2018 Year in Review // Message from Co-founder and Director of Entrepreneur Development // News // Dec 10 2018

2018 Year in Review

By Amy Gannon and Heather Wentler

2018 was a big year for Doyenne. In our sixth year as an organization, we launched our Evergreen Fund, made key strategic decisions to support our growth, and held our first events in our first expansion city.

We’d like to share some of the details of these milestones that we are most proud of and share how they will help us continue to fulfill our mission in 2019.

The Evergreen Fund:

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • In the first year of the 2-year Evergreen Fund, we committed $250,000 to businesses led by women and people of color.
  • We gave out 20 grants and 3 equity investments.
  • Our funding recipients are 80% female, 20% male, and 40% people of color (100% of our male recipients are people of color).
  • About half of the businesses are technology platforms, eight are physical products, and the rest are service businesses or platform/service combinations.
  • In most cases, we are either the first money in or we’re in the first round of funding.
  • In four rounds, we received 68 applications.
  • Our eight-person Evergreen Fund Committee is made up of seven women and one man, and three people of color.
  • You can read about each of the companies in our portfolio on our website.

We are extremely proud of the money we have given out and the process we have created to do so. In most entrepreneurial ecosystems, getting funding is all about who you know. But with our Evergreen Fund, that is not the case.

We created a robust process that removes the barriers that often stand in the way of women and people of color getting funding. We made sure our application is easy to understand, and provided resources to explain the technical details we are required by law to include. We assembled a diverse committee to review funding applications.

Research shows that when there’s a structured process to funding decisions, women and people of color benefit, because it removes the “gut instinct” element from decisions, which typically sways decisions makers to favor the familiar.

When we evaluate an application, we ask ourselves how we can best help the entrepreneur, even if it’s not through funding them. And the beauty of this organization is that we have many other ways to help, through our retreats, our coaching, and connections in our community.

Our fund is very focused on businesses that are scalable. This means it will over-represent technology and product companies, and under-represent service businesses. This focus is intentional. If you look at the differences between male and female business owners, the widest gap is with companies that can scale.

Historically, the world has not told women and girls that they can build BIG ASS COOL BUSINESSES. So we are doing that. When our members come to our retreats, we encourage them to think big, no matter what kind of business they think they are building. We ask, “What would it look like if you had all the funding in the world, all the success?” We give them permission to think big, and then we give them the funding to chase those big ideas.

Key Strategic Decisions:

In 2018 we laid the foundation for a national organization. That meant investing in new technology, raising money to hire a local operations director, and relocating our office.

Technology:

We have chosen an all-in-one technology platform to help us scale our services, support, and community to a national level. We will be rolling out this platform throughout 2019, but when it is fully up and running, we will have one service for our website, event registration, membership directory, a learning management system (LMS), and more. We are especially excited about the possibilities for members to share their expertise with each other through classes they create and host on the LMS.

Crowdfunding:

We doubled our fundraising total in 2018 compared to 2017. A big boost to our year-round fundraising effort came from our spring crowdfunding campaign, which brought in $75,000 between corporate matches and community giving. That will enable us to hire our first employee in the first quarter of 2019 (we are currently evaluating candidates).

Starting Block:

In October, we moved our office into Starting Block, Madison’s new hub for entrepreneurship. The expanded space will support our programming and keep us connected to the heart of Madison’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Digital Magazine:

We stepped up our blogging effort in 2018, and in 2019 we are expanding into a monthly digital magazine. We will continue publishing articles that challenge the status quo and model a new approach to ecosystem building with our Founder’s Blog. This year we will be adding Guest Expert Features, where we will create a platform for leaders in our community to share strategic insights about entrepreneurship, and Funded Company Spotlights, where members will share their entrepreneurial stories.

Our most popular blog posts from 2018 were:

Expansion:

In preparation for launching our full programming in Milwaukee in 2019, we spent a lot of time getting to know the entrepreneurial community. We also began conversations in the Fox Valley region and plan to continue having conversations and learning about their ecosystem throughout 2019.

We held three Connect events in Milwaukee and hosted ecosystem tours in Milwaukee and the Fox Valley. We finalized a partnership with the Hudson Business Lounge to host our Milwaukee events there. We held a lot of meetings with entrepreneurs, and gained valuable feedback from them about how Doyenne can best make an impact in their cities.

We’re formalizing a leadership team and finalizing the events calendar for Milwaukee, and are continuing to meet with organizations that we want to collaborate with to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem where women and people of color thrive.

Thank you:

None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the dedication of our volunteer committee members, and the enthusiastic support of our community members, and the bravery and audacity of the entrepreneurial members who are pouring their hearts and souls into building their companies.  

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