4 Women Make Entrepreneurship Happen in Miami
Originally posted on Forbes by Geri Stengel
When you think entrepreneurship, most people think of a couple of guys in a suburban garage in Silicon Valley, not women in Miami.
A new wave of entrepreneurs who crave a more vibrant and diverse environment to fuel their creativity are starting businesses in Miami—not surprising to those who know it is the only major city in the U.S. to be started by a woman. Now, women are leading the charge to turn Miami into an entrepreneurial hub.
I spoke with three women who are helping entrepreneurs start, fund and scale businesses in Miami and one who is living the life as a high-growth women entrepreneur. I’ll tell you more about them in a moment, but first a little about Miami. These female movers and shakers raved about the place they live and work.
It is a major center of finance, commerce, culture, media, entertainment, the arts, and international trade.
It has the largest concentration of international banks in the U.S., and many large national and international companies have offices there.
It is a gateway to Latin America and Europe.
It has a cosmopolitan population with the highest concentration of foreign-born people in the U.S., even more than Silicon Valley.*
It has the highest startup rate per capita of any large city, according to Kauffman, which researches entrepreneurship.
It has a wealthy population that can afford to fund startups. Miami ranks as the 7th top global city in wealth, according to a survey that Knight Frank did, which ranks cities by quality of life, knowledge and influence, and political power.
Yet, even with all it has going for itself, Miami entrepreneurs aren’t growing big companies; you know, the ones that make tons of money and employ lots of people. This is true for entrepreneurs in general and women specifically. Miami ranks 4th in terms of the number of women-owned businesses and 21st in terms of economic clout, according to The 2014 State of Women Owned Businesses.
Miami’s challenges, according to a report by Endeavor Miami sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, include:
poor access to early stage financing
restricted access to talent
low levels of mentorship from successful founders
few entrepreneur role models
Meet the women in Miami who are growing or helping to grow businesses big.
Susan Amat, founded Venture Hive, which offers a 12-week accelerator program for startups that includes training, mentoring, and the opportunity to build relationships with fellow entrepreneurs with whom they can problem solve. It focuses on startups in hospitality and tourism, trade and logistics, healthcare, and creative sectors such as the design, music, art, and fashion industries. All the industries that are are thriving in Miami. Venture Hive offers $25,000 non-equity grants and free office space in downtown Miami for 12 months. Venture Hive is funded by Miami Downtown Development Authority and Miami-Dade County.
Laura Maydon is the managing director of Endeavor Miami. Since 1997, Endeavor has been identifying and supporting high impact entrepreneurs in emerging countries such as Chile, South Africa and Turkey. These entrepreneurs are already successful but need help scaling their companies. Entrepreneurs are provided with mentorship, strategic advice, networks with connections to markets and capital, and inspiration. Miami is Endeavor’s first program in the U.S., with initial funding from the Knight Foundation.
Joanna Schwartz is CEO of EarlyShares, an online-equity crowdfunding platform. It allows accredited investors to invest in vetted private companies among other opportunities. Prior to crowdfunding, raising equity financing among wealthy individuals or institutions was for the most part a closed door, club-like environment filled with elite white men. Crowdfunding levels the playing field for anyone raising money, but its impact may be greatest on underrepresented groups, such as women.
Schwartz will be on a panel I moderate at a crowdfinancing conference called Women: A Big Opportunity for Crowdfinancing. Since the SEC implemented Title II of the JOBS Act and lifted its longtime ban on general solicitation, a new asset class has emerged—Private Issuers Publicly Raising (PIPR). These companies have the ability to advertise their offerings to the general public under the Reg D 506(c) exemption. Crowdnetic and Ventureneer, my company, will be sharing results from the first year’s data comparing women-led PIPR to all PIPR.
Tracy LaFlamme Ortega is the founder and CEO of PREPWORKS, an education technology company. In 2005, Ortega started her company as an in-person learning center. She translated this tutoring process for state assessments, end-of-course exams, college readiness, and college admissions exams.
PREPWORKS is in 26 states and 14 countries. Miami has proven to be an easy location to travel within the states or abroad.
Ortega has solved the talent shortage by working with people who are located elsewhere. Technology enables the team to work collaboratively no matter where they are located, but she brings the team together through in-person retreats twice a year.
Ortega was able to raise angel financing locally, but when she wanted strategic institutional money she sourced it outside of Miami.
So are you ready to pack your bags and have a suntan all year round?
*This article was updated. Miami doesn’t tout the highest percentage of technology immigrant entrepreneurs —higher than Silicon Valley.