On May 10, the National Women’s Business Council united in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, for the third public meeting of this fiscal year. Here are the highlights:

This meeting was rooted in the Council’s most recent research report on entrepreneurial ecosystems and the development of NWBC’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Playbook.

One approach to understanding the interactions between the actors and processes that support segments of entrepreneurs, such as women entrepreneurs, is the application of an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” framework, which organizes and visually represents key domains of the ecosystem and their relationship with each other.  The entrepreneurial ecosystem model emphasizes the importance of the overall environment within which an entrepreneur establishes and grows her business.

The NWBC model emphasizes the interconnectivity of the following domains:

  • Capital
  • Community building
  • Policy
  • Resources
  • Human capital
  • Innovation
  • Market Access

The “Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” framework models how communities—from the local to the national—can support entrepreneurs through relationships and systems.  An ecosystem-based approach is particularly beneficial for communities that seek to promote the success of women business owners and entrepreneurs. Our vision is that local government officials, entrepreneurial development organizations, and other key stakeholders across the country will utilize NWBC’s ecosystem model as a guide to evaluate and strengthen their regional ecosystem’s efforts in supporting women entrepreneurs.

Drawing on that vision, we convened builders of regional ecosystems to discuss what it takes to create inclusive local ecosystems that successfully support women business owners and women entrepreneurs. Over one-hundred policymakers, entrepreneurial development program representatives, thought leaders, corporate partners, women business owners, and other stakeholders filled up the meeting room at the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center. Carla Harris, Chair of the National Women’s Business Council, brought the meeting to order with updates on the Council’s research and engagement activities.  This quarter, the Council has released two research projects and one playbook:

  • On April 20, 2017, we released our latest research report, Entrepreneurship Ecosystems and Their Service of Women Entrepreneurs. In an effort to understand what community characteristics supporting local women-owned businesses should be elevated — or improved — the Council contracted with Washington CORE to conduct research on local entrepreneurial systems and their support of women entrepreneurs.
  • On May 2, 2017, the Council released its study on crowdfunding: Crowdfunding as a Capital Source for Women Entrepreneurs. This report explores the distinct relationship between crowdfunding and women entrepreneurship, and develops a deeper understanding of reward-based crowdfunding as capital source. Our analysis of 2010-2015 Kickstarter data shows that women continue to have higher levels of success than their male counterparts in crowdfunding campaigns. Women reach their crowdfunding goals 4.6% more frequently than their male counterparts!  If you’re curious as to why that may be, we encourage you to take a look at our report.
  • On the morning of May 10, 2017, we released our latest playbook: NWBC Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Model. NWBC’s entirely new ecosystem model serves as a tool to evaluate regional support of women’s entrepreneurship. Local government officials, entrepreneurial support organizations, and other stakeholders can adopt this ecosystem model as a guide to evaluate their regional economy’s ecosystem for women entrepreneurs. You can study NWBC’s model in detail on page one of the playbook, and learn more about the differences between the traditional and ecosystem-based views of entrepreneurship support on page two.

Post updates, Carla Harris introduced two panels exploring NWBC’s original ecosystem model. The first panel “Finding Support in a Local Ecosystem – National Women’s Business Council Members’ Stories” was comprised of Council Members and small business owners, Kimberly Blackwell, Rosana Privitera Biondo, Sherry Stewart Deutschmann, Whitney Keyes, Anne Shybunko-Moore, and moderator Deborah Rosado Shaw. Council Members shared their lived experiences and distinct expertise in building and growing their businesses in their own ecosystems across various regions of the country – from Seattle WA, to Atlanta, GA, to Long Island, NY; and across industry – and in industries as varied as defense manufacturing, public relations, health services and construction. Here are a few things that stood out to the crowd:

“My business was not successful in spite of our employee focus; it was successful because of it.” – Council Member Sherry Stewart Deutschmann, speaking on the importance and the impact of human capital within her former business, LetterLogic, Inc., based in Nashville, TN.

“Think on how can you strategically position yourself to take advantage of opportunities?” – Council Member Kimberly Blackwell, speaking regarding access to markets for women entrepreneurs, as CEO of PMM Agency, based in Columbus, OH and Atlanta, GA.

“Women around the world have the same business struggles with competition, self-esteem despite different environments.” – Council Member Whitney Keyes discussed her global experience working with entrepreneurs, as founder and CEO of WK Productions, based in Seattle, WA.

“Look at how your needs and wants weave into the needs and wants of your community and region.” – Council Member Anne Shybunko-Moore speaking on community building, as President and Owner of GSE Dynamics, Inc., in Hauppauge, NY.

“Certification has opened a lot of doors for me.” – Council Member Rosana Privitera Biondo speaking on the impact of certification throughout her business journey, as President of Mark One Electric Co, Inc. in Kansas City, MO.

The Council’s research and engagement work in support of women entrepreneurs is driven by the lived experience, connectedness, and expertise of our Council Members. To learn more about all of our Council Members, make sure to visit our website: https://www.nwbc.gov/about/meet-the-members-of-the-council.

This public meeting also served as an opportunity to convene and highlight four city initiatives – including: Women Entrepreneurs Boston (WEBOS); Women Entrepreneurs NYC (WE-NYC); The City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI); and BEACON (Washington, DC). Regionally and more broadly, these initiatives are working to improve the local climate and support systems for women entrepreneurs in their business development and growth.  Kara O’Connor Miller (Boston), Rachel Van Tosh (NYC), Theia Washington Smith (Atlanta), and Alexandra Givens (Washington, DC) discussed various approaches to their city’s initiatives and programming, best practices, and challenges, within their regional ecosystems.  Here are a few insights from the “City Governments and Local Ecosystems” panel:

  • Women entrepreneurs should have access to ALL resources, not just women focused resources.
  • Inclusive means diversity of industry and age. City initiatives should look like the city.
  • There is a need for a directory and map of resources for women entrepreneurs. In several cases, a platform of centralized information was one of the first things these city initiatives made sure to provide.
  • The creation of all four city initiatives made sense, because focused support for women entrepreneurs was both good for the economy.

Women-owned businesses are vital contributors to the economy, not only in the local communities that foster the origination and incubation of the businesses initially, but also in the broader American economy where the enterprises can grow and thrive. For the country to reach its full economic potential, we must continue to assess and address the ways our local entrepreneurial ecosystems and key stakeholders in the government collaborate to support women business owners to achieve the full potential of their businesses.

We leave you to consider the following when assessing how YOUR ecosystem supports women business owners:

  • How are locally-headquartered corporations working with regional business clusters and entrepreneurial support organizations to engage women-owned businesses in their supply chains?
  • Do incubators and accelerators successfully recruit and graduate women business owners and provide them with meaningful opportunities to access capital?
  • What role do local colleges and universities play in connecting women business owners to capital, networks, and commercialization support?
  • Do your local government, chamber of commerce, or other resource groups collaborate with one another other to maintain a calendar or directory for local entrepreneurial support organizations?

We hope that you continue to be engaged with the National Women’s Business Council. Stay tuned for upcoming research releases and events by visiting www.nwbc.gov. Please feel free to join this conversation online using the hashtag #Ecosystem4HerBiz.

Author: Shannon Trudge, Program and Operations Manager at the National Women’s Business Council