Women-owned companies took the spotlight Monday at 1871, pitching to a crowd of 200 supporters, community leaders and investors as the first cohort at WiSTEM wrapped up.
Participants prepared with four weeks of pitch practice, said Nicole Yeary , founder of Ms. Tech and co-facilitator of the WiSTEM program for early-stage female founders run by Merchandise Mart-based tech hub 1871.
“We spent a lot of time hashing out, validating and invalidating their assumptions about their business models,” Yeary said. She said the main goals of the program were to connect the companies to capital, community and technology resources.
Eight of WiSTEM’s first 13 participants were on hand for the showcase.
The community factor was important for some founders. Veatrice Glenn, founder and CEO of Insightful Decisions, an education technology startup whose mobile app helps students manage activities and academics, said WiSTEM taught her how to be a role model as a female entrepreneur.
Glenn said she valued that knowledge, even though it had nothing to do with her business.
“I have a responsibility to address certain issues as a woman tech leader and … to think of those issues in addition to being an entrepreneur,” Glenn said.
Glenn also attended sessions that helped her refine her business skills, including helping her understand the software cycle and how to create a minimum viable product.
Catherine Merritt, founder and CEO of mom-focused crowdfunding site Mumzy, also has a full-time role as senior vice president at public relations firm MSLGroup and said her busy schedule forced her to choose to attend only the most valuable sessions.
“I think community has been what has been the biggest gift and benefit to me from WiSTEM,” Merritt said.
She said she enjoyed access to 1871’s community as well as finding opportunities to collaborate with others in the WiSTEM group. She said some of the training sessions were less useful because of her prior business experience, so she prioritized networking opportunities.
The other presenting companies were Pay Your Selfie, which works with brands including Crest, Allstate and Freshii; TrakNProtect, which piloted its beacon-based product to track hardware and software with Hyatt; DigitalGroundUp, which offers online digital marketing courses; Mohop, a maker of on-demand, digitally manufactured custom shoes; PartySlate, a photography-heavy portfolio tool for party vendors and venues; and SkillScout, a human resources services company with 40 paying customers in the manufacturing space.
Applications for the next WiSTEM cohort close Friday. The 16-week program will start in mid-March, Yeary said, and again will welcome early-stage female entrepreneurs.
Next time around, Yeary wants to use more labs instead of lectures and to consolidate programming to one day a week, making it easier for entrepreneurs to fit it into their schedules.