Memphis has made all the difference for me as a female startup founder. Memphis isn’t often sought after as an entrepreneurial hub, but I found it to be just what I was looking for: supportive and empowering for woman founders like myself. Memphis startup events aren’t only balanced on gender, but also in race. A mind-set for inclusion here is really setting our community apart from others.
In late 2010, I began my entrepreneurial journey with the launch of an online store. With a background in digital marketing and a passion for e-commerce, I began WeddingWorthy.com, a collaborative commerce platform that enables bridal parties to shop together from anywhere. Being self-employed, however, never really granted me the resources necessary to grow my company. I didn’t realize what I was missing though until I reached out to Start Co. I needed mentoring, resources and investment – the infrastructure Start Co. provides. That’s when WeddingWorthy.com really began to gain some momentum.
Within a month of tapping into the Memphis ecosystem, I was welcomed into Start Co.’s Upstart accelerator program for women-led tech startups. The program was already underway by the time I got involved, but they made it very easy for me to join the activities. Start Co. understands that increasing access to resources, not limiting them, is the key to inclusion. I was able to take advantage of their co-working space, weekly entrepreneurship workshops and office hours, all of which helped me grow my idea. In fact, I was invited to pitch my business at the Upstart Demo Day in October.
Start Co.’s relentless focus and genuine desire to empower women entrepreneurs is changing the face of startup culture here in Memphis. One hundred percent of last year’s Upstart founders are minority women launching companies across a diverse portfolio of industries. They’ve even hired a serial entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, Mara Lewis, as their first entrepreneur-in-residence. One female founder from last year’s Seed Hatchery program, Brit Fitzpatrick, has already received follow-on investment.
Memphis is at the forefront of entrepreneurial support for women and minorities. I invite, not only founders to reach out, but also those passionate about supporting high growth businesses led by women and minorities. Memphis is leading the change we need to see in startup ecosystems everywhere.
Desangles is founder of Wedding Worthy, an e-commerce platform for wedding accessories, and has participated in Start Co. programming from the start. She most recently pitched her business at Upstart’s Demo Day.