The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 07, 2016

How a new business accelerator will boost women entrepreneurs in Miami

Posted by Susan G. Duffy

Above: Lulwa AlSoudairy, member of WIN Lab Cohort 2014-2015. Photo courtesy The Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College.

Susan G. Duffy, Ph.D., is executive director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College in Babson Park, Mass. Today Knight Foundation is announcing $800,000 in support to launch Babson’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab in Miami.

It’s a familiar scene: Late at night, three friends sit together, their faces lit only by laptop screens, surrounded by lists and plans, schematics and flowcharts. They are working in pursuit of an idea, a disruption, a business. They are entrepreneurs. 

Now instead of imagining the old standard group of 20-something-year-old men in Silicon Valley, I want you to refocus and see a group of diverse women, supporting themselves and possibly a family, obsessed with a great idea, and ready to start and grow their business in Miami.

Thanks to funding from Knight Foundation, this scene can become a reality for more women entrepreneurs as we launch the second locale of Babson College’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab here in Miami.

We have heard time and again about the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs: disproportionate access to capital, limited opportunities for meaningful mentorship, and a lack of visible role models. 

These challenges are not unique to women entrepreneurs, however. According to Endeavor Insight, they are the same challenges facing the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem in Miami. 

For several years, we’ve known that Miami is a hotbed for entrepreneurial activity.  In the most recent Kauffman Index, Miami ranked No. 2 for most startup activity, with 247.6 startups per 100,000 people in the metro area. Miami also ranked in the top five metro areas with the highest rate of female business owners. 

At the same time, “The 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report” ranks Miami in the bottom five metro areas when it comes to the “economic clout” of women entrepreneurs – a measure that combines the number of women-owned businesses, generated revenues and employment data. Women-owned businesses in Miami are not scaling up.

The WIN Lab offers a solution. It is a different kind of venture accelerator – one that broadens the possibilities for women entrepreneurs whose skills, ideas and commitment are too often unmet by the traditional entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Designed by women entrepreneurs, for women entrepreneurs, the WIN Lab focuses on developing the entrepreneur as well as building the enterprise. As a result, it catalyzes competent, confident CEO founders with ventures that have the potential to grow.

The WIN Lab’s pedagogy includes a robust repertoire of programming that guides the entrepreneur on a prototyping pathway from ideation to launch and growth, while providing the relevant role models and networking opportunities necessary for success.

The WIN Lab first launched in 2013 at Babson College – the No. 1 institution for entrepreneurship in the country. Babson invented the methodology for entrepreneurship education nearly a century ago and has been perfecting it ever since.

Entrepreneurial Thought and Action stresses the importance of action and experimentation coupled with analysis and reflection and is seamlessly integrated throughout all of Babson’s programs.

Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership  focuses the Entrepreneurial Thought and Action lens on the unique skills and experiences of women to design innovative programs that empower women entrepreneurial leaders to reach their full potential.

This approach fuels the WIN Lab, and empowers its participants to build and accelerate their entrepreneurial ventures. Leveraging Babson’s renowned methodology and utilizing a rigorous milestone-driven roadmap of rigorous workshops, pitch challenges, expert coaching, extensive networking, and peer community building, the WIN Lab transforms women with ideas into women with impact.

Now in its third year, the Boston WIN Lab has graduated over 60 women, who have built and are running business across all sectors—from medical accessories, to retail, to renewable energy. Additionally, WIN Lab has been recognized by several organizations, including BostInno as one of Boston’s “50 on Fire” innovations; the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship for Excellence in Entrepreneurship Education; and by the Rosoff Awards for diversity.

Babson’s WIN Lab can be a key ingredient of Miami’s entrepreneurial future. With Knight Foundation’s support, the WIN Lab can strengthen the economy in Miami, diversify innovation, and broaden the definition of entrepreneurial success for generations to come.

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