- Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV)
After reading Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus in 2019, I began to see microcredit as a means to disrupt the cycle of poverty. Lack of access to capital is a significant obstacle to both personal and corporate financial growth, and it primarily impacts women and minority entrepreneurs. While researching barriers to capital in the startup industry, I read that only 4.4% of venture capital deal flow is directed into women-led companies. With this research in mind, I sought to increase access to capital and provide more supportive forms of capital to marginalized entrepreneurs.
For my summer project, I partnered with Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), a Santa Barbara, California-based nonprofit CDFI that provides microfinancing opportunities to women and minority entrepreneurs. My project focused on how WEV could expand beyond its current microloan offerings to support female entrepreneurs in different stages of the corporate growth cycle. The four key objectives were to: research peer investment funds currently supporting female entrepreneurs, determine the new fund’s optimal investment structure, compile funding opportunities, and define WEV’s current strengths and weaknesses.
The research component involved analysis of investment funds in the early-stage space that support female entrepreneurs. I documented common operational procedures and potential threats to effective impact. I spoke with investors from peer funds to learn about the early-stage investing space, their firms, and their plans for the future. Overall, I structured and modeled WEV’s new investment fund based on its peer, female-focused investors.
The most important portion of my summer project revolved around my conversations with female entrepreneurs. It was critical that I speak with them to gain firsthand knowledge of the issue that WEV sought to address. From these conversations, I was able to discern preferred investment procedures, products, and operational conduct, as well as obstacles female entrepreneurs have faced in financing and growing their companies. The entrepreneurs’ insights drove my final recommendations for WEV and will allow to WEV to effectively support female-entrepreneurs.
I also spent a significant amount of time conducting research on various investment products and fund structures. While reviewing this information, I focused on which product could best support female entrepreneurs and fit within WEV’s current operations.
As a final internship deliverable, I created a roadmap for WEV that provides an analysis of the major financing products and fund structures, insights and takeaways from my conversations with entrepreneurs and investors, and recommended next steps for the organization. To thank the industry experts who graciously donated their time to this summer project, I created a stakeholder report comprised of excerpts from the broader WEV roadmap. Overall, this project has reinforced my belief that there are significant barriers to raising capital for female founders in the early-stage investment space and has provided a new path for WEV to help support marginalized entrepreneurs.