You Have a $3M Putt In You

Dec 12, 2019

Founding a company is not done in a day. It takes years to get a solid company off the ground. It also takes a tenacious founder to scale that company to its full potential.

The AWE Intersection is Philadelphia's night to celebrate women high-growth founders, as well as the network that supports them.

This year's event was no exception. The day began with The AWE Pitch, where 8 finalists competed for a $10,000 prize. Seasoned women founders donated to establish this prize in order to help advance the next generation.

All of the finalists delivered excellent pitches, but Tozuda, founded by Jessie Garcia, would be declared the 2019 winner.

"I am totally new to AWE,” shared Jessie. “This is my first event and look at all the help and support I'm getting. This is amazing."

Talking to these founders was a highlight of the evening. The buzzing crowds had to be broken up so that the awards presentation could beging.

AWE presents two awards each year. The Vertex Award is given to a high-growth founder who’s changed the direction for women’s high-growth entrepreneurship. This year, it was presented to Leslie Firtell, the founder of Tower Legal Solutions.

Sharing some of her experiences, she said "In the beginning, we took business just to get our name out there. But it wasn’t profitable business, and then it’s not healthy. So I learned that at some point, you have to be able to draw a line in the sand and say at what point am I better off without you?"

When asked about funding, she replied, "I thought, 'God, people come in here, and they can completely take over the business and it won’t be the same.' For me it was just, let’s see how far we can go. And I was never really at that point where I said to myself, I really need to go in and take outside money."

But it was ultimately the people that were her key to success. "That’s what’s going to make your company. And if you treat people well and they believe in you, and you treat them exactly the way you want to be treated, people will go that extra mile for you. I promise that.”

Founders would not be able to succeed without support, which is why the Iris Newman Award recognizes a member of the Philadelphia entrepreneurial community who has made a significant difference in advancing female founders.

This year, AWE honored Karen Griffith Gryga, who has helped launch over 200 companies with nearly $2 billion in shareholder value.

As part of her remarks, Karen shared that one of her matra’s in life is to always be afraid. “Always be afraid means to always be pushing, always be seeking. Always be a little bit uncomfortable in what you’re doing. But never let that fear stop you.”

She went on to tell a story about how, through a game of golf, she was able to raise money for her venture fund. She bet the funder that she could make a long shot putt, and if she did, he agreed to give her $3M. Long story short, she made the putt. Karen finished her story by saying, “Each of you has a $3M dollar putt inside of you. All you have to do is get within yourself and make it happen.”

She continued on to talk about the state of funding for women entrepreneurs. “When I got into the VC industry, it was 7-10% women. It’s now 4-8%. And you know, when you only have 3% of venture dollars going to female entrepreneurs, we’ve got work to do to help increase the probability of females getting funding.”

She believes that part of this problem is concrete, but that some of it is also psychological. “One of the things that I read in the research was this initiative by HP to promote females into their ranks. What they found was if they posted a job that had 10 criteria, men applied when they had 6. Women applied when they had all 10. And so I instituted within my female entrepreneurs what I call the 60% rule.”

What does this mean? “When you’re 60% there, you go for it. When you’re 60% there, you start talking to people. You start getting advice, getting feedback. And by going out sooner, you’re actually preparing yourself to get to your goal quicker.”

At 60%, you can also line up for your $3M putt - and make it.

View Pitch Photos | View Intersection Photos