We are finishing the second cohort of companies that will launch Community Public Offerings this summer. There will be four companies, and our big Chapter Two launch party in Portland’s Hatch is scheduled for September 10. (save that date! Big surprises to come!)
In January, two of the first nine entrepreneurs were women. This time none are women. Uh-oh.
My pals online have been writing about community capital and women entrepreneurs – how they are made for each other (yes). How women are often more community minded, focusing on the impact on families and the environment (probably). And, that women-owned businesses are growing.
Amy Cortese reports in Locavesting, “The number of women-owned firms is growing at 1.5 times the national average (and minority women-owned firms are growing even faster).”
So, where are they? Why aren’t they equally interested in using Oregon’s new fundraising law? Amy continues, “By letting entrepreneurs reach out to their social networks and like-minded investors, crowdfunding promises to level the playing field for women and other under-served groups.”
See? Crowdfunding promises!
We already know women are the least likely to get funding elsewhere – that’s been demonstrated over and over again. While women make up half the companies launching, they receive less than 15% of early stage investing. In fact, last week, I heard a story from a woman inventor (in private and only after I promised not to tell anyone). As she sought capital at an angel conference, she was told, “Listen, you should stop wasting your time with this angel group, no one here will invest in women-owned companies.”
So where are the women entrepreneurs for whom crowdfunding is made?
While I have been swimming in the finance and legal worlds for the last few years, (sometimes against my will), I have observed something that will be completely obvious to everyone – women don’t like to talk about money. (ok, pause here for acknowledging much generalizing about women – just go with it for a few paragraphs). As I have been speaking about finance and local investing on countless panels, in talks, and keynotes all over the state, women nearly always confess to me afterwards, “I just don’t like numbers – I’m not good at math” or worse, “Oh, my husband does all our investing, I wouldn’t know where to start.”
My eyes are beginning to permanently cross.
Entrepreneurs call our office a lot these days, with all kinds of questions about the new law, and how they might use it for their business. I often meet with them, trying to get a feel for their readiness. What I have been slowly realizing is that women are not stepping forward to use this law perhaps because they can’t see themselves asking people – their neighbors and local Oregonians – for money. We may see this as practically made for women, now able to go to their friends and neighbors to build support, to their own communities!
Oh. Wait. They would have to ask others to invest in them – publicly. To believe they can pull it off, to have faith in them, to back them! What do they call it? The “entrepreneurs delusion”. These women do not seem to have it. They seem to experience the “entrepreneurs dilemma”. This is perfect for me/I’m not ready yet/I really want to use this law/I think it will be another few months before everything is in place…
We have a problem. Here are some of the things I have heard from women considering using the Community Public Offering here in Oregon:
“I’d probably choke when pitching.”
“I don’t know, it’s a lot to get in front of people. Or, I may just be overthinking it.”
“I’m not sure I’m ready. I want everything to be perfect and in place before I ask anyone to invest in me.”
Overthinking it – that’s the word I want. While the guys have absolutely no trouble launching with things still getting worked out, women will not trust themselves. “Too much could go wrong.”
I’m not saying this isn’t true. Of course it is. Asking people to invest in you is a risky thing, and making sure things are in good shape before launching is a good idea. But, I want women to consider using community public offerings to get started or grow because I want more women up in front of Oregon showing how wise, smart, and think-ful they are, creating businesses that will contribute to our communities and economy at the same rate as the dudes. I am so tired of opening a business paper and seeing all white males.
I know we have a way to go for women CEOs, but I have a new aspiration. I want women to be CFOs – Chief Financial Officers.
Full disclosure? I didn’t want to mess with money, finance, budgets, or math either, at least not at first. But, I learned that if you want to shift the universe to a wiser, more thoughtful way of doing business, we are going to have to mess with money, get public, and ask people to consider investing in local businesses run by women.
In light of our interest in truly leveling the playing field for all would-be entrepreneurs, we are launching a new cohort just for women entrepreneurs in September. And, to provide kick-ass support, this year’s Orchid Award winners are forming “the Orchid Corps” and have agreed to be mentors for this cohort!
Welcome women entrepreneurs and women investors!
(Now get in here!)