A few years ago, Heather Wentler and Amy Gannon were two of just a handful of women in the room at entrepreneurial networking events in Madison. Now their ranks are growing thanks to the work Wentler and Gannon are doing through their nonprofit, the Doyenne Group, which supports women launching and growing companies in the region, in part by plugging them into Madison's entrepreneurial community.
The group works with event organizers locally to ensure that women, including those running brick-and-mortar and lifestyle businesses, are included on panels and in programs. The organization also sponsors monthly meetings, weekend retreats, and events to bring women entrepreneurs together to inspire and challenge each other. Wentler, whose own startup Fractual creates STEM-based learning modules for students, shares more about the group and its goals.
Q: In what areas do women entrepreneurs need more support, and how are you providing that?
HW: Our retreats are tailored for women and their businesses. Whatever stage they're in, we work with them to create a strategic plan for the next 18 to 24 months. Mentors sit down with them to talk through ideas and what it will take to make them successful.
Q: What's impressive about Madison's entrepreneurial ecosystem, and how are you helping women tap into it?
HW: The ecosystem here is very supportive. Most people are willing to take a call or meeting to discuss business ideas or connect entrepreneurs to others who can help them grow their startup. Groups like ours, Capital Entrepreneurs and the Forward Festival are examples of how the community comes together to support and celebrate what we're achieving in Madison. Our Ambassador program, which provides mentors for members, is another way women can tap into the resources here. We also promote events and offerings for entrepreneurs through our mailing list, which is open to anyone.
Q: How do you hope to enhance the opportunities for women entrepreneurs through this group?
HW: We want Madison and Wisconsin to be one of the best places in the nation for women entrepreneurs. We're putting together an Evergreen Fund to award grants and do equity investments. We hope to be able to launch other groups like ours in Wisconsin and nationwide. We receive emails all the time asking what it would take for us to expand, and we're seeing women from all over attending our events.