BY JANET MANDELSTAM
Kristen Cooper founded Startup Ladies—an organization that, according to its website, “identifies, educates, connects, and increases investment in women entrepreneurs starting up and scaling businesses”—in Indianapolis in 2014. Her goal was to help women create successful businesses “from idea to market to growth.”
Industry experts, investors, and entrepreneurs are invited to offer strategies and lead conversations on all aspects of business—including finance, technology, and marketing—during presentations called “Startup Study Halls.”
Cooper knew that women from Monroe County had been traveling to and participating in the Indianapolis chapter of Startup Ladies, and with the academic and economic development resources available in Bloomington—especially the Indiana University Kelley School of Business—she felt it made sense to launch a chapter here. The first meeting was held in January at Cup & Kettle Tea Company, itself a women-owned business.
“Startup Ladies provides a safe space for women to learn and connect,” Cooper says.
That’s what drew Pam Weaver to the group. She was a member in Indianapolis before joining the local chapter.
“There are universal, gender-neutral difficulties in starting a business.” Weaver says. “But there are gender-specific difficulties for women as well, including presenting their ideas to a mainly male audience and securing financial backing from funders, investors, and venture capitalists who are mainly men.” Both Cooper and Weaver have worked in the tech world, which Weaver describes as “majority male and a little bit macho.”
Most business courses don’t address the emotional aspects of building a startup, Weaver says. Startup Ladies’ members-only She-Suite offers psychological support. “It addresses how to have the confidence to step out of the box.”
Weaver’s career began in 1994 when she was one of the first paid webmasters in Indiana. Her current enterprise, an app called Dragonfly, combines economic development issues with a comprehensive listing of what’s happening locally. Dragonfly recently received its first external funding from the Indiana Small Business Development Center’s technical assistance program.
“The Startup Ladies are so excited to have a chapter in Bloomington,” Cooper says. “I think we’re going to see some very successful women-owned businesses launch over the next year.”
The chapter holds monthly workshops for entrepreneurs and investors. For more information and a schedule of events, visit thestartupladies.org.