We Want to Feature Your Startup Story

Colleen DeBaise By Colleen DeBaise

TSE has heard from nearly 600 female entrepreneurs since the 1000 Stories project began and is actively seeking more, all of which will be featured on this site.

Nadya Saib

Nadya Saib, founder of Indonesian natural soaps company Wangsa Jelita.

Nadya Saib is running a social enterprise in Indonesia that sustains local farmers. In New York, Tze Chun has launched a startup that connects emerging artists with art collectors. And India’s Neha Modgil is leading her own tech-design firm, bringing her 3-month-old baby to work with her.

These are some of the stories The Story Exchange has collected over the past year as part of our “1,000 Stories” campaign, an ongoing research project with Babson College. The goal is to understand the needs of women business owners around the world while giving these often-overlooked entrepreneurs media exposure.

TSE has heard from nearly 600 female entrepreneurs since the project began (see the full list here) — and is actively seeking 400 more submissions, all of which will be featured on TheStoryExchange.org. Once we’ve collected 1,000 stories, we’ll analyze the experiences of women when it comes to raising capital, generating revenue and juggling work and family. Our hope is that the findings will help policymakers, the financial industry and others better address women’s entrepreneurial needs.

As part of the research, we ask women on our submission form about the reasons for starting their business in the first place. Already, the early data is revealing that women around the world share similarities. Whether they are located in the U.S. or elsewhere, the No. 1 reason is “saw a need or gap in the market” — perhaps not surprising as entrepreneurs (wherever they are located) are typically innovative sorts who come forward with solutions, instead of waiting for others to invent them.

But the second most common reason — “to make a difference” —  is striking, mostly because it has nothing to do with profit. We hazard a guess that “revenue generation” or “wealth accumulation” might be higher up on the list if this were a survey of male entrepreneurs. The idea that women business owners are driven by a mission or social need is consistent with other research, such as the GEM Report on Social Entrepreneurship (also conducted by Babson). That survey finds that the rate of women creating social enterprises is surpassing that of men in many countries, including Russia, Malaysia and Argentina.

The Story Exchange, Ida Cheinman, Substance151

Ida Cheinman, founder of marketing firm Substance 51.

“I founded Substance151 with the vision to create a company with a conscience – where success is measured not only on its profitability, but also on its environmental and social impact,” Ida Cheinman told us in her submission.  Her Baltimore branding firm is a B Corporation, a legal structure that allows a company to make its mission a priority over profit.

Holly Bantleman started her U.K. enterprise, Raise the Roof, to provide tin roofing for people living on a dumpsite in Kenya. “Our ultimate success will come when our mission is fulfilled,” she said on her form. Danielle Gletow, a foster parent in New Jersey, launched her social enterprise, One Simple Wish, to grant wishes to foster children and “create a way for more people to support children at such a confusing and vulnerable time in their lives.” Her submission has been one of the most popular items on TSE’s site.

We’ve also heard about the challenges that women face as they start and grow their businesses. Lack of financing, particularly during the recent recession, is commonly cited.

Farah_Majidzadeh_TSE

Farah Majidzadeh, founder of Resource International Inc., an engineering consulting firm.

Farah Majidzadeh, who started Resource International Inc. in the basement of her Ohio home in 1973, called the “hostile” banking situation after the 2008 crisis her biggest obstacle in 40 years. “As a small business, firms like mine no longer had the support of a friendly banker,” she told us.

Still other female entrepreneurs report not being able to find funding at all, which could also be linked to gender bias. U.S. women who seek first-year financing receive about 80 percent less capital than men, according to research funded by the Kauffman Foundation.

The 1,000 Stories project comes at a time of high rates of entrepreneurship for women. Since 1997, the number of women-owned firms has grown at 1.5 times the national average, according to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Business Report, released by American Express OPEN. Women-owned firms added an estimated 175,000 jobs to the U.S. economy since 2007; among male-owned firms, employment has declined over the past six years.

Yet, most of the stories that capture media attention are those of high-growth startups, many of which are male-owned and not representative of the majority of small businesses. “The stories and the optic are so often male,” says Victoria Wang, co-founder of The Story Exchange. “Our 1,000 Stories campaign will give women a platform and reveal their entrepreneurial needs.”

A further goal of the 1000 Stories project is to provide role models for women around the world who are struggling to start and grow businesses. On our submission form, we ask women who their role models are. Too often — see examples like Tryna Gower, Michele Israel and Tracy Czech — the answer is: “I don’t have one.” We hope to change that.

Click here to submit your story to The Story Exchange’s 1,000 Stories project.
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Posted: January 13, 2014

Colleen DeBaiseWe Want to Feature Your Startup Story
  • Inspiring quest there. What happened after? Take care!

  • Om Kar

    Hi
    Below is our startup story , I will be happy if you will feature us .
    When it has become the norm to whip out our phones to check online reviews for everything—be it for a new restaurant or the latest Bluetooth speakers, the process for college search and discovery is still done the traditional way. Youngsters whittle down their list of colleges to apply to from magazine rankings or from what their peers are saying. They spend hours on end doing research work, making the whole process tiresome and time-consuming.
    Hardik Thakkar and Upneet Grover found themselves in this exact situation when they were looking to pursue their post-graduate degrees. Friends since their days in Infosys, the duo would always discuss ideas and were sure that they wanted to start a company together.
    In June 2014, they finally decided that they needed to start something that worked as a social college search platform. They launched Getmyuni last February to help students choose the right college through exhaustive reviews and peer ratings, engaging forums and alumni connect.
    Bringing in the peer connect
    While choosing colleges for their PG, both Hardik and Upneet struggled to get relevant information from peers and also to communicate with fellow students/alumni to understand the pros and cons of each college.
    There was scattered information available on different forums and they mostly had to rely on personal connections to get peer information. Thus they wanted to primarily focus on the social connect aspect of Getmyuni.
    The duo started Getmyuni after substantial groundwork. Hardik has moved on from the team, which now has Nirmanyu Arora, who has plenty of hands-on experience with creating products in the edutech domain, Manish Gupta, an MBA in Business Analytics, and Tushar Mehta, a BE from NSIT.
    The initial challenges for the startup included the difficulty in sourcing user-generated content and getting students to write college reviews without having to spend money on it.As a result we created campus ambassador programmes, strong referrals and in product marketing programmes and were lucky to have a good word-of-mouth going around. We were surprised by the number of students who were willing to help aspirants and hence wrote long, unbiased reviews,” says 29-year-old Upneet.
    Breaking the market
    He adds that they came up with a new revenue stream where they were enabling brands and companies to reach out to students via competitions.
    “We were making enough money to support the business till we finally got the funding of $50,000 from Tlabs. With that funding plus our revenues increasing month-on-month we’ve been able to scale to a million users per month on the platform, something we are incredibly proud of,” says Upneet.Apart from classified platforms like eShiksha, HT Campus and the India Today review, there also is CollegeDekho, a platform that helps students connect with colleges. It had raised a seed funding of $2 million from Man Capital, and also raised funding from GinarSoft. CollegeDekho has over 22,000 colleges listed.
    However, Upneet believes that the classifieds space is tradition and has been built purely to generate leads. There isn’t much peer information.
    “We saw a huge opportunity in the user-generated content space in education, given that there were clear winners in other industries and they all had one thing in common – they had UGC at their core, for example, Zomato for food, Tripadvisor for travel and Glassdoor for jobs,” explains Upneet.
    Numbers and future
    Getmyuni claims to have over 11,000 colleges listed and over 40,000 student-written reviews on its platform. Since its inception the team claims to have over one million sessions, growing at 60 percent month-on-month.
    Their revenue run rate is at Rs 10 lakh. The revenue model of the platform includes generating and selling high quality, verified student leads to colleges that are the right fit, and also ads and student enrollment.
    The team is looking for its next round of funding. The aim is to fortify its position as the best college search destination and kickstart sales for domestic colleges.
    Getmyuni is also looking to tap into the market for students wishing to study abroad.“We aim to build the strongest college recommendation tool. We believe that currently a lot of students are being misguided by offline consultants to suit themselves, and if there is a fair portal, which bases a student’s background, marks and abilities, using advanced algorithms, to present them with the right set of college recommendations, that product will be a super success,” says Upneet