Over the last decade, the role of women entrepreneurs has significantly gain in importance. The EU recognizes Women Entrepreneurs as a source of untapped entrepreneurial potential that has to be more efficiently supported. In order to support the growth and development of startup and early-stage businesses run by women, arises the idea of Women Business Angels – female angel investors, who are interested in investing their expertise, time and money into (fe)male startups.
We talked about the initiative with the Head of Managers of International Activities at Slovak Business Agency, Ms. Stanislava Drusková.
Stanislava, you are the Head of Managers of International Activities Department at Slovak Business Agency (SBA). Let‘s start with the role of SBA in the Slovak business and startup ecosystem. What is the main mission of your Department?
Slovak Business Agency (SBA) is crucial and the oldest specialized non-profit organization for the support of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Slovakia. The main mission of the Department is to expand the portfolio of SBA’s services of the international dimension throughout the preparation and implementation of international projects funded from different EU Programs. The projects are pilot projects opening the themes of Small Business Act, which aims at supporting SMEs and transfer the projects’ best practices into the state support or state programs for SMEs in the future.
I know that recently you have launched an initiative named „CrossEUWBA – Enhancing the cross-sector emergence of new women business angels across Europe“. Simply put, as far as I understood, the initiative tries to promote awareness about business and angel investing among women. Can you elaborate on the main goals and – if needed – correct my assumptions?
Basically, you are right. This initiative links together the female entrepreneurship support with the fostering of private and business angels investment into the entrepreneurship. The 2-year-project CrossEUWBA pursues the overall objective of facilitating the funding of women entrepreneurs (WE) through women business angels (WBAs) and contributing to the creation of a sustainable base of private investment in Europe. More info can be found here.
What is the background of the initiative?
Nowadays, the role of female entrepreneurs is frequently discussed topic. Even today, despite its potential, the number of female entrepreneurs is still low in Europe – only 1/3 of entrepreneurs in EU are women. The 2016’s Eurostat statistics refers to 30,6% in Slovakia, the nationals are even lower (28, 8% of self-employed female entrepreneurs in 2016).
Women are facing more difficulties than men starting and developing a business. Women entrepreneurs face challenges related to access to information, access to finance and to business networks. In order to change that, the European Commission has been coming with different initiatives such as “female entrepreneurship ambassadors” to motivate and stimulate women to set up their own businesses or “The European Network of mentors for Women Entrepreneurs” guiding them to overcome the business obstacles they are facing.
When it comes to access of finance, female entrepreneurs start their businesses with lower capital levels, opting for smaller loans and using family for funding rather than finance from banks or venture capital funds.
The CrossEUWBA project is the reaction on the EU call to do so, to facilitate access to finance throughout created female business angels networks across Europe. It will tackle several barriers that still hold back women from becoming WBAs or finding private funding opportunities through WBA investment for their own companies. These barriers include training, information, stereotypes, and a lack of role models.
Is the initiative only Slovak-based or cross country?
Project brings together the expertise of six entities from 5 European countries which are Germany, Spain, Greece, Poland, and Slovakia with the field of women entrepreneurship support. Besides that, three other consortia were awarded with the grant so the sustainability community building is in progress.
Has the SBA already been working with women entrepreneurs before?
The Agency was founded in 1993 as National Agency for Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (NADSME), so it has been working with female entrepreneurs since its beginning. SBA is also one of the founders of the Slovak Business Angels Network (SBAN) – the first network of business angel investors in Slovakia, which was established in 2011. SBAN is a network of leading Slovak entrepreneurs and managers who are interested in investing their expertise, time and money in startups. No female angels investor yet. The situation in i.e. Poland is different. This type of investment is much more popular and existing network of woman business angels consist of more than 150 women.
What is the road map of the 2-year initiative? What are the basic milestones?
The basic milestones are as follows:
To raise awareness about the angels investment in Slovakia/Europe
To create a sustainable and operational network of female angel investors (WBAs – Women Business Angels in Slovakia and in partner countries), which includes the recruitment of potential WBAs as well as their training and mentoring
To recruit the female startups with the potential for innovation and growth, and train them
How do you plan to spread the word and share the awareness both about the project as well as about your goals?
The different communication channels and tools are being used to promote the project and its activities – i.e. networking, social media (FB CrossEUWBA, FB ambasadorka, CrossEUWBA LinkedIn, etc.), personal meetings with the relevant stakeholders in the field of female entrepreneurship support, women organizations and associations, business clubs, the startup community and startup scene, (in)formal angels investment activities and indicatives, venture capital funds, crowdfunding platforms, any much more.
Can we name some of the relevant stakeholders in the field of female entrepreneurship?
To name just a few, I would mention Top Centrum of Women Entepreneurs (TCP), Platforma žien Slovenska, Združenie žien v podnikaní, Podnikanie ženy – Žilina, Slovak-Czech Women’s Fund, Žena v podnikaní (SOPK), Vidiecka organizácia pre komunitné aktivity (VOKA), www.flexipraca.sk; RPIC Prešov, Harmónia o.z., and many more.
What activities or events have you planned?
The CrossEUWBA project is structured around three activity blocks, which are:
Information, awareness raising and communication activities, that will bring about a change in mindsets and even out the current lack of awareness on existing and new WBA networks, their funding opportunities and role models.
Training and mentoring activities planned for 4Q of 2017 that shall prepare novice WBA through peer-learning and practical training as well as help WE to train pitching skills and relevant business strategies.
Community-building, matchmaking and networking activities starting in November 2017 under which novice WBAs will be recruited, WE and WBAs will be effectively matched (facilitating also cross-border matching), and peer-learning among WBA networks/clubs/associations shall be enhanced for sustainable community building.
Can we also talk about some KPIs or basic measurements based on which you will decide how successful the project was?
The expectations are pretty high. Just to mention some, under this project, at least 85 WBAs is planned to be recruited and at least a total of 5 new WBA clubs/associations/networks will be created in Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, and Greece. Particularly for Slovakia, Germany, Spain and Greece the impact of this project will be very high, since these are partner countries that have been strategically chosen for their high need for WBAs emergence corresponding to a still very low level of WBA participation and less developed or inexistent Women Business Angel network structure.
How do you define business angels for your initiative? Who can become one a business angel and what are the ways to do it?
The woman business angel is an individual investor that invests directly or through her personal holding her own money, experiences and knowledge predominantly in seed or startup companies with no family relationships. In exchange, they become owners of the company’s shares. They bring to the company financial and non-financial support in addition to increase the chances of company’s success and profitable return from the investment.
Promising leads to become WBAs are the successful, experienced women capable and willing to invest. Lack of investment process’ experience of novice WBAs will be tackled throughout the project’s training and mentoring activities. And how to become angel investor? The call will be published in the coming months with the exact instructions how to join the WBA Network. Stay tuned through our website or Facebook page.