How Renowned Entrepreneurs and CEOs Are Working Together To Close The Entrepreneurial Gender Gap

By Kelsey Waananen
In Culture

Last year, the OPEN State of Women-Owned Business report showed an estimated 1,200 new businesses were started each day in America by women, a jump from the year prior, when the average was 740 businesses per day.

We have partnered with Prosper Women Entrepreneurs to tell you this story.

Prosper Capital Startup Accelerator Spring Class 2015. Photo courtesy of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs.

Prosper Capital Startup Accelerator Spring Class 2015. Photo courtesy of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs.

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs plans to keep that average on the rise in the US. The idea for the organization—founded by women, for women—was launched back in 2012, when St. Louis community leaders learned St. Louis was ranked dead-last on a Kauffman Foundation list of cities that held female-led entrepreneurial businesses.

Those leaders took that ranking as a sign, and asked, “What could it mean for a region if 50 percent of its population felt more empowered to reach their economic potential?” Thus, in 2014 Prosper Women Entrepreneurs was founded to ensure the community has an answer that addresses entrepreneurial gender gaps.

Taking on that mission are two sister organizations under the PWE umbrella: Prosper Capital and Prosper Institute. Though the organizations are based here in St. Louis, the focus is on women entrepreneurs everywhere.

Investing through Prosper Startup Accelerator, Prosper Capital awards $50,000 to companies chosen to take part in the spring and fall cohorts, as well as provides mentorship and hands-on training. Prosper Capital’s first class included six young businesses in multiple industries, including healthcare, technology and consumer products. These companies have been able to benefit from mentorship stemming from all over the business map in St. Louis, with employees from Monsanto, Build-a-Bear, Washington University St. Louis and more donating their time and expertise.

A testament to the need for the resources that Prosper Capital provides, the Spring 2015 cohort applications came from nine different countries on four continents from a range of industries.

Prosper Institute is dedicated to developing the pool of women entrepreneurs through mentorship and collaboration, even reaching out to high-school aged entrepreneurs in need of guidance. The organization’s Mastermind Groups have proven to be one of the biggest draws: The groups meet monthly and team five to seven women entrepreneurs with a mentor, allowing each participant to offer support and valuable advice on operational and technical aspects of business. Hailing from differing industries, the women are able to provide new points of view, giving the entrepreneurs a valuable resource needed to grow a successful business.

PWE is continuing its work to eliminate the gender gap and is gearing up to welcome its fall cohort of women-led companies to training and funding on August 25.  Applications for Prosper Capital’s next class, which is held in the spring of 2016, open Sept. 1. The next Mastermind groups begin meeting this fall. The organization holds regular office hours for anyone who wants to learn more or to discuss their own company one-on-one.

This blog was created in collaboration with Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, a member of the EQ Network.

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