There are several professions where women are still the minority: They make up only 15% of cab drivers, and only 14% of police officers. And in 2017, the percentage of startups that had at least one female founder was just 17%, a number that has plateaued since 2012.Even worse, that small handful of female founders received just 2%, or $1.9 billion, of the $85 billion total invested by venture capitalists last year.
Kathleen Griffith is trying to change those stats. By 2020, she hopes to help jump-start 10,000 female-founded businesses by offering the same brand-strategy advice and tools her company provides to big brands for female small business owners. Griffith’s consultancy, Grayce & Co, which she started four years ago, helps Fortune 500 corporations improve marketing to women through business, branding, and marketing tools. This year, she partnered with Entrepreneur to launch the Build Like A Woman platform, which offers courses that teach everything from how to create a growth forecast to a competitive landscape to a pitch deck. Students can either attend in-person weekend boot camps or opt for the online version for $99 per module (the first unit, Risk-taking and entrepreneurship, is free).
There are currently six units on the platform–Griffith says they’re continuing to expand–and each starts with a video and takes about a week to get through the coursework and complete a plan document for that given unit. At the end of the Builders program, which takes about six weeks from start to completion, the plan documents created will be used to develop two key business documents: the business plan and the pitch deck.
The units include (1) Risk-taking and entrepreneurship, (2) Intelligence, which teaches how to identify trends, direct and indirect competitors, and their impact on the business, (3) Growth, which addresses how to monetize the product or service you’re selling, what business model makes the most sense, how to set up foundational financial documents, and how to grow your offering, (4) Brand strategy, (5) Market activation, and (6) Ignite, which puts your ideas into action.
Griffith told Fast Company that democratizing these services will help clear up barricades that often hold women back from starting and growing their businesses. She remembers it being difficult to find the practical business tools she needed to start Grayce and Co., which was just an idea for five years before becoming a reality.
“You talk to so many women in this space, and these women are sitting on such powerful ideas that have the power to change lives and move markets,” says Griffith. “We want to make it easier for women who have an idea or a business that has really been sitting on their heart, have been wrestling with for a long time, to have the courage to make the leap.”
Griffith adds: “Over time, I’d love to have a list where women openly declare that they’re going to launch this idea or business or whatever it may be, and we all support them and hold them accountable to that.”
Currently, there are a number of digital platforms in the market that provide business and marketing tools to startup founders and solopreneurs, from General Assembly to Kahn Academy to Masterclass to Marie Forleo to Coursera to Harvard Business School’s Owner/President program. What sets Build Like A Woman apart is that it’s a program created for women, by women. Griffith says that while many of her advisers suggested targeting the general market, she wanted to focus on women-led brands, to help brands like “the future Outdoor Voices, Glossiers, Bumbles, and Stitch Fixes of the world” go farther, faster by offering something that was specific to the challenges and opportunities that women face.
The Build Like A Woman platform also includes a Builders Series that includes clips from people like Jessica Alba, Amy Emmerich of Refinery 29, and Brit Moran of Brit + Co., sharing their journey. When asked what the women on the Builders Series have in common, Griffith says that only women willing to “tell their real, authentic story around what it takes, what were those breakdowns, and how they turned them into breakthroughs” were selected.
“In my experience, and the experiences of the women I work with and speak to, there’s a real feeling of disconnect, often from the leaders who are profiled,” she says. “What we wanted to do is to create a format, a dialogue that is very real and authentic and exposes the raw underbelly of what it really takes mentally, emotionally, and physically to build a business. Because you often feel very alone in it, it’s very lonely, and then the stories you do hear, the ones that cycle through, are kind of glossy, perfect pictures of this journey.”
She adds: “At best, they’re unrelatable, but at worst, I think in many cases, they end up making you feel even more disassociated from the ability to create these businesses. Because you feel like, ‘Oh their story is so perfect. They’ve had this really easy journey and that’s not something I can relate to because my experience is so vastly different than that.'”