Who's in your binder?

Nov 26, 2018

“It’s great to see so many supporters of women entrepreneurs all in one place.”

That was the sentiment of many attendees at The Intersection, AWE’s premier annual event. Standing in a wall-to-wall crowd, the excitement found a rallying cry: there are more of us, and more people supporting us, than we thought.

The day began with the final Pitch competition. It was standing room only as seven companies delivered their presentations to an all-female panel of expert judges. Jenzy, a mobile app that ensures kids get the right fit in the right shoe every time won.

The Pitch attracts women-led startups well past the idea stage. The level of company provoked enthusiasm from the crowd, as well as the competing founders.

Kristina Fahl from Shuttlebee competed in our first competition a few years ago. “The feedback I got my first year was game changing. It catapulted my company forward,” she shared. “Participating this year, I can see that the bar has risen many levels.”

AWE focuses on scaling women-founded companies into high-growth businesses, making Kristina’s ability to continue to grow her company a success story.

And she’s not alone. Dana Donofree, founder of lingerie and loungewear company, Ana Ono, has continued to grow her business since participating in our first competition as well. “The Pitch is what got my company started,” she said with a smile. Her products, made specifically for women who have had breast cancer, are available nationwide and now appear in Soma stores.

While The Pitch brings founders starting out to the table, the focus of the evening is on honoring the leaders in our community.

AWE presented the Iris Newman Award first, an honor that represents 17 years of celebrating the people who advance women entrepreneurs and especially women founders.

This year’s awardee, Ellen Weber, fits the award perfectly. She rose to cheers from the crowd to give her remarks.

“I broke into tears when I got the call that I had won,” she shared. “When I came to AWE, I knew I had found my village. The people here push you, and you can show up as your genuine self.”

Among her many pursuits over the course of her career, Ellen now directs Temple University’s Fox School of Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute. “I actually get paid to help entrepreneurs realize their dreams,” she said with a laugh.

Her talk focused on being the network we claim to be for women entrepreneurs. “We showed up tonight. Now, we keep coming back.”

She continued on to say that we should all have “binders filled with women ready at a moment's notice.”

“Social networks who can trust and assist each other can be powerful,” she continued.

As an investor herself, she was also keen to note the financial ways in which we can show support for women founders.

In 2017, 2.2% of VC funding went to women-led companies. “The more women become investors, the more level the playing field.”

In addition to the Iris Newman Award, AWE also presented the inaugural Vertex Award, given to a woman founder who, having reached the summit, has changed the face and direction of women’s high-growth entrepreneurship.

Raegan Moya-Jones, this year’s awardee, “chose sleep deprivation over financial insecurity,” when she launched her company, aden + anais, working a full time job with two kids.

She got to $1M bootstrapping and remained fiercely protective of the equity.

When asked what she found to be the secret to success, she responded. “People are everything. If you don’t have the right people, it’s all for naught.”

She went on to say she owed at least part of her success to being confident enough to hire people who were “way smarter.”

“I hired liked-minded people, but people I knew would challenge me,” she said. “It blew my mind that I was able to surround myself with people who had the same passion for the business that I did.”

Sharing some lessons learned, she focused on the challenges she experienced with funding partners. Ellie Stang, President of AWE and the founder and CEO of ProgenyHealth, summarized it well saying, “Your funding partners are just that - partners.”

On the same topic, Raegan advised, “Don’t give up too much equity too soon,” and continued on to share how carefully vetting your equity partners to ensure that they’re a good fit will prove critical for business success.

She is now launching a boutique moonshine business, St. Luna, and plans to turn the product on its head.

AWE was also pleased to pass the gavel to Rose Cook, CEO of the Flexpro Group. Her focus? Growing our founder membership and our community.

Much like running a business, AWE is all about putting in what you want to get out of it. If you know any women founders scaling their businesses who would benefit from being a part of AWE’s unique community, please invite them to our next Roundtable.

“I believed I could do it and was willing to work harder than I ever thought possible,” said Raegan.

Working that hard requires support from those who get it. AWE does.

View photos from The Intersection