Molly Altorfer is the co-director of communications and marketing for IWLC. She has previously worked as a freelance writer and served as Assistant Vice President for Communications and Marketing at Mount Mercy University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies and political science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master of Arts in Communications and Journalism from Kent State University. Molly is an avid golfer and self-confessed news junkie. She and her husband have two daughters; Molly views her work with IWLC as making the world a better place for them.
With opening words of wisdom from Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, a strong advocate for elevating women entrepreneurs in the state, six women entrepreneurs presented their businesses at the inaugural “Invest In She – Des Moines” pitch competition sponsored by Wells Fargo.
The competition, hosted by Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC) at Sticks, Inc., invited women business owners from across the state to compete for $30,000 from local investors.
“These six women-owned businesses were inspiring,” says Tiffany O’Donnell, chief operating officer of Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC), who served as event emcee and worked with the entrepreneurs to prep for their live pitches. “We were very impressed by the caliber of businesses that were represented, as well as the knowledge, insight, and commitment provided by our Des Moines investors.”
Of the six women-owned businesses, investors chose to distribute $30,000 of support in the following denominations:
The big winner of Invest in She – Des Moines was Megan McKay of Peace Tree Brewing Company. She believes that the Invest in She – Des Moines competition will enable her to further grow her business. “This process gave validation to me as an entrepreneur,” said Ms. McKay. “And it is validation to an industry [brewing] that has not been historically strong in Iowa. It shows me that if you have a compelling story and product, you can succeed.”
“Invest in She – Des Moines has been a great process,” says Ms. McKay. “It was good to spend so much time inside your business. It really forced me to delegate and to focus on our vision, which enabled me to communicate a clear path to our employees.”
“It was inspiring to be in a group of women who are also entrepreneurs,” said Ms. McKay.
Helen Adeosun of CareAcademy.co, Inc was the winner of the Audience Choice Award. “The support of the Invest in She – Des Moines investors will enable us to dramatically change our business,” said Ms. Adeosun. “We will be able to advance our company four months in our goals.”
The Invest in She – Des Moines investors included:
“There are very few opportunities to truly participate in a small way with an early stage company,” said Investor Camille Urban. “Invest in She provides a unique process that allows a contributor to get to know the entrepreneur and her business. For me, it presented a way to, hopefully, make a positive difference early in the business’s development by using my own experience to advise how the contributed funds might be best used.”
IWLC began hosting Invest in She events in Cedar Rapids and now in Des Moines as a result of staggering statistics released by the American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. The most recent 2014 report revealed that Iowa ranks last in the nation for cumulative growth in the number of female firms, revenue and employment.
While Iowa has seen growth in women-owned firms since 1997, those same companies have seen their revenues and employment levels fall. Iowa has about 73,300 women-owned businesses, according to the most-recent American Express report, which is up more than 27 percent since 1997. But, employment at those companies is down 26.4 percent and sales are down 4.6 percent.
Investor Camille Urban underscored the reason why support of women-owned businesses is important. “Support of new and early stage companies is crucial to the state’s economy regardless of the sex of the business owner,” said Urban. “That said, women today face statistical disadvantages in our workforce that are unlikely to change until there are enough women of influence in the business sector. Those disadvantages negatively affect our economy in multiple ways. Support for women-owned businesses should translate to shaping policy regarding equal pay, reducing barriers to employing women, and leveling the proverbial playing field all of which will, in turn, positively influence our state’s economics.”
Investor Shazia Manus, CEO of The Members Group (TMG) came of age in Bangladesh, where women had limited opportunities in business. Through encouragement from her grandfather, she started a home-based business at 17, and recognizes the importance of successful women-owned businesses. “Women’s success in business has far-reaching impact,” said Ms. Manus. “When a woman is empowered, often her extended family – even her community – reaps the benefits.
IWLC’s partners for Invest in She – Des Moines, including Square One DSM and The Greater Des Moines Partnership, identified, screened and prepped the women entrepreneurs who participated in the pitch opportunity. The partners will resource and provide services for the entrepreneurs, as required by the investors. Additional sponsors of the event can be found here.
For more information about Invest in She visit www.InvestinSheDM.com.