How Can You Help Women?

Written by:

Katie Mehnert

People ask me all the time how they can help me. They ask how they can help women. Men ask this question more now. I tell them three things: buy from women but follow the money, invest in women, and promote women.

When I started Pink Petro it was hard for anyone in 2015 to think it possible to invest in women in energy. The energy market was crashing. Budgets were being slashed. People were panicking. Layoffs were ongoing. It was a depressing time. (And I couldn't help but talk about the future.)

But I knew the best investment was the women and our future workforce. That's why I cashed out my oil holdings and I invested in a stock I know worth holding: women. While the world was panicking, and as crazy as it sounded, I was bullish on women and minorities. I still am today and despite a market crash, a hurricane that took my home and our former office, #MeToo, and a million other crises, we're still here. Heck, Amazon's Alexa knows Pink Petro. And we are growing.

Growth is hard.

It takes more than an idea, but also pivoting when things don't work. It takes hiring the very best and sometimes that means outgrowing people and suppliers. But it also takes money.

Women are short changed at the banks, too.

You hear a lot today about the pay gap. It's real and real for women, especially women of color. But for entrepreneurs, it's about the investment and funding gaps.

Every day 1,800 new women-owned businesses are added to the U.S. economy, yet women-owned businesses receive a small fraction of total small business lending.1 Recently, there has been increased attention around the funding gap women face in venture capital, however, the impact of the small business lending gap, which can affect many of the 12 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., is likely more significant.2

I can attest to this gap.

Running a revenue-producing enterprise that's on a massive growth path like Pink Petro is tough.

It's a real balance between what to focus your resources on while you chase your clients. Hey, they won't mind me calling them out. They know it. Big companies pay, but they are slow to pay and when you get to a certain growth point, you need people to manage the day to day while others focus on revenue production.

I know why women start businesses and quit.

It's hard - it's not a 5K sprint. It's a marathon. Some miles are amazing. Some not so much. And there are definitely moments when you hit the wall.

I'm proud to say Pink Petro is 100% women owned, certified, managed and advised and grown organically. No VC, PE or any of that fancy stuff here. But that doesn't mean it's been easy. I had an idea. And that idea is revenue producing, but to grow you have to spend money to make money.  And women are lacking serious access to resources men have.

But what if women had access?

With the wave of women owned businesses sweeping every industry and America, there's a new fixed income investment that enables individuals and institutions to invest in the future of women. Enter the Wisdom Fund by CNote.

I haven't invested in the Wisdom Fund and I'm not a financial advisor so none of what I write here is advice on investments, whatsoever. The Wisdom Fund, according to CNote, is a fixed income investment that increases capital access and lending for women-owned businesses. It is a co-created effort to bring new thinking, experimentation, and sustainable solutions to drive wealth creation for women, specifically low-income and women of color in the United States.

Small business lending requires you mortgage everything you own to finance a business. But let's be honest and ask the male counterparts and wildcatters get asked to offer up personal guarantees? Some but not most. Men are just funded.  Access is instant.

I speak from experience as a white educated woman. My African American and Latina counterparts have it MUCH harder.

The Wisdom Fund isn't the first major investment in the space around investing in women. Wall Street executive turned entrepreneur, Sallie Krawcheck took over Ellevate Network years back and then launched Ellevest. She also had Pax-Ellevate. The Fund is the first broadly diversified mutual fund that invests in the highest-rated companies in the world for advancing women through gender diversity on their boards and in executive management. Krawcheck is a SHERO of mine. She's gone on to raise a record near $35M to accelerate the Ellevest investment platform geared at helping women invest their money and grow it.

Like the pay gap, the gender gap and all of the social issues proliferating our feeds, I'm convinced we are on the brink to get more women funded. Funds like Wisdom and Pax Ellevate and platforms like Ellevest are much needed catalysts to drive new wealth for all.

So, how can you help other women?

  • Buy from women. Encourage your circle of influence to seek out female owned suppliers. Make sure they are certified women owned businesses, though. Certification means they are vetted and truly female owned. But please, follow the money. I am struck by big private firms owned by men who try and sell to women and minorities (the events and training business is huge in energy for instance), but they only do it to line their bottom line.
  • Invest in women. Find funds or investment vehicles that support the growth of women. Have your investment professional look at your portfolio or consider hiring a female investment professional.
  • Sure you can hire women.  It's kinda 1960s, but today it's better to promote women. Find opportunities to give women a merit-based seat at the table, give them the visibility and stop talking about it, just do it.

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