Q & A Women’s Experience in Entrepreneurship

We spoke with startup founders from Ohio about their journey as female entrepreneurs

Taking a concept from an idea to a full-fledged, profitable company requires hard work, dedication and a little help along the way. Convincing others to invest their time, effort and money into your vision is inherently a challenge all founders must face, but for some, the challenge can be greater than others. Over the years, women have made significant strides to close the gender gap in entrepreneurship, but there are still significant hurdles to overcome in starting a successful company.

On one hand, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 45 percent over the last decade—making them the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs. While women-owned businesses now make up approximately 38 percent of the business population, they still only employ about 8 percent of the country’s private sector workforce and contribute 4 percent of the nation’s business revenues. Additionally, female founders receive only seven percent of venture capital funding despite evidence that diverse, women-led businesses are more financially successful.

We spoke with successful, driven female entrepreneurs from Ohio to get their take on a wide range of subjects, from the disparity in access to capital, the challenge of maintaining a healthy work/family balance, and their experience with accessing support to help them prove traditional gender startup stereotypes wrong.

Our contributors include:

Audrey Wallace and Amy Husted of Komaeread more about Komae here.

Tina Fischer of Modalistread more about Modalist here.

Olga Yurovski of Shopperations — read more about Shopperations here.

On the driving force behind becoming an entrepreneur:

I was raised as an only child in Ukraine in a family that had high expectations. I also grew up in a culture where women play a significant role in business and politics. So, I was ready to take a leap and become an entrepreneur in America, especially knowing that it is one of the best places in the world to do so.

  • Olga Yurovski of Shopperations

On feeling supported in Ohio:

Specifically in Cincinnati, the startup ecosystem has grown immensely over the last three years. It’s a tightly knit community that is helpful and founder-friendly.

Thanks to Cintrifuse I was able to connect with other women tech founders in town. We are now a small group of six, we meet a couple of times a month. These women have become my new best friends, my emotional support and my business advisors. Only after I met them did I realize how lonely it was being a solo founder working out of my basement for several years.

  • Olga Yurovski of Shopperations

On accessing capital as females in a male-dominated investor pool

All the books advise us to find investors that have a connection to the problem we are solving. We are solving the problem of the high cost of child care, loss of community, and lack of self-care for moms. While these are big problems for 16.2 million millennial moms, they are not big problems that the 93% male investor population has experienced personally. I remember one male investor telling me he doesn’t have a problem getting free time nor does he struggle to afford child care because he has a live-in nanny that he pays $50,000/year and she is only off on Sundays.

  • Audrey Wallace & Amy Husted of Komae

It does seem that women have to work harder to raise money than men. Most VCs still filter startups based on the personal introductions from people they trust rather than really looking into founder background and traction. And since I was not born and raised in America and have not worked in the VC or startup world until I started Shopperations, there are fewer connections and trusted relationships for me to leverage.

I was pleasantly surprised by the availability of state grants for women tech entrepreneurs in Ohio and was fortunate to receive the Imagining Grant from CincyTech USA. I am immensely grateful because it was the reason I was able to build the product I envisioned instead of showing everyone a non-working prototype.

  • Olga Yurovski

One the role societal expectations play in entrepreneurship:

While we feel supported with advice and atta-girls from the NEO startup landscape, it has been a challenge to raise significant funding for our company. Is that because we’re women? No one has ever told us that straight out. We’ve been told our market is not interesting. We’ve been told we are the “darlings of the pitch competitions in Northeast Ohio”. We’ve even been told if our startup doesn’t succeed we could be models. But we have never been directly told an investor is passing because we are women.

  • Audrey Wallace & Amy Husted of Komae

I believe being a woman entrepreneur is still hard in America because of lack of social support, such as affordable daycare, state-funded preschools and an affordable and easy to navigate healthcare system. Women entrepreneurs are disproportionately burdened by these issues because society still expects them to fulfill their role as family caregivers, while facing the immense challenges of starting a new business.

Without my family support, my dreams of entrepreneurship would have remained just that. Having a working spouse with insurance and in-laws who live with us make the dream possible and allows me to focus on growing my business. I am fully aware that I am unique and privileged in this regard.

  • Olga Yurovski of Shopperations

On selecting an industry:

I think any woman seeking to become an entrepreneur should first do an inventory of the expertise she brings to the industry and her new organization. Do you have experience in a related field to your current (or planned) start-up? A related job, interest or hobby? For example, prior to starting Modalist, a leading fashion search platform, I started a web retailer and gained significant expertise and industry knowledge. But even before that – I have always been interested in both technology & fashion.

  • Tina Fisher of Modalist

Advice for fellow female entrepreneurs:

We know that being a successful female entrepreneur takes grit, perseverance, and an unconditional commitment to solving the problem we set out to fix. And those are things that no investor or startup support system can supply. Those have to come from within, and Amy and I have that in the bank.

  • Audrey Wallace & Amy Husted of Komae

Congratulations – you were born at the right time! The world is opening up for women entrepreneurs these days. There are many excellent support groups in the forms of women-led associations, forums, angel funds, etc. There are more successful women entrepreneurs willing to mentor others than ever before. The world is full of great ideas, but success only comes from continued and determined action. Do the work and do the time. No one succeeds immediately, and everyone was once a beginner. Being a successful entrepreneur takes a lot of work, vision and perseverance — but it can also be one of the most rewarding things you do.

  • Tina Fisher of Modalist

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