By Geri Stengel, Forbes Contributor
The number of $1 million, women-owned business grew by 42% between 2007 and 2018, according to the 2018 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses*. That’s far faster than the growth of businesses in general — 12%. Still, only 1.6% of women entrepreneurs leap past the $1 million marker.
“I see a lot of women-owned business get stuck at the micro-enterprise level,” said Nathalie Molina Niño author of Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs. To get ahead in the workforce, women have had to play by the rules. Getting past $1 million in revenue requires breaking the rules.
As the daughter of immigrant entrepreneurs, she saw what it took to succeed. Her initial career path was engineering but life took her in another direction. While in grad school, Molina Niño started her first tech company. Over the next 15 years of her tech career, she started four more. She helped grow one company into a $100 million multinational business operation in 30+ countries. Molina Niño has also worked as an entrepreneur and intrapreneur with some of the largest and best known companies in the world, including Disney, Microsoft, MTV, The Discovery Channel, Mattel.
“I left the tech world pretty tired of being the only woman in the room and pretty tired of being the only Latina, not just in the room but in the building,” said Molina Niño. She cofounded the Center for Women Entrepreneurs at Columbia that sits inside the Athena Center at Barnard College. After several years, she realized that it’s not education that is holding women entrepreneurs back, it’s lack of capital.
Molina Niño launched Brava Investment — a holding company like Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Instead of looking for ROI by flipping a company — selling the company or going public — Brava keeps a company to bring value to it and makes money from the dividends the company pays shareholders. Brava’s focus is on later-stage companies that make an economic impact on women at scale.
The purpose of Leapfrog is to the support the other 99% of women-owned businesses that don’t receive equity investments. Molina Niño shared six of her 50 tips with me.
- Play your woman card
So many resources are available to women. Access them.
- Worship the Franchise
Molina Niño quotes her friend Kat Cole, group president of Focus Brands, a franchisor of well-known brands such as Carvel, Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s “[Franchising] is a way of being in business for yourself but not by yourself.” It’s a way to get a roadmap and a whole crew of people whose job it is to make you successful. The concept is applicable even if you don’t want to be franchisee or franchisor. “Great businesses that scale well tend to look a little like franchises,” said Molina Niño. To scale, they make profit a repeatable process by designing it into the business model from the get-go.