Stacey Bendet and Alexandra Lebenthal know how hard it is for anyone to succeed in business. They also know it is harder for some than it is for others, so they created BankRoll Women, a company designed to help women entrepreneurs raise capital.
BankRoll Women will allow women entrepreneurs to equity crowdfund but will also provide entrepreneurs with access to advocacy and mentorship from successful women entrepreneurs.
Lebenthal and Bendet note that BankRoll Women will have several primary functions:
To provide women entrepreneurs with access to advocacy and mentoring from highly success women;
To hold public educational and networking events for women entrepreneurs;
To give access to a JOBS Act online equity crowdfunding platform that allows women’s companies to raise capital from “the crowd”;
To create its own fund to directly invest in select women’s companies; and
To pitch a television program where the Bankroll Women help women’s businesses get funding.
Ms. Bendet is the CEO and creative director of women’s designer clothing brand Alice and Olivia, while Ms. Lebenthal was dubbed “The New Queen of Wall Street” by Forbes in 2012. They soft-launched BankRoll Women in May.
“I know firsthand how hard it is to start a business from scratch,” Ms. Bendet began. “Alice and Olivia started with a pair of striped pants that I designed out of upholstery fabrics. The concept was to create the fit of a bell bottom jean in novelty fabrics.”
Ms. Bendet self-financed her startup from the beginning.
“I never had financing. I definitely did a lot of things myself to keep costs down but I really just made sure that I had strong terms with my factories and retailers so I would be paid on time and could pay on time.”
Her efforts worked. Alice and Olivia has annual sales of $200 million and employs 400 people, at least 90 percent of whom are women, Ms. Bendet said.
Ms. Bendet said she was raised to believe that women are just as capable as men at building and running a business. She also tries to support young, ambitious women.
There are many such women, but they are not sufficiently present in some key areas. Only three percent of venture-funded businesses have a female CEO, and only eight percent of Silicon Valley startup Series A rounds in 2015 were led by women.
“It’s time to start evening the playing field for women in business,” Ms. Lebenthal said.
BankRoll Women plans on adding several more high-profile women by the end of 2016. They also launched BankRoll Women Bridge Club, a service offering accredited investors the chance to provide bridge financing to or invest in female-led businesses.
CEO Tess Hottenroth said BankRoll Women is unique by serving businesses at more stages of development.
“While there are other organizations and funds that provide limited access to capital for women-owned companies, no one other than BankRoll Women provides funding options at all levels, from startups all the way to public companies. When you combine online equity crowdfunding with access to the advocacy and the network Stacey, Alexandra and BankRoll Women bring to the table, there is truly nothing else out there like us.”
Ms. Hottenroth is co-founder of strategic partner BankRoll, a JOBS Act funding platform which allows companies to raise up to $50 million online. Her BankRoll co-founder Kendall Almerico is a noted JOBS Act expert and equity crowdfunding attorney.
“The game-changing equity crowdfunding tools that BankRoll Women brings to the table for women-owned companies will take the funding process out of the hands of venture capitalists and too-big-to-fail financial institutions, and put it into the hands of everyday people.”