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Lipstick Economics

by Kelsi Boyle, Communications Associate

Last week, Business Matters interviewed 5 women entrepreneurs to find out how they approach business, stay true to their values, and achieve positive financial results. I was especially pleased to see two of Investors’ Circle’s ★superstar entrepreneurs★ (and spring presenters) on the list: Karen Bantuveris of VolunteerSpot and Jody Weiss of PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics.

Karen, a management consultant and working mom, got the idea for her business after encountering so many hurdles in the volunteer space. She was passionate about getting involved in her daughter’s school community but not pleased with countless “reply-all” emails and other spam. Karen decided to fix this problem with web-based software and voilà … the tech start-up to mobilize community helpers—VolunteerSpot—was born.

karen&jodyIn its first few months in business, VolunteerSpot already has a database of over 30,000 volunteers mobilizing around various issues such as: animal rights, day laborer breakfast preparation, voter registration, community festivals, etc. When posed with  the question “How difficult has it been for you to find funding?,” Karen replies that although VolunteerSpot received national attention when chosen as one of Investors’ Circle’s 20 hottest social venture start-ups this spring, the market is still incredibly tough. Moreover, angel groups are predominately male and typically less familiar with the volunteering space. With a 27% female membership base, IC is one of the most gender-diverse investment groups, but there is still opportunity for our organization to diversify. Fortunately, VolunteerSpot has been able to find some good angel matches despite the fact that they are “pitching in high heels!”

What is Karen’s advice for budding women entrepreneurs?

“Find something you’re passionately interested in, intersect that with your skill set, and then you’ve got the recipe for moving forward. Getting a good team and surrounding yourself with board members that are experts in industries that can support your business—I think that’s the secret sauce.”

I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Jody Weiss over the years at Investors’ Circle. This former sports agent who decided to dedicate her life to promoting peace and justice has presented at multiple IC Venture Fairs and worked with our investor members to expand her business and create positive change in our world. Peacekeeper Cause-Metics, a socially conscious cosmetics company, raises awareness and dollars towards urgent human rights issues affecting women across the globe.

In her interview, Jody discusses the type of investors she has worked with and how they’ve used money as a tool towards good. In comparison to traditional venture capitalism, socially responsible investing (SRI) has distinct differences. Jody explains that investment in a company like PeaceKeeper means the return is often less and often slower, while the risk just as high as with traditional start-ups. However, “planting seeds of change with your investment dollars is the highest use of money,” she proclaims.

Her story is yet another example of a company struggling between the necessity of giving investors what they want in exchange for the dollars required to create more good, but not at the risk of compromising mission. Jody believes that the answer to this dilemma begins with building discourse about recognizing the bigger picture. Return does not necessarily need to be strictly defined by finance, but by how well it addresses your various concerns. Interviewer Thomas White adds in his own beautiful sentiment, “money can disappear, but the good works we do are always with us.”

Jody’s advice for a woman starting her own business?

  • Don’t focus on money, focus on your buyer
  • Learn finance, or get someone you trust to manage this piece
  • Realize launching is going to cost quadruple the amount you originally thought
  • Be ready… because your business will take over your life!

Listen to the full interviews here.

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