specialist network of highly specialized innovators, investors, and influencers who are dedicated to building industry-driven companies. highly developed technology led by women”. Since its founding, 730 women-led companies have participated in Springboard’s accelerator programs. Accelerator programs have raised $8.6 billion, created tens of thousands of new jobs, and generated billions of dollars in annual revenue. 82% of Springboard companies are still in business, including 17 IPOs.
According to Amy, Springboard started in 2000 when the founders realized that, although women were creating businesses at a faster rate than men and access to capital had improved, “women were not access the equity capital needed to finance non-traditional businesses ([like] finance, production and technology). ”
Read our Q&A with Amy, where we talk about the ups and downs of running her business, along with her observations and advice for entrepreneurs.
Amy Millman, co-founder of Springboard Enterprises.
We have been fighting for equality and access to capital for women entrepreneurs for many years. Progress has been made, but not as much as I expected back then. Are you disappointed?
Amy Millman: Not disappointed. I am a kind of person who is half completely glass. But, I’m not in the small business world anymore. I’m in the shooting world for the stars. I no longer sit in meetings about access to capital, hearing the same things. I don’t believe that conversation will change.
Running a small business, [such as a clothing store, restaurant or services firm, etc.] like pushing a rock uphill. It was an amazing challenge. We don’t do business with those types of businesses. We work with women who are jumping off cliffs without a safety net. It probably took a generation longer than we thought to get there. We had aspirations. It’s like pioneers. They move west. Establish themselves. And that helped the next group of pioneers go further.
How have things changed for female founders since Springboard was founded?
AM: Women have known how to do things since ages. However, over the years, we’ve been trying to fit in with [someone else’s] paradigm. Instead, what if we were to design something in a way that we naturally oriented? Women are happy to collaborate and share. We don’t have to own all the pieces. And we started asking, “How do I get around the barriers because I don’t fit the model?”
We work with a small group of elite women. And there is a big change in behavior, which I believe is generational. Women now understand how they want to participate in the system, in contrast to us who have been indoctrinated into the system. They are reinventing it, making it their image. The women we worked with years ago — we saw them invest in other women.
There have been a lot of changes in the funding conditions. When we started, we couldn’t get funding from consumer product companies, because it was hard to get to scale. We worked with SaaS [software as a service] and biotech companies.
Today, women are starting to raise funds with a focus on consumers or social enterprises. They are open to early stage food and consumer products companies. This has been happening for the past five years.
We have adapted. If the first idea doesn’t work, get on the horse again. Take Julie Wainwright. She founded Pets.com in the 90s, one of the first e-commerce startups. People throw money at her. Then the market crashed and they had nothing. There is no economic infrastructure. But over the years, she has learned what it takes to succeed. And then she found the right one for the market and for her—RealReal. She raised $150 million. She gets the process. Julie is the perfect example of [the importance of] learn new markets and new structures.
Are you saying the financial system doesn’t work for women, so we have to create our own?
AM: To grow, entrepreneurs have to go to the bank. But, you will not be funded. It can’t [the banks’] paradigm. But, if women run the fund, it’s a different dynamic. We need to start investing in what we believe in. Find other people’s money to invest. We have to ask for it.
We women don’t do that. Shame on us. We talk about it. We need more people to do it. No one else will solve our problems for us. We have to do that. We have its death. We have the ability.
What challenges should women face in starting and growing businesses?
AM: What does it take? It doesn’t need complaining. Just wanting something to change is not enough. Do it yourself. Build a community that supports what you believe in. That’s why women do well with crowdfunding.
Stop trying to play in their sandbox. They won’t invite you to join. The women we work with at Springboard are troublemakers. They will be transformative. They are networking and sharing. Tons of women are applying to Springboard. It used to be a woman and her group. Now, groups of women are drawing closer together [and forming businesses].
Stop fighting to enter their world. Create your own world. Talk about the market and strategy. Invite everyone to join. Provide connections.
Amy Millman speaking to a crowd of entrepreneurs at Women Funding Women, Lisbon, October 2018. Image courtesy of Springboard Enterprises.
How does Springboard help?
AM: Springboard is a breeding ground where women can meet, learn, and help each other. We’re putting teams around to help them hit the next point in terms of scalability. It’s not about the end goal, it’s about the milestones you need to achieve.
We asked, “What can we do for you? Tell us who you are, your vision. We ask a lot of questions. And it’s amazing. We have seen entrepreneurs change their approach. You can’t just have one product; You need to hear from people that they will sell your product.
You have to dig into your assumptions. This is how women learn. [We look for women] who will become sponges who give back and dedicate their expertise to others. Springboard values human capital more than financial capital. This isn’t about warmth and fuzziness. It is a true understanding of the value of people and interactions.
What lessons do you believe female entrepreneurs still need to learn?
AM: Of course there are financial lessons. If you have a product, get out of your equity. There are many ways to fund your idea. Cooperation with manufacturers. That’s better than dealing with strangers without a stake in your business.
More commonly, we see the same thing with women starting the program. They are achievement-oriented. Women have doctorates, doctors… and they still can’t talk about themselves. So in the program, we make them do it. It can take hours to get over that barrier, to understand who you are and how you lead.
Women need to start with that leadership stance. Don’t try to impersonate anyone else. Believe in yourself. Ask yourself, “What do you think you should do?”
But you need a squad, a cheerleader, no matter what kind of business you have. Many women do not have female colleagues. Find them. Build your personal advisory board and keep adding to it. Then you have a cheerleading squad, and you are encouraged.
Do you believe businesswomen lack confidence?
AM: They don’t lack confidence; they often lack the strength of their beliefs. You need to embrace your own vision and skills. It doesn’t matter what your goal is – it’s how you approach it. Enter with confidence. Let’s make you someone else would like to know.
Looking into the future, what do you see?
AM: If we’re doing anything, we need to show girls how to own their own stuff. Don’t tell them what they can’t do. Ask them what they maybe do.
Like I said, I’m a half-glass person. It was a wild ride. But progress has been made. And now it’s time to own it!
ONEbout Springboard Enterprises:
Springboard Enterprises is a non-profit organization that works “globally to advance women entrepreneurs’ access to growth capital”. Springboard trains, sourcing, coaching, recommending, and supporting high growth companies looking for equity to expand. Opportunity posted on Springboard Website at different times of the year. Check out in December when apps will launch for the 2019 Life Science program. You can also follow Springboard on Linkedin.
Springboard also produces Dolphin Tank® programs, which are “helpful feedback-based” pitch sessions where entrepreneurs get constructive insights from knowledgeable professionals. The goal is to provide connections and advice to help entrepreneurs overcome challenges and capitalize on their opportunities. Test here to see when the Dolphinarium program is coming to your city.
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