6 Essential Mentoring Programs for Women Entrepreneurs

advice for women entrepreneurs

Lydia Jones was just a teenager when she created an app, and the young entrepreneur needed advice on how to turn it into a viable business. Looking for guidance, she reached out to a self-described startup expert for suggestions on how to find local mentors.

Instead, a well-respected businessman responded with questions about Jones’ sex life, asking her to share intimate details. When Jones tried to redirect the conversation back to business, he doubled down and pressed her for more information before she ended the conversation.

Image credit: Lydia Jones

While Jones’ story is disheartening, it’s unfortunately not uncommon — especially for those in the technology field. According to the Kapor Center for Social Impact, one in 10 women in technology experience unwanted sexual attention.

Fears about sexual harassment can scare women away from pursuing grants, professional networks, and mentors, hurting their business and professional growth.

6 organizations that can help

Thankfully, there are programs designed specifically to help female entrepreneurs. You can get the advice and training you need without worrying about sexual harassment or unwanted advances.

If you have a business idea or are starting your own small company, these six resources can help you take it to the next level.

1. 37 Angels

37 Angels is an organization led and run by women investors. As angel investors, they focus on providing startups with the funds they need to grow and expand. Business owners can receive up to $150,000 for things like product development, inventory, or process improvement.

However, 37 Angels isn’t just about money. What sets the organization apart from other seed investors is that it also connects startups with seasoned mentors. When 37 Angels accepts your company and invests money into it, the investors will ask where you need help.

Once you’ve identified where you need expert assistance, 37 Angels turns to its network of investors to help you with issues like making business contacts or expanding your headcount. Mentors come from many different fields, including marketing and finance, so you can get the advice you need from people who work in your industry.

2. Astia

Astia is a nonprofit organization in Silicon Valley that’s dedicated to identifying and promoting female entrepreneurs.

Through the Astia network, entrepreneurs get access to expert advisors and peers to share ideas. They also get feedback from experts to perfect their business plan and maximize their chances of success. Entrepreneurs can even get the funding they need to build their businesses.

3. National Association of Women Business Owners

The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) is a robust network of over 5,000 female entrepreneurs. Members have access to events, seminars, leadership development courses, and business classes.

The organization also offers discounts to partner companies, such as UPS and Southwest. These discounts help reduce your costs so you can produce more revenue and expand your business.

NAWBO is a due-based organization. New members can join with a $75 initiation fee and a monthly fee of $39.95.

4. Office of Women’s Business Ownership

If you’re ready to make your dream a reality, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) can help. OWBO has women’s business centers in nearly every state, along with district offices and local partners.

At these centers, women entrepreneurs can get access to credit lines and receive training in finance, business, and marketing.

The Small Business Administration even has loan programs just for women business owners. According to OWBO, startup owners who work with the business centers have a higher survival rate than other small businesses.

5. The Women’s Venture Fund

The Women’s Venture Fund is a nonprofit organization that helps women build successful businesses in urban communities. Offering entrepreneurial training, mentorship, and small business loans, the Women’s Venture Fund accelerates the growth of startups.

Unlike some organizations that offer online courses, the Women’s Venture Fund offers one-on-one sessions with an advisor. You can meet with the advisor to discuss roadblocks, create a business plan, develop a customer relations plan, or review your business’ finances.

It also offers in-person training seminars that cover topics such as how to apply for a business loan and how to get free publicity for your company.

If you need a loan to help your business expand, the Women’s Venture Fund also offers flexible loans. However, they’re only lending to residents in New York and Long Island right now.

6. Women Who Startup

Women Who Startup is a global network of female entrepreneurs. It connects you with professionals to collaborate about ideas and projects to build your company. It also offers workshops and training programs.

The Women Who Startup podcast celebrates women in technology and female entrepreneurs. It profiles successful businesswomen and offers advice on managing and growing your business.

Launching your business

As a business owner, asking for help can be intimidating. And because incidents like the one Jones experienced are so common, you might be wary of reaching out to experts online.

But the above organizations offer a safe learning environment for women leaders to get the training they need, mentorship, and a network of other professionals. If you’re ready to become an entrepreneur and join the ranks of thousands of women business owners nationwide, here are grants that can help you get started.

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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)
  2. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.29% APR to 11.44% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of December 1, 2017 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.29% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.34% plus 4.20% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2017, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.23%. Variable interest rates range from 6.02% – 15.97% (6.02% – 15.97% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of your loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Fixed interest rates range from 5.99% – 16.24% (5.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with Citizens Bank at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, Citizens Bank checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Benefit: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7.39% - 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
5.29% - 14.24%1$5,000 - $100,000Visit SoFi
8.00% - 25.00%$5,000 - $35,000Visit Payoff
5.99% - 16.24%2$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
5.99% - 35.89%$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.25% - 14.24%$2,000 - $50,000Visit Earnest
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