In 2012 I heard of Astia, Adidi, The Pink Shoe Club, 85 Broads. All of them have support networks and resources to help women entrepreneurs and leaders. Why did it take so long for me to discover these (somewhat embarrassing as some of these organisations have been around for a decade) and interestingly enough I have asked a number of women I know about these organisations and they are not as well known as they ought to be and hence this blog entry to do my little bit to spread the word.
Astia is a women’s angel club cum accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs running high growth companies and startups. Like many great things that have been borne out of Silicon Valley, this not-for-profit is now truly a global organisation with chapters or offices around the world. I had the pleasure of meeting one such woman entrepreneur who is behind upperstreet.com, an online platform for women to custom build their shoes. The entrepreneur told me that she was a part of the accelerator programme, which sparked my curiosity around the impact that groups such as are having. Like the Startup Leadership Programme that I lead for the UK, where we track the investment raised by SLP Fellows that successfully complete the programme, Astia boasts an impressive haul of not only $1bn raised since 2003 but also 23 exits and 2 IPOs at the time of writing this entry. I will come back to these numbers in a few months to try and understand the pace at which they are accelerating women led enterprise around the world. You can find out more on: http://astia.org
Financial services have long seen female entrepreneurs and customers as a niche segment on to themselves and therefore Addidi did not strike me as an entirely innovative proposition. UBS for instance has an offer for wealth management for women. However Addidi as a wealth management boutique has also been making steady in-roads through innovative programmes such as its Addidi Angels programme that is aimed at increasing the number of women angel investors (currently estimated to be around 5%) and the Pioneers programme which is geared at helping clients deploy their wealth to create social impact and social returns. You can find out more about this wealth management company at: www.addidi.com/
The Pink Shoe Club does not have investment as a stated objective but rather is there as a platform to connect women leaders to one another. Led by Helen Martin Gee the group is fairly active hosting a number of events across the city. An interesting link to Pakistan is that one of the Pink Shoe Club’s founding members/patrons was none other than the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. What is encouraging to see is the growing collaboration between these excellent groups as was recently the case between the Pink Shoe Club and Addidi. I remain confused about their logo which bears striking resemblance to the Thomas Pink Company. This would make sense if the group was in-fact backed by the company but there is no such reference anywhere on the website. Logos aside the group is clearly helping connect and invigorate the women leaders in the UK and boasts an impressive array of associated women in politics and business from Baroness Warsi (Chairperson of the Conservative party at the time of writing) to Sarah Haywood (Designer) – seen in picture below taken from the pinkshoeclub website entry for the icons awards.
You know that this is topical when the last few issues of Wired Magazine had mention of organisations such as Levoleague which is the super-sized network for young professional women co-founded by Brazilian born (Lebanese) Caroline Goshn and now counts 180K members on its website. Powerful female backers are giving these organisations additional PR which in turn is driving even greater membership take up.
Finally I come to 85 Broads which was started off by a few women from the NYC street address for Goldman Sachs offices now has 30,000 members. The global professional network aims to help women across its chapters that range from India, China, Brazil, UK and all across the United States not to mention numerous other countries by connecting them to jobs, events and opportunities.
Insight: These groups and/or organisations are B2B data gold mines for those companies looking to target women consumers for products and services and would do well to support their excellent work through sponsorships and partnerships where able to do so. Some of this is already happening.
Insight: There are opportunities for employers to be seen to back such organisations as in the case of White & Case which recently hosted a fashion focused event for 85Broads being seen as advocates for women empowerment organisations and truly walking the diversity walk.
With countless such programmes and initiatives mushrooming everywhere from India to the US, I rest easy that my daughters will have much to look forward to in the future should they be able to get the mentoring and support that these organisations are giving out. As for the men…don’t worry boys I wore a pink tie to my first pink shoe club event and was made to feel very welcome.