How D.C.’s EnrichHer is Breaking Down Barriers for Both Women Entrepreneurs and Investors
As Roshawnna Novellus was pitching her startup around the investor circuits, she noticed a void. The investors making the decision as to whether or not she’d get funding didn’t look like her. Most of them were men.
That’s what Novellus hopes to combat with her startup, EnrichHer.
EnrichHER is a platform with two goals: First, helping more women-led businesses find capital through a crowdfunding platform. Second, breaking down the barriers to entry for people with little disposable income to become investors by letting them donate to a startup’s crowdfunding campaign. A member of the Halcyon Incubator, the company launched its platform earlier this month to allow investors to donate directly to women-led businesses. The platform also has a chat feature so that investors and business owners can interact and ask questions.
“There’s a huge issue in terms of women getting funding for their companies,” said Novellus. “And a lot of people only discuss funding from the venture or donation space, but debt space is not included in the discussion.”
According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, women received just over 2 percent of investor and venture capital funding, and women-led businesses made up only 4.9 percent of the total number of VC deals.
EnrichHer focuses on funding women-led startups via the debt space, so focusing on either helping a startup founder pay off their small business loans or assisting women entrepreneurs who simply can’t get a bank loan due to strict application requirements. It makes sense, Novellus said, seeing as most women are wary of going the equity route and having others own part of their companies.
“A lot of women don’t want other people to own their companies, so that’s why I wanted to focus on the debt space,” said Novellus. “The debt space is typically run by banks that have a very strict requirement system in place that a lot of businesses can not go through.”
Novellus said that EnrichHer is more inclusive of different risk profiles, which helps women-led businesses. So far, EnrichHer has garnered attention from a diverse set of women-led businesses including a tattoo parlor, a dance studio and a domestic violence center.
To join EnrichHer’s platform, investors and businesses sign up on the website and answer a questionnaire. The questions for entrepreneurs focus on the company’s mission and goals. For investors, the questionnaire dives into risk tolerance. Once the vetting is complete, they are free to begin receiving and sending money through the platform.
“Investors want to know how you’re spending money, but they also want to feel like they are a part of a solution,” Novellus said. “They want to know that they’re helping someone live out their dreams.”
The company also hosts EnrichHer Spark events across the country for women entrepreneurs to flex their muscles, network and gain insight about raising capital. With a team of eight employees and dozens of volunteers, EnrichHer has been able to host seminars and pitch competitions in San Francisco, Atlanta and Charlotte. The next EnrichHer Spark will be in D.C. on May 3.
“As long as a woman can illustrate that they have the ability to repay loans and are financially successful, I believe that they should be supported,” said Novellus.