Why does supporting women even matter? These are my own professional and personal experiences.
When did supporting other women become so expensive?
I quit counting after $87,453, that was only 9-months in.
When I decided to start MAIA, I knew I was going to become an entrepreneur while trying to lift up millions of female entrepreneurs, and the only way to do it right was to experience, for myself, every amazing high and every grueling low. I decided I would talk to incubators, women’s associations and organizations, startup contests, funders, crowdfunding platforms, co-working spaces; I wanted to humbly experience the full gamut so that I would know what it felt like for the women I would come to work for and support every single day at MAIA.
Each of these places could have helped me and would have helped me. I didn’t talk to anyone that didn’t have a values-driven pitch, in addition to their product, service, or solution. But their price tag was so high that it seemed prohibitive for all those who needed their services the most. And as I was experiencing this struggle to find accessible spaces, I also noticed the audience: predominantly white middle-upper class women. For $87,453, I could have bought access to each and every one of these spaces.
My partner, Angel Rowell, found a local organization online, GirlCreative, who threw free events. Free women-centric networking events were a treasure for us. I worry that the women-space has become exclusive and elitist, and many of the groups and organizations come with moderate to hefty price tags to join or to attend their events. The difficulties in creating women centric spaces has created inequity in their costs. Girl Creative was a bit of an anomaly, and that made me curious. We met Kylee who told us she started this shortly after she and her husband launched their business; she needed to network and she had less than $20 in her bank account. She couldn’t find an event she could afford so she decided to throw her own. Since she launched, more than 600 women have attended her free events.
I recently met a woman who started the local chapter of a national women’s organization. She recruited and built the local chapter from its infancy. She’s stepping down because only 10% of their dues stay within her local chapter, the rest fund the national organization. 90% of her work is sent away.
When did supporting other women become so damn expensive, exclusive, and kinda elitist? I ask this not because I believe that women should provide free services, quite the contrary. I ask this because I don’t know how women who do not have the $87,453 will ever be able to start their fight, let alone thrive in it.
When I started MAIA I wanted anyone and everyone to be able feel the gift of being a part of something bigger than themselves, the gift of supporting the advancement of all women with no financial or systemic barriers — women-conscious consumerism was feeding my soul at a time that I felt the need to take more action in alignment with these values. MAIA would stand for all women, regardless of whether they knew how to raise capital, whether they had the resources, whether they were independently wealthy, whether they were PR and marketing pros, whether they could network with establishment incubators…or not. MAIA would be about all of us, together.
Spend the money you are already spending, but with women.
Help women-owned businesses grow, hire and pay female employees, allow women to redesign the way to work so that it works for them. Go work for women, or start your own business! MAIA is about a movement, a promise to support women, all women.
I trust our consumers and women-owned businesses to tell us what they need. I never wanted MAIA to skim already slim margins from the women-owned small businesses; I saw that in the Supplier Diversity Programs in Corporate America. Women-owned businesses already have enough hurdles to jump. MAIA will always be affordable to any woman-owned business. In fact, MAIA wants you to go spend your money more directly with women of color and underrepresented women business owners. Go out of your way to support them. Of the 12.3M women-owned businesses in the US, more than 10M are sole proprietors, and while annual revenues for non-minority owners jumped to $212K last year, revenues for minority owners decreased to $66K. Why? Access to funding and customers. And that’s what we’re here for.
I wanted to test the theory of the American Dream. It’s supposed to be possible for anyone as long as you are willing to work for it, so if that’s true I shouldn’t have to “buy” into it in order to get access to it. And perhaps that’s why the Dream is possible for some, just not all.
In this world, there are a lot of people saying the right things, calling out inequity, injustice, inaccessibility, and then there are the people living it. Let’s be both. Thanks, Kylee, you inspired me.
Peace & Love,