Hundreds of women gathered in Atlanta on Wednesday morning to hear from speakers, participate in activities centered around branding, finance, and goal-setting, and network. But though the women were diverse in race, hometown, and age, they had one thing in common: all were business founders and owners.
“Atlanta is kind of on the map already for small businesses and female-founded companies… we just saw the spirit of women in this city,” Suzan Kereere, Head of Global Merchant Client Group at Visa, tells Hypepotamus. Kereere had just delivered a talk to the room about the role women-owned businesses play in the economy.
The talk was part of the inaugural She’s Next studio workshop, a half-day event hosted by Visa and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, who also leads a group called the Female Founder Collective.
Kereere says they chose Atlanta as the first location for She’s Next specifically because of its strength for women-owned small businesses. Ahead of the event, Visa conducted a nationwide survey of women business owners and the challenges they face.
Based on data collected, Visa determined that Atlanta was one of the U.S. cities with the highest levels of opportunity for women entrepreneurs. However, they still identified many challenges, the two biggest of which Kereere says are “access to capital and technology resources.”
She’s Next aimed to help alleviate those challenges. Atlanta’s female business owners cited their interest in workshops that specifically addressed digital marketing (59 percent), social media (50 percent), learning how to accept and make payments (32 percent), and connecting with experts from other local businesses (40 percent).
She’s Next hosted representatives from companies such as Facebook, Square, and Instagram, as well as experts from Visa, to address those topics.
Rebecca Minkoff also shared her own experience bootstrapping to get her business off the ground. Her apparel company now brings in over $100 million in gross sales each year.
“[Female Founder Collective] is about giving you tools and resources that I didn’t get to have,” Minkoff said on stage. “If we can give you the tools, we can cut through the fat and get you to where you need to be a lot faster.”
Minkoff and Kereere addressed some of the specific issues facing female founders both at-large and in Atlanta specifically. For example, Minkoff talked about the difficulty she faced when seeking capital from outside investors. In the survey, almost three-quarters of women surveyed reported difficulty obtaining the funding they needed to start their business.
In Atlanta, that challenge was magnified, with 83 percent citing funding challenges.
Atlanta women also reported being more concerned than the national average about not being able to grow as fast as they need to, developing an online presence, and raising capital.
Still, women in the room talked about the resources they do have in Atlanta, including support from entities like the local Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative.
“Years ago, I started a PR consulting practice in West Palm Beach. It felt impossible to get it off the ground. The second I moved to Atlanta, my client list exploded,” Michelle Khouri, a conference attendee and founder of FRQNCY Media, tells Hypepotamus.
“Atlanta embraces its local entrepreneurs, and is especially friendly to female founders. I imagine it’s rare to find a city that makes it so easy and organic to build large, dedicated networks of advisers and supporters like I’ve been able to build in Atlanta.”
“That kind of support can make or break a business,” she says. “I’m glad companies like VISA are taking note of this city’s entrepreneurial spirit.”