Tarrant County programs focus on supporting women entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur Palmira Cumbo received funding from a TechFW program. Photo courtesy of TechFW

Tracy Irby, director of the Center for Women Entrepreneurs at Texas Women’s University in Denton, sees a lot of women entrepreneurs.

Funding, no surprise, is a top concern. 

She also notices that many of the entrepreneurs aren’t aware of the resources available for them. 

“They tend to think they’re alone and don’t know there is an opportunity for them to get training,” she said

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There are a few more resources becoming available in this area.

For some start-ups, those additional training resources can be out of reach. TechFW and Satori Capital recently partnered on a program to help women entrepreneurs. 

In December, TechFW, the accelerator and incubator in Tarrant County focused on technology companies, and Satori Capital, a locally based investment firm, announced a partnership to give five awards of $1,000 each to female entrepreneurs allowing them to participate in TechFW’s ThinkLab, an accelerator program. The awards provide education, coaching, mentoring and networking with entrepreneurial leaders, and the training to potentially take their ideas to market.

The partnership with Satori Capital removes any cost barriers that may hinder a female entrepreneur from participating in the program.

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“We’re excited and thankful for Satori Capital’s gift that allows us to expand our support of female innovators,” said Hayden Blackburn, executive director of TechFW, in a news release. “Just over 50 percent of our member companies have women on the founding and management teams and we are excited to grow that support with these awards.” 

The companies receiving the awards cover a variety of business ventures from human resources, retail, engineering to health care.

The Center for Women Entrepreneurs, part of Texas Woman’s University’s Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership, was the first partner for a women-owned startup awards program with TechFW during 2021.

“Access to capital and entrepreneurial training are often stumbling blocks for woman-owned businesses,” said Irby.

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Keith M. Hmieleski, professor of entrepreneurship in the Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at TCU’s Neeley School of Business, said there is not as much a difference between men and women in their odds of raising funds for startups as there once was.

However, he said, “men tend to raise a lot more money and they tend to ask for a lot more money.”

Fort Worth entrepreneur Cortney Gumbleton, who recently joined TechFW as assistant director, has a podcast called The FoundHers Club, that focuses on women entrepreneurs.

She says there are some key areas where female entrepreneurs often run into problems gaining traction for their business.  

The first is access to funding, she said. Information from business data provider Crunchbase says U.S. startups raised a record $143 billion in 2020, but funding for companies founded solely by female entrepreneurs received only $3.2 billion.

“The reason is that venture capitalists tend to invest in people who look like them,” she said. That is one reason that local angel investor group Cowtown Angels has made it a goal to increase the number of women in the organization, she said.

The second factor for women entrepreneurs is the “struggle to be taken seriously,” she said. “Many industries are male-dominated.”As a result, Gumbleton said, many women have imposter syndrome or career fear and don’t feel like they belong in their industry of choice. 

Texas Woman’s University’s Center for Women Entrepreneurs is currently accepting submissions for its women’s AdvanceHER Grant Program. That program is aimed at providing support for more-established women-owned businesses. 

These grants, each worth $25,000, will be awarded to women entrepreneurs throughout Texas that have been in business for at least two or more years and have 3-20 employees. Preference will be given to businesses focused on information technology, life sciences, clean energy and advanced manufacturing. Applications are open through March 4 and awardees will be announced March 25.

“We are thrilled to now offer this grant program to established businesses because it was originally set for 2020 and then COVID hit,” said CWE director Irby. “It will help women business owners get what they need to take their business to a new level.”

Here are some short profiles of the five start-ups receiving awards from TechFW and Satori Capital from the news release:

Allbodies Collective 

Ibby Roscoe and her company, AllBodies Collective, promote a new standard of care for women and non-binary individuals. 

“We need to start meeting people where they are and support them toward the goals that matter most to them,” Roscoe said in a news release. “We want to give better access to whole-person care that encompasses preventative and intervention outcomes from all provider specialties. I am very passionate about creating a space to disrupt the health care system.” 

Aqua Luci 

Aqua Luci is a water purification solution company founded by Palmira Cumbo, an electrical engineering student at the University of Texas in Arlington. 

Cumbo envisions starting in Angola because the company’s marketing strategies include raising awareness and providing sustainable purified water to communities in under-developed countries. 

The system is powered by a solar cell that uses a 70 x 142-inch solar panel that captures sunlight and generates a flow of electrons that charge a 12V battery. The electricity in the battery will be used to charge the UV lamp, control circuit and pumps. The stored electricity in the battery will also be used to power these components on days when there is little-to-no sunlight. 

Cumbo is raising money for a prototype and operations. 

DEI Services 

DEI Services connects under-represented talent to ideal careers and supports employers in creating actionable change to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

The company, founded by Mystica Jacob, helps under-represented groups set up systems that help them bring their authentic self while being supported to help close gaps in wages. 

DEI Services currently assists with resumes, cover letters, networking and interview prep. The company’s goal is to offer training on how to negotiate salaries, how to start employee resource groups, and how to offer virtual conferences for job seekers and companies. 

Job Baby 

Job Baby is aimed at hourly employment needs in retail, food service, hospitality, call center or warehouse occupation. Job Baby seeks to save time and money for hiring mangers seeking hourly workers by pre-screening job applicants, according to the company, founded by Angela Keener. The platform will filter candidates based on acceptable hourly pay, shift schedule and exact location.

Small Kindness 

The goal of Small Kindness is to unlock revenue for small businesses in the gift card market. Within two years, founder Abby Mayer projects to have funneled at least $2.4 million to small businesses, especially minority-owned businesses, directly through digital gift card transactions on the Small Kindness app.

She has launched on social media and plans to have at least 500 small businesses on the Small Kindness platform by the end of 2022, according to the news release. 

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article was originally published by Fort Worth Report.