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Female Entrepreneurs in Austin Advocating for Increased Support and Opportunities

A coalition of prominent women entrepreneurs in Austin is urging the city and business stakeholders to enhance access to capital for women business owners and founders, foster wider professional networks, and offer additional business tools and services. These priorities emerged from a recent report by the Mayor’s Task Force for Austin Women Entrepreneurs, which Mayor Kirk Watson established last summer to address resource and opportunity disparities for women-owned businesses in the Austin area. The task force, led by seasoned business leader Carla McDonald of Dynabrand Ventures, comprised 22 members with diverse expertise spanning finance, public organizations, tech startups, government operations, and consumer goods.

Participants highlighted encountering a closed-door mentality among many of Austin’s business leaders toward women entrepreneurs. During a panel discussion at South by Southwest, McDonald candidly remarked, “There is something very broken here.”

The recommendations put forth include establishing a local U.S. Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center, forming an angel investor group dedicated to women entrepreneurs, and launching a city grant program with a similar focus.

Additionally, the report advocates for a capital commitment from businesses to support women entrepreneurs, expanding debt financing options, creating an online marketplace offering affordable goods and services for women entrepreneurs, and implementing a childcare initiative to support women business owners.

Further recommendations encompass establishing an innovation academy and virtual networking hub for women, establishing a women entrepreneur council within the Austin Chamber of Commerce, and simplifying the process for becoming a certified women-owned business for city contracting.

While Austin boasts various chambers of commerce catering to ethnicity- and culture-based groups, it lacks one specifically dedicated to women in business. The Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Texas operates from Austin, and there exists an Austin chapter of the Texas Women in Business nonprofit advocacy group.

Fang Fang, CEO of Big Plan and former president and CEO of the Greater Austin Asian Chamber, suggested that Austin draw inspiration from successful initiatives supporting women entrepreneurs in other cities, like New York City. She emphasized mentorship programs and efforts to streamline regulations for women business owners as two key areas where the city could make significant strides.

“In other cities, I’ve seen impressive initiatives focused on building robust networks and support systems for women entrepreneurs, such as women-only co-working spaces, mentorship programs pairing seasoned entrepreneurs with newcomers, and pitch competitions exclusively for women-led startups,” she remarked. “These initiatives not only provide valuable resources and opportunities but also cultivate a sense of community and solidarity among women entrepreneurs. Austin could replicate these efforts by investing in similar programs and fostering a collaborative environment where women feel empowered to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions.”