By Erin E. Arvedlund
The Philadelphia Inquirer.
How do female entrepreneurs find funding in the Philadelphia region?
Like many women hoping to start their own businesses, Donna Maria Zadie and Julia Bayardi turned to friends and family for investment advice — and dollars — for their new clinical-massage school in Center City, where classes will begin this month.
To open their Philadelphia School of Massage & Body Work at the Ellington building at 1500 Chestnut St., Zadie says, “we got some money from one other investor and Julia’s mom.”
“We decided not to go to a bank because my husband is in finance, and he’s a mortgage lender. He’s around people who want to invest, so he found people who were interested,” she says. “It helps the investors as much as it’s helping us.
Bayardi, 32, a New Hope native, brought the truly personal connection: “Julia’s mom had a vested interest, because of course she’s helping her daughter,” Zadie, 46, of South Philadelphia, says.
A heavy marketing campaign is underway now to obtain students. “We do social media, putting out fliers, networking events, and talking to people,” she says.
An open-house party is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Monday for prospective students, and the first day of classes is Oct. 6. A grand opening is planned for Oct. 17.
Business owner Andreana Chryssos, 30, a Berwyn native, studied contracts in law school, then contracted with Jamba Juice to open a franchise in the King of Prussia Mall.
“I used my law degree negotiating contracts and leases, and it gives me a different perspective,” she says. Her parents are silent investors, each owning 5 percent, while she owns the majority 90 percent of the holding company.
Financing was particularly hard to get for a new franchise, especially in an area of the country where the brand was fairly new.
“All the funds came out of our own pockets,” Chryssos says.
She has been approached by investment firms wanting to buy the business, but adds that “I’m not interested in that at this point. I want to see it through.”
She just opened two more Jamba Juice franchises, in Malvern and Willow Grove.
Organizations that can help
Geri Swift, president of the Women’s Business Development Center and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Southern New Jersey, says the experience of these women is typical.
“Many women use credit cards [to start their businesses], which we discourage. Then they go to family, and then to the bank,” Swift says.
Instead, women should seek funding in the reverse order.
“Women entrepreneurs should have a great relationship with their banker first — before they become a business owner.” she advises.
Swift’s two organizations, the Women’s Business Development Center and the Women’s Business Enterprise Council, offer courses on finding financing, such as the JumpStart series for just $35. A five-part series of classes costs $155.
They also offer the FastTrack New Venture seminar, Finding Your Funding workshops, and legal corporate-formation clinics.
Most important, Swift says: “If you don’t know who your customer is, you don’t have a business.”
Start networking at conferences. International soccer star and World Cup champion Carli Lloyd will join actress/entrepreneur Jessica Alba, women’s rights pioneer Gloria Steinem, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee at the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference Nov. 19 at the Convention Center.
Providing funding for early-stage businesses is StartUp PHL, an initiative of the city Commerce Department, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., and First Round Capital.
Cheryl Beth Kuchler, president of Ballantree Consulting and founder of the CEO Think Tank, says a start-up or “pre-revenue” business needs to look for “angel investors.” And it “should be reaching out to local organizations like the Small Business Development Centers at Wharton, Temple, or Drexel for help with their business plans.”
For established businesses, the Alliance for Women Entrepreneurs is “a fabulous resource for venture options, or the Association of Corporate Growth, which has a strong Philly chapter and can help from a private-equity perspective.”
Leslie Benoliel, president and CEO of Entrepreneur Works in Center City, says her group provides microloans as well as one-on-one business counseling, especially for mom-and-pop neighborhood start-ups that might not get the attention of hot technology start-ups.
In a sign Philadelphia is attracting more start-up capital, the Angel Capital Association, a professional accredited-investors group, will hold its 2016 summit here.
More than 700 angels and other start-up experts will convene May 9-11 at the Convention Center. Regional partners including Select Greater Philadelphia and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeast Pennsylvania.
“Philadelphia is surging with innovation, opportunity, and a community of eager angel investors to match it,” says Marianne Hudson, executive director of ACA.
“As a globally respected home for technology commercialization, an eclectic mix of research institutions, and a vibrant start-up ecosystem,” she says, “Philadelphia was the perfect choice for this gathering of angels.”