Are you a woman business owner aiming to build a high-growth company? If so, you need to know about Project Entrepreneur. A new collaboration between the Rent the Runway Foundation and UBS’ philanthropic initiative Elevating Entrepreneurs, Project Entrepreneur will help women business owners grow their businesses into large-scale, “disruptive” companies.
Rent the Runway cofounders Jenny Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman hope that Project Entrepreneur will help other women entrepreneurs overcome some of the hurdles they struggled with in launching their online dress rental company. In an interview with Fast Company, Fleiss noted that women entrepreneurs seeking financing to grow their companies often face resistance from predominantly male investors. For example, she said, she and Hyman had trouble convincing male venture capitalists that women would actually rent dresses for special events.
Project Entrepreneur is a nationwide venture competition and educational program that will provide female entrepreneurs with the tools they need to build high growth, high impact businesses. “Project Entrepreneur offers the experience, training and networks needed to ignite bold ideas and help women build economically impactful companies,” said Hyman in announcing the project. “There are so many passionate, entrepreneurial women founding businesses today, but only four percent of these women-owned businesses are generating $500K or more in annual revenue.”
The venture competition component of Project Entrepreneur is open to women entrepreneurs who are beyond the ideation stage and intend to build a high-growth company using an existing prototype or beta technology. The top 200 finalists in the competition will be invited to attend a two-day Entrepreneurship Workshop weekend in New York City in April 2016; at the event, they will receive targeted support for their businesses. The workshop will culminate in a live pitch in which a panel of successful entrepreneurs and investors will choose three winning teams to receive a cash prize of $10,000 each and a spot in a five-week accelerator program hosted at Rent the Runway’s headquarters.
However, you don’t have to be a competition finalist to benefit from Project Entrepreneur. At the Project Entrepreneur website, you can find a resource hub including educational content about topics such as product building and testing, developing a growth strategy, creating a minimum viable products and more, as well as articles and inspirational stories from successful women entrepreneurs.
In addition, the organization is also offering a series of free educational summits where attendees can workshop their business ideas with successful entrepreneurial women and hear speeches by Hyman, Fleiss and other small business leaders and experts. The summit dates are:
- Saturday, October 17, New York City
1-5pm, Apella NYC, 450 E 29th St., New York, NY 10016
- Thursday, November 5, Austin
3-7pm, Hotel Van Zandt, 605 Davis St., Austin, TX 78701
- Saturday, November 14, Washington, DC
1-5pm, Halcyon House, 3400 Prospect St. NW, Washington, DC 20007
Register for the summits or apply for the Project Entrepreneur venture competition at projectentrepreneur.org. The deadline for the competition is January 8, 2016.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.