Inspiring startup advice from rising female founders
This International Women’s Day, we check in with Visa Grant Winners, plus grants applications are now open!
Small businesses have been impacted by the pandemic in profound ways but Black- and women-owned businesses especially have been disproportionately affected. Minority-owned businesses in the U.S., a third of which are owned by women, report more difficulty securing loans, predict revenue declines and fear permanent closure as a result of the pandemic. Yet they play a critical role in communities across the country, employing more than 8.7 million workers and annually generating more than $1 trillion in economic output.
As Black History Month in February leads into Women’s History Month in March, Visa is committing an additional $1 million to extend its grant and mentorship program to Black women entrepreneurs in six U.S. cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C). Grant applications open on March 4 at IFundWomen.com/Visa, ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
We spoke with recent Visa grant winners, awarded through our She’s Next program, to share their best entrepreneurial learnings with other women ready to take the leap.
Denise Woodard, CEO and Founder of Partake Foods
“When seeking seed funding, after we had seen strong initial growth and solid projections for the road ahead, I was told ‘no’ 86 times before I heard ‘yes.’ It's well documented that female founders, especially Black and brown female founders, receive a sliver of the funding granted every year.
“I would reiterate to any founder: know your numbers. Know how your business provides value and know your customers. Break your goals into meaningful steps. Get ready to hear ‘no.’
“Entrepreneurship is not glamorous. If you know you have a winning business, and you're seeing meaningful sales and growth, stay the course. I quit my corporate job to grow Partake full-time, and that required doing everything from selling my engagement ring to driving around to local natural food stores with cookies in the back of my car in the beginning.”
Kristen Stewart, Founder, Three Little Birds Stationary & Gifts
“Our first grant award was from Visa and IFundWomen. It was life changing. It gave me a renewed confidence and commitment to staying open. I also asked for reductions in monthly subscriptions, requested lengthened credit terms with suppliers, asked for discounts on frequently purchased items from suppliers, requested a second look at a denied loan, requested media coverage or promotion of specials, asked customers to pay in full versus two payments and requested that staff work differently. I asked for whatever I needed without shame. Let me say that again for those reading with one eye open: I asked for whatever I needed without shame.”
Keanna J. O’Quinn, Founder, Honey+Vinyl
“I think, too often, we subscribe to the idea that there is any one formula to success. The incredible entrepreneurial minds that created the 4-hour work week or encouraged us to lean in, are people who decided to do it their way. And I believe that's what's best — finding what works for you and being nimble and courageous enough to do that.”
Nora LaTorre, CEO, Eat REAL
“When you're starting up an initiative that has the potential to be game-changing for our society, you see so much opportunity and it all can feel very urgent. One of my incredible female mentors said, ‘Nora, you can do anything but you can't do everything’ which helped me make intentional decisions vs quickly saying yes to everything.
“We kept asking, ‘How do we do our most good right now?’ Focus with an open mind is a magic wand.”
Wanona Satcher, CEO and Founder, Makhers Studio
“One piece of advice is to trust the pace of your positioning. Work like hell to position your company for funding with the resources you have available, trust you know what you're doing and allow the pace of your progress, seen and unseen work in your favor.”
Dr. Brandy Archie, Founder, AccessAble Living
“The difference between success and failure in entrepreneurship is refusing to quit. I think it’s important to not be too rigid when you are first starting and try to find as many lanes that can help you achieve your vision and feel them out. They may not all be the best fit but you just keep trying until you find or create the avenues that work best for your business. Just keep moving forward!”
Alicia Scott, Founder & CEO, Range Beauty
“Just start it! We get so stuck in our heads sometimes worrying about the risks associated with starting something new instead of leaning into the good that can come from starting a new business. Put it out and watch it flourish!”
Kim Magloire, President, SciTech Kids
“First, up your networking game and be creative. When our business was forced to close, I reached out to a variety of businesses to learn how they were pivoting. I nurtured these connections and learned unique ways to market our services. One connection helped me create a new course called Masterclass in Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Those classes were our biggest hit last summer!”
Itika Oldwine, Founder, Oldvine Florals
“Delegate, delegate, delegate! When we first opened, I was the buyer, designer, delivery driver, accountant, social media manager, HR, etc. As time went on, I realized I was not doing all of these ‘jobs’ well. Hiring people I trust freed up my time to work on expanding and developing my business.”