Female entrepreneurs find solutions to real-world problems
The Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services initiative helps women with social impact companies develop successful, profit-making businesses that solve real-world problems through
• capital support, and
Around the world, women social entrepreneurs are leading the charge to help eradicate poverty, provide safe water, and provide access to opportunities. Women today are making a major impact by meeting needs and solving problems in these and other areas.
The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council reports that half of women-owned businesses concentrate on health care, social assistance, and professional/scientific/technical services. Compared with men, women are 9% more likely to launch businesses in education and 10% more likely to launch health care companies.
Women’s startups fall in line with consumers demanding that companies support local communities and protect the environment. Banks also are developing new social impact-investing products that aid companies in meeting consumer desires.
Remarkably, women receive less than 2% of venture capital funding. This is due, in part, because investors don’t believe women can make money, said Melissa Bradley, managing director and founder of 1863 Ventures, a nonprofit that works with entrepreneurs. Moreover, banks and other investors often don’t believe social-impact businesses can turn a profit, she said.
Envisioning new dimensions
To address these mindsets, Ford Motor Company Fund is taking a unique approach that helps women social entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. Ford Fund established a national network of pitch competitions that combine financial assistance with mentorship, workshops, and other vital support.
“When you’re talking about social entrepreneurship, you’re not just talking about investing in women and businesses, which is very important, you’re also investing in communities, which is a win-win,” said Pamela Alexander, Ford Fund director of Community Development.
In 2017 and 2018, Ford Fund united with Michigan Women Forward to launch Empower Change MI, formerly EmpowerHer. Empower Change MI awarded more than $50,000 in cash, investments, and in-kind professional services to three women-owned social enterprise companies. In 2018, Ford Fund, with 1863 Ventures, kicked off HERImpact DC, giving more than $50,000 in cash and support in Washington, D.C.
Helping underrepresented social entrepreneurs is a shared vision, said Bradley of 1863 Ventures.
“Our belief and Ford’s belief that money is just the beginning and adding the additional support was appealing,” Bradley said. “We have actually been the people they are trying to help.”
The second HERImpact Entrepreneurship Summit is June 27, 2019. The pitch competition is scheduled for September. By the end of 2019, Ford Fund will have held three pitch competitions and awarded more than $150,000 in cash and supplemental support to women-owned social enterprises in Michigan and Washington, D.C.
However, Empower Change MI and HERImpact DC are just the start of a larger Ford Fund strategy to strengthen communities and make people’s lives better.
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