Connecting women, capital

January 21, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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Like Rodney Dangerfield’s perennial lack of respect, women entrepreneurs are plagued by a lack of venture capital, according to Kim Lavine. But she intends to start changing that this week at a Friday event celebrating the opening of the “Mommy Millionaire’s” new H.O.M.E. office in Grand Haven.

“Women own 48 percent of all businesses in America and we’re only getting 4 percent of all private equity money” from investors, she said. “As a result, only 3 percent of women-owned businesses have revenues of a million dollars a year or more.”

In her latest book, “The Mommy Manifesto: How to Use Our Power to Think Big, Break Limitations, and Achieve Success,” she raised the question: Are women deliberately being denied money for their business ideas or are they just not asking? A recent study by the University of New Hampshire indicates that the correct answer is “a combination of both,” said Lavine.

Most of the private equity investors she has spoken to have said they were not aware of the gender disparity in where venture capital goes, so Lavine has asked them to come to her summit in October to qualify some women who are now working on new business opportunities, and “nobody has told me ‘no,’” she said.

In 2001, Lavine began making and selling a grain-filled therapy pillow she called the Wuvit, which led to the formation of her first company, Green Daisy Inc., which has since enjoyed millions in sales. In 2007, she published “Mommy Millionaire: How I Turned My Kitchen Table Idea Into a Million Dollars and How You Can, Too!” That was followed in 2009 by “The Mommy Manifesto.”

Lavine has been interviewed on national television and radio programs including “The Today Show,” “Rachel Ray Show,” “Good Morning America” and others.

Now she is on a mission to help one million entrepreneurs get started in their business ventures, with her motto being “stop looking for a job and start running a business!” Her new H.O.M.E. business — Home Office for a Million Entrepreneurs — offers consulting and training to women with an idea for starting a business. A key element of that is learning about sources of capital and how to obtain it.

H.O.M.E. is Lavine’s first business facility other than her home, she recently told the Business Journal. She has leased commercial space in the historic Armory Building at 17 S. Second Street in downtown Grand Haven. H.O.M.E. occupies a 1,000-square-foot space on the ground floor of the 105-year-old Armory, which was completely renovated in 2004.

Lavine said women are coming from throughout the U.S. and Canada to help her celebrate the opening of H.O.M.E. Jan. 28. Special guests will include Terry Cross of Windward Associates in Rochester Hills, and Carolyn J. Cassin, president and CEO of the Michigan Women’s Foundation, based in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Windward Associates is a venture consulting firm founded by Cross. He is a past board member of Great Lakes Angels and a founding member of the Michigan Venture Capital Association. Lavine described Cross as “a first-run investor in Google, PayPal, Napster. … He’s considered to be one of America’s experts on private equity, and he’s in Michigan.”

The Michigan Women’s Foundation recently announced the formation of a new fund to invest in women-owned businesses (see related story). “They have brought together powerful women in Michigan to create an angel fund, and they’ve already funded two deals in less than six months here. And they’re looking to fund more deals,” said Lavine.

Lavine said she has also been in contact with a group of angel investors based in Israel, and some of them have said they will attend the Private Equity Summit in October.

“I’m starting with the Michigan investors but I have commitments from other people around the country. I’m just not prepared to name their names yet,” she said.

At the H.O.M.E. housewarming, women with business ideas will have an opportunity to make their two-minute pitch to the private equity experts in attendance. Each pitch will be taped and will be part of a “Web series,” she said.

An overview of the event Lavine provided to the Business Journal states that it will be “an opportunity to personally network with premier investors and tape your 2-minute audition for the summit, where over $100 million in capital will be available to start or grow your business.”

Lavine said the H.O.M.E. concept extends beyond making capital accessible to women entrepreneurs.

“We’re going to teach women how” to find and contact private equity organizations and raise the money they need for their business, said Lavine. The two-minute pitch opportunities are “going to be interesting,” she said, because “we’re going to see who can pitch and who can’t.”

Lavine emphasizes that the finance aspect of H.O.M.E. is “not charity, it’s not a grant — we’re not giving away money here. This is all high-profit, high-growth opportunities that investors are going to be looking at.”

Attendance at the Jan. 28 event is by invitation only, according to the overview provided by Lavine. Anyone who would like to attend and make a pitch for the October summit should fill out the application form on Lavine’s website:

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