Business Sustainability and the Power of Female Entrepreneurs

“Who here wants to save the world?” Carolyn Yarina, CEO and Co-Founder of Sisu Global Health, asked a ballroom full of female social entrepreneurs at the Empower Change Summit last summer. Nearly every hand rose high in the air. Nine months later, on February 27, a group of 10 finalists drawn from that ballroom pitched their business concepts to an audience of judges and supporters, bringing the 2019 Empower Change MI program to a close.

The annual Empower Change MI program, a joint effort between Michigan Women Forward and The Ford Fund, launched in 2017 to provide a series of conferences, workshops and seminars to existing or aspiring Michigan-based female social entrepreneurs. The program kicks off with the Empower Change Summit, a collection of speakers, panels, and workshops that provides female entrepreneurs with an introduction to basic business concepts and examples of how to take a socially conscious idea and turn it into a sustainable venture. The program culminates in a Pitch Competition through which several finalists are selected for cash grants and support services provided by other Michigan-based organizations.

Pitch participants compete in three categories, based on the stages of business development: Ideation, Launch, and Growth. This year’s finalists were Brittany Rhodes of Black Girl MATHgic (Ideation), Gina Adams of Buttons 2 Button (Launch), and Arielle Johnson of Fierce Detroit (Growth). Other prizes included a $1,000 award given to the “Best Idea That Will Change The World,” which was a People’s Choice Award, as well as an award of advisory services provided by Mission Throttle. This year, Jeanette Brown of Dutton Farm, Inc. was the winner of both.

In a male-dominated business environment, resources are often scarce for female entrepreneurs. As a result, there is a shortage of female, entrepreneur role models. While this gender disparity is shrinking, progress is slow, as many women do not receive the same opportunities for mentorship as their male counterparts. Additionally, female entrepreneurs often lack access to capital, as they regularly approach male investors, who often fail to relate to the entrepreneur and/or her business concept.

Female entrepreneurs benefit greatly from initiatives, like EmpowerChange, that strive to level the playing field for women in business. Through the Summit and the Pitch Competition, women receive mentorship and learning opportunities, as well as the opportunity to obtain financial capital. While these resources are integral to starting a new venture, the network of driven and supportive women that EmpowerChange creates is especially inspiring.

In a panel discussion during the EmpowerChange Summit, participnats from the 2018 Pitch Competition talked candidly about starting a social venture, and Deana Wojcik suggested “there should be less competition and more collaboration between women entrepreneurs.” Conversations that occurred during the Summit emphasized the benefits of joining a network of like-minded individuals, which include alleviating feelings of isolation and building confidence.

This supportive attitude carries throughout the EmpowerChange initiative, which aims to strengthen both business acumen and soft skills. Mentors are available to provide support and business advice to those who enter the pitch competition. The competition process is designed to offer participants several experiential learning opportunities, such as the opportunity to pitch to a live audience to receive feedback prior to the competition day.

Judging by the strong, qualified group of women at the Pitch Competition, the process is successful. The finalists ranged in experience level, from college students to mid-career entrepreneurs, each working on impactful business ideas to transform a variety of industries, including providing meaningful work opportunities for adults with disabilities to technology-based tools to help young adults become more financially secure. While unique in background and business ideas, each entrepreneur was equally energetic and passionate about her social venture.

The positivity, creativity, and grace of the women who participated in the 2019 EmpowerChange MI program was astounding and inspiring. It only takes one investment of time and resources to elevate impactful ideas, and EmpowerChange does just that. Mission Throttle is pleased to continue accelerating women’s entrepreneurship by participating in the EmpowerChange advisory council, and working with 2019 award recipient, Dutton Farms, Inc. Mission Throttle previously worked with 2018 award recipient, Motor City S.T.E.A.M., to develop a model to enhance youth S.T.E.A.M. development.

For more information, please visit miwf.org/events1/EmpowerChange.

Accelerating Our Community Impact

Mission Throttle’s history reflects a series of collaborations that merge business solutions and philanthropic values to scale social impact for those in need. We know great efforts are required to effectively address our most pressing social issues and we feel truly privileged to serve our clients, and in turn, communities across the Midwest.

Though 2019 is well underway, we are mindful to reflect on the last year and to thank our clients, partners and friends who made our work possible. Without you, we couldn’t have achieved these accomplishments. We hope you’ll continue with us on our journey as we move forward. Our very best wishes to you in this coming year.

The Mission Throttle Team

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Invest for Better: Women Lead the Way

New campaign seeks to mobilize women to change capital markets for the better

Mission Throttle is continually searching for strategies and tools that accelerate philanthropic innovation, including impact investing. More than three years ago, we joined the collaborative efforts of dozens of women investors, donors, and field leaders to help create Invest for Better, a resource to support women across all income levels who want to invest with purpose. Invest for Better, a project of The Philanthropic Initiative, is a campaign that seeks to mobilize women to activate their capital to create positive change in society, and demonstrates additional ways beyond philanthropy that women can use their money to achieve social goals.

It is estimated that American women will control $22 trillion in capital by 2020, and while research shows that women are highly interested in impact investing, only a small percentage are actually doing it. As women control increasing amounts of wealth and impact investing becomes a mainstream investment strategy, women’s voices are more critical to the social impact sector than ever.

Women’s leadership drives commerce, politics, activism and culture. But when it comes to our finances—taking full ownership of our investment choices, bringing our values to the fore of financial decision-making—we still have a ways to go. Men still make the majority of household investment decisions.

We believe that through thoughtful, purposeful investing, women can amplify their voices and lead in developing the impact investing field at large. We are honored to invest in and push this evolution forward.

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Mission Throttle Awards Derq $20,000 Prize for Social Impact at Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition

Mission Throttle today announced Derq as the recipient of the $20,000 Prize for Social Impact at Accelerate Michigan’s ninth annual Innovation Competition. Sponsors awarded a total of $1 million in cash and in-kind prizes to eight innovative startups that were selected from 24 semi-finalists. Nearly 400 top investors, entrepreneurs and community leaders attended the event.

Derq is a Dubai & Detroit based MIT spin-off and Techstars alum with a mission to eliminate road accidents and save lives by using artificial intelligence. Derq can predict and prevent car accidents before anyone else on the road.

“Derq exists to make roads safer and to reduce the 1.25M lives lost due to crashes each year. A huge thank you to Mission Throttle for naming Derq as the first ever AccelerateMichigan Social Impact prize winner, and for recognizing our commitment to helping achieve ‘VisionZero!'” — Derq

Accelerate Michigan enables entrepreneurs to showcase their companies and meet one-on-one with fellow entrepreneurs, investors, business acceleration resources, and experts in their specific sector during carefully curated meetings. Since its launch in 2010, grand prize awardees of Accelerate Michigan have hired over a 1,000 people and attracted more than $650 million in additional investment.

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Mission Throttle Featured at National Minority Supplier Development Council Conference

The NMSDC Conference and Business Opportunity Fair is the nation’s premier forum on minority supplier development. For four days in mid-October, more than 6,000 corporate CEOs, procurement executives and supplier diversity professionals from top multinational companies, as well as leading Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business owners convened in Austin, TX. Susan Gordon, Managing Director of Mission Throttle, presented Using Profit To Fund Purpose – The Importance of Diversified Funding Strategies and Creating Operational Excellence.

Susan’s remarks focused on how  mission-driven organizations and funders can work together to develop sustainable business models that withstand fluctuations in donative capital and included:

  • Why foundations and other funders are are seeking new ways to strengthen the infrastructure of the mission-driven organizations they support.
  • Ways entrepreneurs, investors, foundations, mission-driven organizations and intermediaries are embracing new, more sustainable strategies that promote the financial sustainability, growth and scale of mission-driven organizations.
  • How mission-driven organizations are uniquely positioned to deliver high-impact social change that exponentially improves lives.

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Michigan Women Forward offers $10 million to support women entrepreneurs

Mission Throttle is honored to have worked with Michigan Women Forward for the past two years to provide the research, analysis, and strategy to support the launch of  Community Impact Notes. We are thrilled to have been a part of this important program that will provide critical operational and financial resources necessary to accelerate women-owned businesses. Mission Throttle is committed to creating sustainable, replicable solutions to complex problems. It is our hope that this model will not only benefit women-owned businesses in the city of Detroit, but throughout State of Michigan. 


Detroit-based nonprofit Michigan Women Forward will offer $10 million in community impact notes to support Michigan’s women entrepreneurs. The $10 million Michigan Women Forward Community Impact Note offering is modeled after a similar program the Maryland-based Calvert Impact Capital Inc. offers to fund microloans, or make loans for buildings such as schools or affordable housing, Cassin said.

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Focus: HOPE develops half-century strategic plan

Working with nonprofit consultancy and investment firm Mission Throttle, Anthony said, Focus: Hope developed a strong strategic plan to assure it can stabilize the benefits of the restructuring process and build a future that is “measurable, impactful and consistent with its mission and new vision of empowerment and education.” While the nonprofit has been focused on programs for many years, Anthony said they also need to look at other issues that affect area residents.

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Mission Throttle Teams with Yad Ezra to Combat Hunger in the Jewish Community

Yad Ezra has selected Mission Throttle to develop an enhanced business strategy that supports its long-term ability to provide kosher food to families in need in Southeast Michigan.

 While federal programs help provide safety nets and other critical assistance to those at risk of hunger, these programs do not reach everyone in need, and food banks remain a critical component of the fight against hunger.  Yad Ezra opened its doors in 1990 to provide food-insecure Jewish families with kosher food that was unavailable through other programs. By distributing groceries to families in need, Yad Ezra works to alleviate some of its clients’ financial burdens. In 1990, Yad Ezra served an average of 250 families monthly; current statistics indicate that it now provides approximately 1,300 impoverished families (almost 3,000 individuals) with food, health care items, and household goods on a monthly basis.

While the problem of hunger in the Jewish community and beyond still remains, Yad Ezra will continue to play a critical role in supporting struggling families. The organization is uniquely positioned to respond to this persistent problem and expand its services to those in need by building on its already successful programs.

Mission Throttle and Yad Ezra will work in partnership to

  • Identify key organizational assets
  • Establish clear goals based on organizational strengths and aspirations
  • Consider market gaps to pursue
  • Determine market demand for its primary service offering and potential additional offerings
  • Identify national best practices for comparable models with potentially marketable revenue streams

 

About Mission Throttle

Mission Throttle is a social impact strategy firm dedicated to accelerating philanthropic innovation in communities. We advise, invest in, and support mission-driven organizations that seek to use market-based strategies to address social and environmental challenges.  We are deeply passionate about our work and believe that merging business solutions and philanthropic values is critical to sustain and scale social impact for those in need.

 About Yad Ezra

Yad Ezra opened its doors in 1990 with the purpose of providing kosher food to needy Jewish families in Southeastern Michigan. The founders of Yad Ezra learned that there were impoverished Jews living in the community who relied heavily on government assistance programs, including food stamps.