Women are taking on the startup world with remarkable numbers. They are starting businesses at a rate 1.5 times of the national average, with startups seeing an unprecedented 54% growth in female ownership over the last 15 years. Women own just over one-third of businesses in the United States, yet many still feel isolated. Nearly half of female founders note that a lack of access to mentors and advisors is holding them back. Startup Sisters, a southern-sprung event series, is answering this need for connectivity.
Startup Sisters was created to elevate conversations among female entrepreneurs. Its goal is to help women grow businesses within their local communities. Events and workshops will occur regularly at startup hubs and incubators across Atlanta. Potential expansion to other southern cities is also underway.
The regional movement launched its first event on the the evening of International Women’s Day. Nearly 60 women gathered at startup hotspot, the Switchyards Downtown Club. CNN’s Amy La Porte moderated a panel discussion with local female leaders, featuring myself, Theia Washington-Smith, founding Executive Director of the City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Titania Jordan, cofounder of PRIVET, host of the Atlanta Tech Edge, and CPO of Bark. Professional development organization, Mavenly + Co. also led a workshop.
The brainchild behind Startup Sisters is Stefanie Jewett, CEO and founder of Activvely, a social-pairing app that matches people with like-minded workout partners. Here, Jewett shares why she wants to amplify conversations among female entrepreneurs.
What motivated you to launch Startup Sisters?
I launched Startup Sisters: ATL after realizing how siloed the female entrepreneurs and founders of this city are and how it is hindering us from truly being able to support one another’s businesses. The moment that really drove that point home for me was being invited to visit the Atlanta Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative and realizing this city-backed incubator, with 15 female-founded companies, had only been five blocks away from me for months. It made me wonder, how can we rally around one another if we don’t even know we exist?
Why is it important to have meaningful discussions and workshops about female entrepreneurship?
Both entrepreneurship and working in tech can be extremely isolating endeavors for women, and a plight I can relate to personally having launched my own startup, Activvely a few months ago.
Whether you’re figuring out how to move your business forward or how to navigate a male-dominated workplace, it’s critical to our success to find women who are navigating the same path. Sometimes, just hearing that another high-achieving woman is facing or has faced struggles similar to yours is all you need to help strengthen your resolve in the face of adversity.
How do you feel after the first event and what are your hopes for Startup Sisters in 2017?
I feel inspired. The truth is, I set out to create the kind of event I want to attend: an opportunity to connect with other brilliant, unapologetically ambitious and kind women in a meaningful way. I’ve frequented many events where the goal is just to hand out your business card, but Startup Sisters: ATL is decidedly different. The feedback I have received has been incredibly positive and we are already collaborating on ideas for the next event.
Images provided by Startup Sisters. Credited to Varada Bhat, Stephanie Diaz, Stefanie Jewett and Natsai Ndebele.