How Being A Certified Woman Owned Business Can Help Grow Your Company

How Being A Certified Woman Owned Business Can Help Grow Your Company

Looking for a community to have your back? You’re in luck. Ellevate Network is the largest community of women at work. We show up for each other, helping everyone — no matter their background or aspirations — build a career they love. And, more importantly, we mobilize our collective power to change the culture of business. Join Ellevate for free today.

If you’re a woman who owns a business — congrats! It’s fantastic to hang your shingle and go off on your own. There is another advantage to being a Woman Owned Business: getting officially certified as one on federal and local levels. The government and large corporations are the largest buyers of goods and services and often award contracts specifically to women. These contracts can be constant, reliable sources of income.

In her recent webinar, Jean Kristensen of Jean Kristensen Associates explained what it takes to get certified and how to navigate securing government and corporate contracts. Kristensen has started three businesses that have been successful thanks in large part to being a Woman Owned Business and winning government contracts. She now advises women on how to understand the system.

[Related: Join Ellevate virtually for our Inclusive Managers and Leading With Empathy Series Capstone Event, our final discussion about the next steps we all can take to create Inclusive Workplaces. During the 2014 fiscal year, the U.S. government awarded 267,168 contracts to Woman Owned Businesses for approximately two billion dollars. The top contacts were awarded for professional services, medical and surgical supplies and administrative support.

Some businesses also have a 5% goal for subcontracting work to Women Owned Businesses once they win a contract. This can be as high as 30% in some state and local jurisdictions. So even if a Woman Owned Business doesn’t directly win a government contract, they can still gain business through subcontracting. But you have to know how to find these opportunities in the first place.

What Is The Purpose of Certification?

Being a certified Woman Owned Business is a tool designed to increase opportunities for women. It’s not a charity program nor does it give women special treatment. It’s designed to increase visibility. It’s also a way for government and corporations that have the aforementioned subcontracting goals worked into their contacts to meet directly with Women Owned Businesses.

There are two kinds of certifications: Women Owned Small Business and Woman Business Enterprise. A Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) is a program that provides greater access to federal contracting opportunities for Woman Owned and Economically Disadvantaged Women Owned Small Business. (EDWOSB).

The program allows contracting officers to set aside specific contracts for WOSB and EDWOSB that will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of 5% of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSB. An EDWOSB meets a certain financial criteria. The owner’s assets, excluding their business and their home, is under $250,000. That woman, and her business, in considered economically disadvantaged.

WOSB certification is overseen by the Small Business Association (SBA).
In order to be considered to be a WOSB the company must:

The SBA will verify this information by collecting documents such as tax returns, bank statements, operating agreements, etc. They will also ask for birth certificates and passports to prove citizenship. WOSB is unique to the Federal government. It is a program that a person can self-certify for. As long as you can prove that your company is owned by women you can start marketing your company, almost immediately, as a Woman Owned Small Business while the documents are being verified.

The second classification is Woman Business Enterprise. This certification is used by local, state, and other quasi-government agencies such as authorities, airlines and in the private sector. The qualifications for a WBE are similar to those of a WOSB. The company must:

It’s also important to know about:

What Does It Take to Succeed As A Certified Woman Owned Business?
Just because you get certified doesn’t mean that government contracts will magically start appearing at your door. Kristensen said the key is to have a plan when it comes to winning bids.

The Ability To Do Business And The Power Of Teaming Up

It’s important to know what type of project could you take on. Contractors will likely ask about the last project that you worked on that is similar to what they are looking for. Buyers often say that inexperienced companies are not going to cut their teeth with them. You need to have some level of experience in their space in order to be a contender. One way to get around this is to team up with someone who has experience for either a full contract or a subcontract.

Kristensen did this with a cleaning company whose contract with a large bank also needed to supply security. Kristensen ran a security company, and it was a great fit. She then went on to pitch her company’s security services to other banks and in turn won many more contracts.

Let Buyers Know Who You Are

Once you research what groups are buying in your area, make sure they know who you are. Research shows that it takes 18 months of continual effort before you score your first contract. That said, a commitment to marketing yourself is key to staying on buyers’ radars. Kristensen recommends consistent but meaningful communication with buyers.

Good public relations such as a professional website, social media, direct mail, email blasts, etc. are all tools to let people know about your services. Make sure your target audience sees you and knows you. Highlight your unique unique service offering and position yourself as thought leader.

Looking for a community to have your back? You’re in luck. Ellevate Network is the largest community of women at work. We show up for each other, helping everyone — no matter their background or aspirations — build a career they love. And, more importantly, we mobilize our collective power to change the culture of business. Join Ellevatefor free today. Read the rest of this article here

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Six Reasons For More Aussie Women To Join The Tech Industry

The significance of gender diversity in the workplace is no secret and nowhere is the gender divide more apparent than in the tech sector.

This has long-term implications for the tech sector as studies show that the more diverse perspectives there are in the room, the better the ideas, outcomes and ultimately the bottom line.

The recent Women in STEM Decadal Plan found only 27 per cent of girls in Australia are likely to undertake science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects in school – the lowest of all Asia-Pacific countries.

“The future of work will be dominated by STEM, but there is a huge shortage of these skills in Australia, with many organisations looking overseas to hire top tech talent,” says Rachel Gately, Co-Founder of Australian advanced machine learning company, Trellis Data. “The IT industry has long been dominated by men, but with digital technologies becoming more prevalent, there’s never been a better time for women to consider a job in the tech sector.”

If you’re thinking about a career in tech, here are six things you need to consider:

Financial stability

The technology sector often tops lists for high salaries and job opportunities – Seek’s latest data found ICT had the jobs with the highest pay in Australia. With COVID-19 forcing organisations to embrace digital, technology jobs are now in a stronger position compared to many other industries. The Federal Government is also investing over one billion dollars in the nation’s technology and innovation capabilities, so not only is there good money but job security is also assured. With strong demand for tech talent, there is more scope for women to build a career and progress quickly.

Work-life balance

There’s been a significant shift in work culture in recent years, with parents sharing responsibilities and employees expecting better work-life balance. Businesses now offer greater support for women, allowing them to work from home, part-time, or even providing on-site childcare.

Workplace flexibility has also accelerated over the last 12 months due to the pandemic. This means there is greater opportunity for women to not just enter the tech industry, but to reach senior positions.

According to Gately, “Providing work-life balance is no longer a perk for employers but a must-have. We encourage staff to work the hours that they’re most productive. Some leave work early to coach their kids in sport or pick-up kids from school. Others start late because they prefer to work later. Having women in leadership ensures this attitude towards flexibility is ingrained in company culture.”

Technology needs women

Despite a growing number of jobs in STEM, only a quarter of graduates in technology in the developed world are female – even though more women have degrees than men. So, there is a huge window for women to bridge the gender divide. Science has also found that women have higher intuitiveness and empathy than men, which are traits often missing when developing tech products – female led innovation creates tech with more people in mind. In fact, women are found to be better at connecting tech with business outcomes – according to Fortune, women-led companies have historically performed three times better than those with male CEOs.

Never get bored

We know that technology moves fast. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report found 65 per cent of children starting primary school now, will have jobs that don’t exist yet. This digital future means there is always something new to learn, and scope to get creative to find new solutions. “A career in tech means you’ll never be bored,” says Gately. “We’re always looking for fresh ideas, so my staff have creative freedom to invent and discover new things in technology and machine learning – we specifically set aside time for this each week. It helps foster an environment where people can constantly learn and where everyone has a voice.”

Change the world

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things aren’t just transforming businesses but also being used to improve lives. In Russia, Impulse Neiry is using world-first neural interfaces to detect neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s several years in advance, and NASA technology is being used to conserve endangered whale sharks. Tech companies such as Google are also now leading investments in clean energy. There are so many ways to help people, animals and the planet using tech, and women have the potential to be a part of it.

Empower other women

According to a Microsoft survey, girls in the US consider tech careers at age 11 but lose interest soon after, with many blaming a lack of female mentors and gender diversity. With more women taking on STEM roles, we have the power to challenge the status quo and increase the voices of women in the industry. By considering a career in tech, you can empower more young girls to get involved. As a woman in tech, you have the opportunity to present in public forums, share your story with others and raise your profile in the industry.

Rachel Gately

Rachel Gately is the Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Trellis Data, a leading Australian advanced Machine Learning firm.

Keep up to date with Dynamic Business on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Source: Six reasons for more Aussie women to join the tech industry – Dynamic Business

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Melanie Perkins’ $3.2 billion design platform, Canva, is one of the world’s most valuable female-led start-ups. CNBC Make It’s Karen Gilchrist met with the 32-year-old Australian entrepreneur in Sydney to find out how she’s taking on tech giants Microsoft and Adobe. —–

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How These Women Investors Crushed It In 2020

In an investment industry known for big egos, overconfident analysts and “activists” who routinely tell CEOs how to run their companies, investor Nancy Zevenbergen and her team of four portfolio managers differentiate themselves by simply listening.

Zevenbergen, 61, founder of $5.7 billion (assets) Zevenbergen Capital Investments, believes the crucial job of an investor in today’s economy is to uncover the next great entrepreneur or technological innovation early on. The style is about “optimism and a view toward what the future might be,” she says. According to Zevenbergen, her task is to be curious and “understand the ‘crazy’ visions of new leaders and become investors alongside them.” If she likes a company, her Seattle-based firm will load up and watch from the sidelines, tracking the business patiently and holding their shares so long as growth doesn’t stall. Rarely do they worry too much about valuation.

This humble approach to investing has yielded results that make Zevenbergen among the best investors in the world. She has stuck by mercurial Elon Musk and owned Tesla for about a decade; Tesla’s stock is up 730% this year, and is the top performing stock of the ten years. She discovered Ottawa, Canada-based ecommerce company Shopify and its founder CEO Tobi Lütke in late 2016 when it was trading below $50; it now trades for $1,170.

Last September, Zillow chief executive Rich Barton decided the real estate platform would begin buying homes, leading to complaints from skeptics who sent its shares cratering 20% to below $30. Zevenbergen’s team liked Barton’s experimentation and built a large position. Fifteen months later, Zillow now trades for $140.

Nancy Zeverbergen
Seattle-based Nancy Zevenbergen calls investing with a less than five-year time frame “truly speculative.” Case in point: She’s owned Amazon since it traded in the $60s and still holds shares after a 90-fold rise. Tim Pannell for Forbes

With stock-picks like these, Zevenbergen’s Innovative Growth Fund (SCATX) and Genea Fund (ZVGNX) are up a staggering 126% and 154%, respectively, in 2020. Of over 1,000 peer funds tracked by Morningstar, the two mutual funds rank in the top percentile. 

Zevenbergen created her firm from her living room in the late 1980s with just $500,000 in assets while she nursed a young child. Her flagship strategy has beaten the S&P 500 Index by around four percentage points annually since 1987, but 2020 was a watershed. Assets more than doubled soaring towards $6 billion, based on performance and inflows to her mutual funds.

Zevenbergen is not the only woman fund manager who has crushed competition in 2020. Forbes found at least a half a dozen firms led by women-led funds that have blown away their peers and drawn in tens of billions of dollars in assets collectively since the start of January.

Cathie Wood, founder of Ark Investments, had the best year of anyone. In 2014, Wood, 65, created Ark with the idea of packaging stock-picking into tax-efficient exchange traded funds, and focusing exclusively on breakthrough innovations in genomics, robotics, financial technology, autonomous driving, digital services, and artificial intelligence. 

Six years later, Ark manages nearly $44 billion in assets, up from just $300 million at the end of 2016. This year, Ark funds have pulled in over $10 billion in new assets, led by extraordinary returns. Her flagship Ark Innovation Fund (ARKK) has seen assets soar to $17 billion, fueled by a 154% gain in 2020 and a 46% average annual return over the past five years. Her $6 billion Ark Genomic revolution ETF is up even more this year. “I wanted individual investors to catch the wave,” says Wood of today’s enormous technological change. Her funds were designed for those “willing to step out and away from fixed income and into some of the most exciting stocks in history.”

Ark publishes its financial models, trading logs, and research to the investing public, and the firm’s analysts are happy to engage in discussion on Twitter, opening themselves to criticism and mockery. Wood’s $4,000 a share valuation of Tesla a year ago drew many scoffs on Wall Street. But her heady valuation was spot on. Short sellers have been burned by Tesla’s rise, while female investors like Zevenbergen and Wood have been patient bulls. On Friday, Tesla was added to the S&P 500 Index.

Female investing success in 2020 extends well beyond soaring growth stocks. Women-run funds are leading the way in everything from small cap stocks, to emerging market debt portfolios, dividend paying companies, and sustainable investments.

Amy Zhang, portfolio manager of the Alger Small Cap Focus Fund (AOFIX) and Mid Cap Focus Fund (AFOIX) was hired in 2015 to expand Alger’s presence in niche small and mid-cap stocks. When Zhang arrived at Alger, the Small Cap Focus Fund had just $16 million in assets. Now, after a 54% return in 2020 and a 30% annual average return over the past five years, Zhang’s Small Cap Focus Fund has $7.5 billion in assets.

Top holdings include refrigerated logistics upstart CryoPort and fast casual restaurant Wingstop. Her Mid Cap Focus Fund, launched in mid-2018, has attracted over $500 million in assets as it has soared by 84% in 2020, bolstered by casino operator Penn National Gaming and power equipment manufacturer Generac.

Long before sustainable investments became a prolific buzzword, Karina Funk, an MIT-educated engineer at Baltimore-based mutual fund giant Brown Advisory, was a pioneer in bringing sustainable investments mainstream. Funk, 48, a vegetarian who watches her carbon footprint by biking to work, launched the Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth Fund in June 2012, alongside David Powell, with a goal to back about 35 companies with products improving social and environmental sustainability, or efficient operating footprints.

Its focus on companies like Ball Corp. and American Tower has made it one of the best funds on the planet during down markets. Even in 2020, the fund has gained 38% despite its defensive posture, thanks to savvy picks like life sciences conglomerate Danaher and Etsy, which has empowered many small businesses during the pandemic. Funk can be a tough customer. She exited Facebook in the fall of 2018 due to data privacy concerns.

“Sustainability is a means, not an end in and of itself,” she told Forbes as part of a profile three years ago, when the fund’s assets were just $1.1 billion. “Our end goal is performance. We achieve that by finding fundamentally strong companies using sustainability strategies to get even better.” The fund’s assets have since soared to $4.6 billion.

Other female-led funds that have done well include Capital Group’s $128 billion American Funds New Perspective (ANWPX), led by a team of managers including Joanna Jonsson and Noriko Chen, and the $36 billion in assets JPMorgan Equity Income Fund (HLIEX), led by Clare Hart. The New Perspectives fund has beaten its benchmark by four percentage points annually over the past decade, while Hart’s Equity Income Fund has returned an annualized 11.65%, two percentage points annually above its benchmark, according to data from Morningstar.

Rebecca Irwin, Natasha Kuhikin and Kathleen McCarragher of the $1.3 billion in assets PGIM Jennison Focused Growth Fund (SPFAX) have returned 68% in 2020 and 25% over the past five years, ranking in the top decile of peer funds. At Alger, Ankur Crawford, co-manager of the Alger Spectra Fund (ASPIX) and Alger Capital Appreciation (ACCAX) has seen returns surpass 40% this year.

In fixed income, Tina Vandersteel of the $4.4 billion in assets GMO Emerging Country Debt Fund (GMCDX) has been able to outperform emerging market bond indices despite underweighting China and many Gulf-states due to her skepticism of the veracity of their economic data.

The bull market of 2020 is also creating new opportunities for female fund managers to shine. Two years ago, Julie Biel of Los Angeles-based Kayne Anderson Rudnick, was a rising star at the $30 billion (assets) firm and excited about the looming public offering of software company DocuSign. Known for investing in established businesses, Kayne had never participated in an IPO. Biel was late in her pregnancy as the IPO progressed and trying to win an allocation. She needed a doctor’s note to fly to the Bay Area to meet with DocuSign’s management. Kayne eventually won a large block of shares, quickly becoming one of its largest outside investors.

Biel also began to manage the firm’s KAR Small Mid- Sustainable Growth strategy around that time and made DocuSign the fund’s top holding. Its shares have risen 225% in 2020. This year, Biel’s fund has returned 42% through November. In December, Kayne decided to launch a mutual fund version, launching the strategy, called the Virtus KAR Small-Mid Cap Growth Fund (VIKSK), with Biel in charge.

Like Zevebergen and Wood, Biel is starting small and manages just $60 million. But the investment industry rewards performance above all, hinting at much larger things to come. Entering 2021, Biel’s portfolio is loaded with hidden gems like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and MarketAxess that could grow for years to come. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

Antoine Gara

 Antoine Gara

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

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A New Study Reveals Hiring Effective Female Leaders May Be the Best Thing for Your Company’s Success

Do you believe in your company — its mission, purpose, and what it stands for? Belief in a company is one of the main factors behind why employees work and what they do.

The belief that the company is moving in the right direction, has room for personal and professional growth, and that the employee plays an active part in the strategy are all crucial to keeping employees engaged.

For leaders guiding the way, belief in a company is something that is earned and must come naturally for employees. And according to a new study, attracting and promoting more females into leadership roles is the way forward.

Employees respond better to women-led companies

A recent Peakon study found that employees of women-led companies, meaning those with more than 50% female leaders, feel a stronger connection to the company and their products.

When over 60,000 employees were asked the question of “how likely is it that you would recommend [Company Name] products or services to friends and family,” those at women-led companies answered 0.6 points higher than employees at male-led companies.

Women-led companies also answered higher in terms of satisfaction in the company, an important part of being an active, efficient employee.

Female leadership could be a major enabler in driving the company culture, and female-led companies are proven to be better in communicating mission and strategy, and managing more engaged employees.

Why belief in a company and its products is so important

Belief in the company is also strongly tied to the company strategy. When employees believe in the company — the origin, mission, and value the company offers to consumers and clients — they will subsequently have stronger belief in the strategy as well.

According to Roger Dooley, an experience marketer and author, believing in your company and its product makes you more persuasive. Employees with a strong belief in their product will be more able to effectively sell products or services the company offers, and will have a stronger connection to the company itself.

Belief in a company and its values is also critical to employees’ commitment and persistence. Employees with stronger belief in their company tend to be more willing to continue in their hard work when they trust the path the company is moving on.

According to the Harvard Business Review, belief in a company and its goals will enforce motivation throughout all of the employees — both to get work done when needed, and to keep up the same work ethic when it gets harder.

Belief in a company also helps leaders. When your company supports the same goals, it becomes easier to manage and communicate.

In Authentic Happiness, psychologist Marty Seligman writes that employees become their “happiest” selves when they are doing work they find worthwhile. Leaders who are able to motivate others to work towards a communicated, shared goal — and a shared belief in the goal — are able to maintain morale and engagement throughout the employee lifecycle.

Moreover, belief in a company and its goals also creates a feeling of solidarity among employees and their leaders. If at any point there is a disconnect between employees and leaders, it can be mended quickly and easily when there is a strong belief that the company is going in the right direction.

Ari Weinzweig, a founding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, points out that belief in a business is one of the most productive foundations that employees and leaders can both share. It creates a shared purpose that may otherwise not be found, as most beliefs are formed before a person is even old enough to be in the job force.

Forming a community where there is a belief in a business allows for clearer actions towards the shared belief, and helps everyone’s job within a larger company make sense.

Clearly the research proves that you must care about the belief in your company strategy and its product. But we must not ignore the key component. As Peakon’s study revealed, investing in female leaders will help you bring deeper conviction about the company and its services, and therefore empower your business to grow in a sustainable way.

By:By Marcel Schwantes Founder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core @MarcelSchwantes

 

Source: A New Study Reveals Hiring Effective Female Leaders May Be the Best Thing for Your Company’s Success | Inc.com

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Why are there so few women leaders? Weaving together scientific research and personal narrative, Alexis Kanda-Olmstead explains why women may be reluctant to take on leadership roles and what we – women and men – can do to disrupt the powerful internal forces that undermine women’s leadership aspirations and confidence. 1. Alexis Kanda-Olmstead leads talent and diversity initiatives at Colorado State University for the Division of University Advancement. Throughout her twenty-year career in higher education, Alexis has worked to help students, faculty, and staff actualize their potential as leaders through self-knowledge, personal empowerment, and service. As a student and practitioner of women’s development, social justice, and organizational psychology, Alexis believes that with grace and humor we can create positive change that benefits everyone. Alexis is a blogger on women’s issues and the founder of AKO Collective, a women’s leadership development company based in Northern Colorado. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

 

Inside Serena Williams’ Plan To Ace Venture Investing

 

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n Serena Williams’ calendar—which is to calendars what Jackson Pollock paintings are to art—Saturdays are designated family time. The Saturday I’m with her in Rome (she was in New York earlier in the week and will be in Paris the following one) carries extra significance. Exactly four years ago, in exactly that Eternal City, she met her husband, Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of online community Reddit.

The two celebrate, in part, with the kind of outing anyone who’s not the most famous woman athlete in the world takes for granted: a stroll in a hotel garden with their joint venture, 22-month-old Olympia, in tow. It’s more romantic than it sounds: The Rome Cavalieri goes so far as to call its 15-acre garden a “private park,” littered with marble and bronze, lions and unicorns.

The regal surroundings befit a historic figure of American sport, who has 23 Grand Slam titles and has blown away any number of barriers and stereotypes. And the unicorns? Between Reddit and his $500 million fund, Initialized Capital, Ohanian does his part. But it turns out that Williams has quietly been playing that game, too. She’s now the first athlete ever to hit Forbes’ annual list of the World’s Richest Self-Made Women, with an estimated fortune of $225 million, the vast majority of it having come via her brain and brand rather than her backhand. And over the past five years, she’s been quietly dropping money into 34 startups. In April, Williams formally announced that Serena Ventures is open for business, to fund others and launch companies herself.

Athletes are richer than ever, thanks to the explosion in TV rights fees for live sporting events, which trickle down to players. The 50 highest-paid athletes in the world made $2.6 billion last year, versus $1 billion 15 years ago. And Williams is hardly the first to put newfound disposable income to active work—in the NBA alone, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have all launched media companies, and Durant, Andre Iguodala and Carmelo Anthony are active venture capital investors. But she is one of the few specifically gearing investments around a single north star: herself.

“I want to be a part of it,” she says, sitting at the hotel. “I want to be in the infrastructure. I want to be the brand, instead of just being the face.” Given her longtime background in style and design, that means overweighting on fashion lines, jewelry and beauty products. Yes, she’ll keep competing at tennis—her resilient comeback last year after giving birth burnished her as a cultural icon who transcends sports. And sure, she’ll happily continue to rake in easy endorsement money from the likes of Nike and JPMorgan Chase—her $29 million total income over the past 12 months is the highest of her career.

But like a ground stroke with torque, Williams bets she can eventually dwarf those figures by leveraging some of her own cash with her name and fame.

The story of how sisters Serena and Venus Williams reached the top of the tennis world is the stuff of Hollywood legend: a black father with limited tennis experience homeschools his two daughters and teaches them on the streets of Compton, California, to penetrate and then dominate a lily-white sport. “You’d see different people walking down the street with AK-47s and think, Time to get in the house,” she remembers of those early years. “When you hear gunshots, you get low.”

Their father’s insistence that his precocious daughters avoid the private tennis academy machine and well-oiled junior tournament circuit left a mark on the younger one, especially after she won her first Grand Slam title at age 17. “It really shaped me for the rest of my career both on and off the court in terms of taking a chance and how to be different and how to stand out,” Williams says of his strategy. When everyone zigs, she zags.

So at Serena Ventures, she focuses on companies founded by women and minorities. Yes, there’s a social purpose to that decision. But as with her tennis upbringing, she’s also finding opportunity by avoiding the herd. Just 2.3% of the total venture capital invested last year in the U.S. went to women-led startups—and even when including firms with both a male and female founder, you’re just at 10%. The numbers are worse for black and Hispanic founders. Yet some 60% of Williams’ investments so far have gone to companies led by women or people of color. “What better way to preach that message?” asks Williams.

The only way to find enough of those companies right now is to nurture them early, something that Williams got hooked on after investing and losing (eventually) $250,000 in a startup in the years before Serena Ventures. “I learned you can’t overspend, but I also learned that I love seed investing,” she says. Of the 34 companies she’s backed through Serena Ventures, more than three quarters are early-stage.

“It’s fun to get in there. I don’t gamble. I don’t jump off buildings,” says Williams. “I’m the most non-taking-a-chance kind of a person, but I felt like seed was where we wanted to be.”

Given the exponential riskiness involved in pre- and early-revenue companies, Williams has built a team of Silicon Valley mentors around her, much as Patrick Mouratoglou has guided Williams on the court and WME’s Jill Smoller has handled her endorsements—almost a quarter-billion worth—for nearly two decades. There’s Chris Lyons, from Andreessen Horowitz, who is an informal advisor and friend. “She is more passionate than 99% of the people in this space,” says Lyons. “She’s reaching out to me regularly asking what we think of companies.”

There’s Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, a longtime friend, with whom she serves on the board of SurveyMonkey. “I always ask her advice in a lot of different areas,” Williams says. (The tennis star is also on the board of the social shopping platform Poshmark.)

But one mentor stands above the rest—the one she married. “I’ve been really leaning on Alexis,” she says. Williams had never heard of Reddit when the pair met in 2015 and Ohanian knew little about tennis. But they bonded over ambition. “She is determined to be great at everything she does,” says Ohanian, who Forbes estimates is worth $70 million on his own.

What Serena Williams Wants To Hear In Pitch Meetings| 32:11

His venture firm’s targets are traditionally more tech-focused—big scores include Instacart and Patreon. But in living through Ohanian’s deals, Williams has learned. Initialized and Serena Ventures have even co-invested on a few, including Gobble, which does weekly dinner-kit deliveries, and Wave, which offers no-fee transfers on money sent to Africa by phone. “I’d like to call us a more modern business family,” says Williams.

The rate of Williams’ investments has ramped up in lockstep with the onboarding of a portfolio manager. Alison Rapaport, 29, was fresh out of Harvard Business School with an M.B.A. after a five-year stint in JPMorgan’s asset management group, when she got connected with Williams through Andreessen’s Lyons. Williams told Rapaport to come to the interview with three investment ideas, along with the numbers and rationale behind them. Rapaport did her homework on the investment ideas—and diligence on her potential new boss, who earlier in the week posted on Instagram how much she liked Taco Sunday. Rapaport arrived at Williams’ home outside San Francisco for a Sunday meeting at noon armed with investment ideas and two bags of takeout, make-your-own tacos, and she handled Ohanian’s rapid-fire follow-up emails with aplomb. “I knew this was our girl,” Williams says.

Serena Williams slides around the red clay of the Tennis Club Parioli in Rome a few days ahead of the Italian Open, practicing to an eclectic mix of musical genres whose only commonality is that they’re sung by powerful women, from Rihanna to Adele to Pink. As word spreads around the club that the world’s most famous tennis player is hitting balls in their midst, a crowd predictably gathers, the youngest among them squealing “Serena!”, the oldest snapping and sharing pictures.

Williams is by far the most famous female athlete in the U.S.—and only Tom Brady and Tiger Woods finish a tick ahead among all athletes in terms of awareness. And that fame carries almost no brand downside—her appeal rates above average across all demographics, from Millennials to blue collar to high income, says Henry Schafer, who tracks Q Scores, which measure the likeability of a celebrity.

After 20 years in the spotlight, Williams knows how to handle the star power. At the end of the two-hour session, she gracefully obliges several with autographs and selfies. But more important: She has figured out at Serena Ventures how to harness it.

The past decade has given rise to the celebrity VC investor, spurred by the success of people like the actor Ashton Kutcher and the musician Nas, who both have their own funds. The recent IPOs for Uber and Lyft included scores of musicians and Hollywood A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jay-Z and Olivia Munn, who got in early and cashed in big. Overall, Ohanian is skeptical of the trend. “The advice I generally give to founders is don’t take money from celebrities,” he says. “The only exception is when they are really going to add value. Because in most cases, they are not really familiar with this world and if you are doing it to feed your ego, it’s a bad idea.”

So Williams tries to put money in deals where her fame and brand and platform grow the pie. As one of the better product endorsers of this century, it’s something she’s honed in ways that most musicians and actors (who turn up their noses at most product deals) have not. She counts nearly 30 million followers across social media—her posts of herself wearing Nike’s swoosh generated more than $2 million in promotional value for the brand over the past 12 months, according to Hookit, which tracks celebrity influence on social media. “Serena is a once-in-a-generation voice, reaching a global audience that extends well beyond tennis,” says Hookit CEO Scott Tilton.

And that voice is amplified exponentially when dealing with an early-stage brand, rather than one like Nike. She shared a pair of videos in an Instagram story of her entourage eating Daily Harvest meals ahead of her hosting duties for the Met Gala. She collaborated with Neighborhood Goods, which brings a pop-up approach to retailing, for her clothing line. “Using her platform to talk about our mission was the biggest support we’ve had besides her capital,” says Georgina Gooley, cofounder of Billie, which makes razors priced to eliminate the “pink tax” that makes female-targeted products cost more than similar versions for men.

The dating and networking app Bumble added Williams as an endorser for 2019, including a Super Bowl ad. The pair also partnered in a pitch competition in which two winners with female founders were chosen for funding from Serena and Bumble. Three executives of companies in the Serena Ventures portfolio—Daily Harvest, the woman-centric co-working space The Wing, and Lola, a natural tampon brand —networked at the first-ever Bumble Fund Summit in April. “She is facilitating a place for people to connect with one another,” says Jordana Kier, Lola’s founder.

That kind of investor-as-rainmaker power translates into another benefit: deal flow. For more mature deals, traditional venture firms need to take large ownership stakes to hit return targets. Williams, though, is happy to ride along. “Firms know Serena is a hugely valuable strategic investor,” says Ohanian. “I think it is the best of all opportunities, and she can essentially cherry-pick from the top VC firms on deals that are interesting that come her way and at the same time she still has her own deal flow from folks who want her to invest.”

nother benefit of early-stage investing: Even with 34 checks written, she has still sunk only an estimated $6 million into these companies. As venture investing goes, given her net worth, it’s still low-risk stuff. And the returns so far seem promising; Serena Ventures says they currently value the portfolio at more than $10 million and double the initial investment. Nearly half of the companies have had follow-up rounds of venture investment since Williams invested, and Serena Ventures even seems poised to score its first exit after Unilever announced plans to buy supplement firm Olly Nutrition in April. Five of her investments are up at least fivefold. Top performers include Billie, Daily Harvest, MasterClass and The Wing.

But Serena Williams wouldn’t be one of the all-time great competitors without also needing to invest more in herself. While she’s known as a fashion icon, she has cashed in only via others’ platforms, whether endorsements or partnerships. Now that’s changing. Smoller, her longtime endorsement agent, recalls a recent meeting at Nike. “I was talking, and Serena interrupted me and started asking all these questions about their distribution channels, KPIs and growth strategies,” he says. “I looked around and saw their faces. . . . She’s at a level where she wants to understand the process and methods, which I think a lot of people don’t expect.” In May last year, Serena Ventures launched a self-funded, direct-to-consumer clothing line, S by Serena. She kept waiting for someone to fund a company for her to design clothing, she says, but “I was thinking of this the wrong way. I had to invest in myself.”

The line includes dresses, jackets, tops, denim and more mostly priced under $200. She’s excited about an S by Serena show for New York Fashion Week in September. The line got a boost in October when Williams’ close friend Meghan Markle was spotted wearing the collection’s “Boss” blazer, which quickly sold out on the website. Williams returned the favor when she hosted a baby shower for the Duchess of Sussex in February. Williams plans to launch an S by Serena jewelry line this year and one of beauty products in 2020.

With all this commerce, Williams says she’ll continue to abbreviate her on-the-court schedule, prioritizing the Grand Slam events that burnish her brand. While a dinosaur in the tennis world at 37, she still figures she has two or maybe even three years left. “I am in no rush to get out of this sport,” she says. But in Serena Ventures, she’s laid the foundation to keep playing the game her entire life. “I want to create a brand that has longevity, kind of like my career,” she says. “It’s not fancy, it’s not here, it’s not out, it’s not trendy, it’s a staple, like my tennis game.”

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read all of my Forbes stories here.

I am a senior editor at Forbes and focus mainly on the business of sports and our annual franchise valuations. I also spend a lot of my time digging into what athletes earn on and off the field of play. I’ve profiled a bunch of athletes that go by one name: LeBron, Shaq, Danica and others. I also head up our biennial B-School rankings and our annual features on the Best Places for Business (metros, states and countries).

Source: Inside Serena Williams’ Plan To Ace Venture Investing

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