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By Geri Stengel
APRIL 23, 2014 – I just finished the manuscript for my book Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One. I interviewed 10 awe-inspiring women. Some have already grown their businesses way past the $100 million revenue mark (Mandy Cabot of Dansko, Liz Elting of TransPerfect, and Nina Vaca of Pinnacle Technical Resources); the others are headed in that direction.
These women show that there’s no magic formula for funding a growing company.
Seeking outside funding: Some like Cabot, Elting and Vaca didn’t need outside funding to start and scale their companies. Others like Erika Bliss of Qliance, Paula Long of DataGravity and Danae Ringelmann of Indiegogo have raised large amounts of angel and venture capital because they need funding in order to scale. Luan Cox of Crowdnetic and Kara Goldin of Hint Inc. are using a portfolio of funding tactics to start and grow their businesses. The mix includes personal savings (to start) to venture capital (to scale). Lili Hall of KNOCK and Kourtney Ratliff of Loop Capital’s cousin used personal saving but venture capital and/or private equity may be tapped to grow these companies even bigger.
Becoming a certified women-owned business: Being a certified women-owned business has helped Hall and Vaca ratchet up their companies growth.
Going global: International sales are important revenue streams for Elting, Ratliff, Ringelman, and Vaca. It will be important for Cox, Goldin, Hall, and Long.
Each of their companies stands out from a competitive field in innovative ways.
- Erika Bliss, Qliance has developed a new pricing model for primary care to cure the ailing healthcare system.
- Mandy Cabot has made Dansko shoes women’s favorites by making them both stylish and comfortable. Her company isn’t just about profits. It’s a triple-bottom-line company that also considers people and the planet.
- Luan Cox, Crowdnetic is making it easier for investors and private companies to connect no matter which crowdfinancing platform they use.
- Liz Elting, TransPerfect’s top-notch customer service, deep industry expertise, and just the right combination of machine speed and human touch ensures nothing gets lost in translation for branded, high-risk, and legal content for the government and Fortune 1000 companies.
- Kara Goldin, Hint Inc. is helping people drink more water so they can be healthy by adding flavor without chemicals.
- Lili Hall, KNOCK was at the forefront of developing a new model for creative agencies — collaboration. The teamwork approach not only delivers award-winning creative, it increases the bottom line for KNOCK’s clients.
- Paula Long, Data Gravity believes that storing, securing and analyzing data should operate together. Her solution will make big data affordable and easier for companies to work with.
- Kourtney Ratliff, Loop Capital uses proprietary technology to help her institutional clients make more money when they trade.
- Danae Ringelmann, Indiegogo and her cofounders created the first and largest crowdfunding site. Its open-platform strategy (think YouTube and Android) has fewer restrictions than it’s rivals.
- Nina Vaca, Pinnacle Technical Resources uses proprietary technology to provide value to customers and deliver it on time and at the best price.
What do the profiled women share in common? They:
- are all are customer-centric and deliver high-quality goods and services.
- don’t isolate themselves and try to build their companies alone. They asked for help from co-founders, professionals, mentors, other entrepreneurs, board members and employees.
- have large and diverse networks. They are purposeful in using their networks and have a preference for strategically attending conferences as opposed to networking events.
- have a pragmatic approach to managing life and business. It’s not about balance. It’s about prioritizing.
Supporting the anecdotal evidence of my research, I used data from Gender-Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI) Research of High-potential Women Entrepreneurs, commissioned by Dell. Gender-GEDI compares the conditions for women entrepreneurs in 30 countries. For the book, which was commissioned by Dell as a companion piece to the Gender-GEDI and published by Blurb, I concentrated on metrics relevant to the United States and fleshed them out with data sources available here but not elsewhere.
I hope that policy makers, the financial community, the media, support organizations, and large corporations will use this book to develop the ecosystem that will enable women to start and grow high-potential companies. And that they’ll use it to weed out those policies that deter and hamstring women entrepreneurs. Women will definitely learn that women just like them have overcome obstacles to become leaders of high-growth companies.