1871's WiSTEM program has reached a new milestone: More than 50 companies are now graduates of the cohort program that accelerates the businesses of women entrepreneurs. With the fifth cohort of WiSTEM beginning July 18, we reached out to the newly graduated cohort to share their advice and experiences.
The fourth WiSTEM cohort concluded in June with the 14 participating companies pitching their company in front of a packed auditorium at 1871. Beyond the incredible curriculum and opportunities in the WiSTEM program, the women-led startups spent the 12 weeks leading up to the event building a community -- sharing successes and failures, learning together and forming bonds that will last well beyond the program.
The program brought tremendous value to my business because of the diverse perspectives I gained. I was able analyze my initiatives and create a better strategy for how to communicate effectively to customers, this all being a result of feedback from my colleagues. It’s inspirational to be around so many talented women doing so many great things. —Kara Scanlin, CEO and Founder of Lystr
WiSTEM has helped me truly understand fundraising and working with investors. This was a completely foreign area to me before, but I understood how important developing relationships within the investment community was. I now feel confident approaching and speaking with the investors. —Shaniqua Davis, Founder and CEO of Noirefy
The programming [mentor office hours and workshops] has covered a broad range of areas of interests to tech startups. Ms.Tech, an educational partner to the program, provided a comprehensive curriculum giving all of the founders a mini-500 Startups type experience. I really appreciate the direct contact with prominent Chicago area VCs and serial entrepreneurs. —Zenah Khawaja, Founder of Semiautomatic Semiotics
I am an expert in my business, but the financials were always a struggle. They are the foundation of any business and so I made it my goal to learn my financials; chapter and verse! Also, I needed to really poke at my business model to see if it is the right one. After talking it over with mentors, my cohort, and applying methodologies like the business model canvas, it helped me to gain more clarity. —Barbara Provost, Founder of Purse Strings, LLC
I did not know what an “Executive Summary” was before the program, and I learned what it is and how it is helpful to have a well thought out version ready. Financial modeling was another eye opener with a thorough example demonstration. Business Model Canvas was another valuable tool. Whatever I was hazy about before, I could learn how and why they are important to building my product into a business. —Veda Konduru, CEO and Co-Founder of VectorScient
Entrepreneurship is diverse. Period. It is the way we build awesome things, and the way we began to impact communities for the better.it's by thinking and acting in a diverse matter. I think that we are more powerful when we bring together people groups of a different race, culture background, experiences and those are all pieces of diversity." —Patrice Darby, Founder and CEO of GoNanny
After 12 weeks of insight from fellow cohort members, I have been awakened to the concern about the lack of diversity in the tech community -- on the ground and in executive management. Much like FYD seeks to connect people with similar experiences for positive outcomes, I believe that having ongoing diversity in tech and improved success for people of color will provide the next generation with better opportunities and drive to seek tech-based positions and create tech companies in the nation." —Brianna Wolin, CEO and Co-Founder of Find Your Ditto
Black women get less than 1-percent of all VC funding yet we are the most educated demographic in this country and start businesses at six-times the rate of others. Having the institutional support (education, capital, inclusive workspaces) to start and grow a thriving a business is not only a matter of economic justice — it’s also the only way we will build meaningful solutions that solve the problems of the world. —Tiffany Mikell, CEO/CTO and Co-Founder of AerialSpaces
Tech is the wave of the future and without diversity in tech, companies are leaving its future majority population out of the equation. This will negatively impact the economy, the success of their businesses and the growth of our country. Entrepreneurs solve problems, but without the inclusion of diverse entrepreneurs in tech, companies are only solving problems for small portion of people in our country, and if they don’t change, their businesses won’t stand the test of time when this country’s population of diverse talent succeeds the current majority. —Kim Lewis, CEO and Founder of CurlMix
For us, it’s important to see more women making strides in the predominately male tech spaces because nearly all innovation impacts all genders, so we cannot simply silo the innovation itself nor the decision-making onto one gender. I hope to see companies encourage female innovators to branch out into the tech space by supporting them with access to resources that they may not normally have and to ignite creativity for women in tech by providing outlets for innovation. —Heather Holmes, CEO and founder of Genivity
On a personal level, I've had the amazing opportunity to be around like-minded women, sharing our ups and downs, and learning from one another along the way. —Lisa Souter, Founder and CEO of Sparkl
Being self taught, I think I've always had this concern lurking in my mind, that I don't know what the hell I'm doing. What I realized meeting all the mentors who came in is that NO ONE knows what the hell they're doing. Most entrepreneurs are just out there winging it. What is important is to feel confidence in one's ability to learn on the fly and go with it, which I am definitely taking to heart. —Andrea Newberry, Founder of Leche Libre
As we all know, being a solo entrepreneur can be lonely and a painfully slow process to success. Weekly WiSTEM sessions have provided fellowship, guidance and fire underfoot to RUN, not walk, towards success! —Ritu Trivedi-Purohit, Founder and CEO of thriveosity
1871 is a quiet place to debug until the early hours of the morning and a place with endless amount of post-its for design sprints. I'm especially lucky to take friendships with me from this incredible group of women. The most valuable experience I gained for my business are the connections to high-profile entrepreneurs that are more than willing to help further your business. —Angela Rivera, Co-Founder and CEO of InReach
The WISTEM C4 Networking Breakfast, where current and former cohort members met and mingled.
The Board Luncheon, where cohort members interfaced with CEC Board members at Chase.
The WiSTEM C4 Showcase, where the cohort's efforts through 12 weeks of hard work, passion, and grit culminated in a pitch-style event in front of hundreds of community members, investors, entrepreneurs, and supporters.