It’s hard to be a female entrepreneur. Nelly Farra’s trying to make it a little easier.
Just 15 percent of startups that raise money from investors have women on the executive team. Only 2.7 percent have a female CEO.
Those are the depressingly bad numbers from research by Babson College, whose Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab is launching in Miami this month. Nelly Farra, a Miami native and Babson alumna, has been tapped to run the program, which provides a rigorous program of mentorship, business development, and other support to female entrepreneurs. She’s only been on the job six weeks, but she’s got a plan.
What is it? An 8-month program that provides female entrepreneurs with mentorship, business development support, fundraising help, coaching, and other tools.
Where’d the idea come from? The program started at Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership with current students, aiming to tackle challenges identified in the school’s research on entrepreneurship.
“We have a tendency to self-edit ourselves. Babson has a lot of research on that. Women end up overthinking and have an idea, but you tone it down to something less ambitious. We believe in going out and taking iterative steps to prove your model. Based on that, WIN Lab was born three years ago. The first cohort was 15 people.”
Why launch in Miami? “There isn’t anyone who is doing [a mentorship program] specifically for women-owned businesses. The Miami that exists now is not the one I grew up in. From the moment we announced the support we’ve had from female business owners in Miami is incredible. They say, ‘I’ve been looking for this.’ It was very validating for us. We had 220 people at our launch event. Lemon City Tea was there, Bammies was there, Palm Press was there.”
What does the program cover? Funding is a major issue female entrepreneurs encounter, says Farra. “People invest in things they know and understand; they invest in people like themselves. And many women don’t present to an investor the way a man might.
“Funding isn’t the only challenge, but it’s the one I lead with. We want to build the next generation of female CEOs, support visionaries. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely; it’s a hard road, so having a community around you who can mentor, provide space to share experiences, is important. That’s why we start with a two-day retreat. It’s ingrained in us [as women] to be perfectionists, but entrepreneurship is not about perfection.”‘
Who should apply? “We’re industry agnostic. If it’s someone with an amazing idea, they should apply. If it’s a later stage company that has some revenue, but they have a pain point they need to work on, they should apply.
“The application is online, it’s simple, and we also ask for a two-page executive summary. It’s a free program and we give a lot to the companies, but we also expect a lot in return. We’re looking for people who are dedicated and will commit to the program.”
WIN is hosting a night of design thinking and innovation on Wednesday, May 11. Get your tickets and more information here.