“What do you need?” - A Simple Question with Profound Impact
Nurturing a Learning Community:
When asked about her experience in Start Path Empodera (SPE), Carolina Ruiz Soto, General Manager of mipaquete.com, highlighted the collaborative, non-competitive environment as a distinguishing element of the accelerator program. Carolina stated, “Before, I did not network with other female entrepreneurs- simply because I didn’t know any. Now that I’ve met them, I see that there are quite a few of us, and that generates a multiplying effect, a community of support. It’s an enduring relationship,” she said. Being able to meet other women entrepreneurs and listen to their stories and experiences contributed to the overall learning environment of SPE.
Other SPE participants noted that talking with other entrepreneurs in a community-oriented setting, instead of one characterized by rivalry, has been impactful. Mercedes Bidart, CEO of Quipu Market, commented, “The ones who know this better are those entrepreneurs who went from 1 employee to 100 or 300. How to do it? When to hire? Those who did it know the answers,” she concluded. For Mercedes, connecting with entrepreneurs was useful, because she was able to learn from others’ actual experiences and not only from business theory or classroom lectures. Furthermore, Mercedes noted that acceleration programs must generally design their curricula to align to entrepreneurs’ specific needs. She said that, depending on the status of each start-up, women entrepreneurs may need more resources or support on certain issues (as opposed to a standard set of lectures where they’re just members of the audience).
Individualized Support for Each Stage of Entrepreneurship:
Cohort 3 participant Jessica Tabares Suarez, Founder and Director of Asiste, confirmed that she has also seen the need for more individualized support in some accelerator programs. “[Other accelerator programs] tell you that you must learn this or that topic, but that may not be relevant for your company’s current stage of progression anymore. Instead, Start Path Empodera asked first, ‘What stage are you in? What do you need?’”
When Jessica told them that she was in the process of seeking investors, Start Path Empodera connected her with industry partners and allies who could help support her company regarding the specific needs she sought to address. “The teams and the market have a rhythm... the SPE team understands those rhythms and helps entrepreneurs to move forward and progress,” Jessica stated.
Angelica Acosta, CEO of IncluirTec, also highlighted the importance of accelerators and incubators responding to the needs of each start-up and not imposing standardized work plans. IncluirTec participated in several other accelerators prior to Start Path Empodera: Village Capital took Angelica on explorations of markets beyond Colombia; Rockstar Impact helped her understand how to approach the proper investment funds as a tech-based start-up; and Mexico’s Agro.connect program enabled her to go “from words to action” after facilitating the implementation of a pilot with a financial institution. But it was SPE that “changed her life” in that it showed her company how to better communicate using digital marketing.
Peruvian-born entrepreneur Isabel Palao of Máximo remembers how the SPE format was key to helping her prioritize her efforts and focus on building a capital-raising strategy to attract investors. As the Co-Founder and CEO of a financial services start-up for video game fans, Isabel reflected: “We had focused on product development, but Mastercard helped us establish faster work plans. For example, we made progress in adding cryptocurrency for our customers as a new payment option.” Isabel said that the SPE cohort participants also received advice on advertising and marketing that gave them a useful methodology for segmenting audiences. “I now have an investment strategy and a deck. With that, I feel [more confident] in approaching investors.” Isabel added that incubators and accelerators are important for women entrepreneurs to have spaces of visibility, from events where they can make their pitches to appearances in the media.
With different levels of maturity and urgency, women entrepreneurs may need to acquire more capital, reach new markets, or gain more visibility. The answer will not always be the same, but the question posed by the accelerator program can be identical: “So, what do you need?”
Five women entrepreneurs quoted in this article:
Carolina Ruiz, Mercedes Bidart, Jessica Tabares, Angelica Acosta, Isabel Palao