NEW YORK — Visa launched a program this week aimed at giving women entrepreneurs access to more funding and peer support.
The new program for female entrepreneurs titled "She's Next, Empowered by Visa," was announced by Suzan Kereere, global head of merchant sales and acquiring at Visa, as part of the "Women who disrupt: How fearless female leaders are shaping the future of retail" panel at the National Retail Federation Big Show on Tuesday. The program was formally unveiled later that evening at an event at Hudson Yards and via a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
Visa — who is working with designer Rebecca Minkoff's company Female Founder Collective on the initiative as well as other brands including Square and Yelp — will host global pop-up events throughout 2019 to offer female entrepreneurs resources and networking opportunities. The first event will be in Atlanta on Jan. 30, while another program is scheduled to coincide with FIFA Women's World Cup in France.
A survey commissioned by Visa of U.S.-based female small business owners found that 73% said it was difficult to obtain the funding needed to launch a business, while 61% used their own money to start a company. This pattern is also demonstrated in the retail industry related to venture capital funding trends, with female-founded retail businesses raising only half of the amount of VC funding given to male entrepreneurs. Additionally, even as the number of U.S. women-owned businesses increases, overall they contribute the same percentage to domestic business revenues as they did 20 years ago.
WEConnect International found that women-owned businesses also have difficulty competing for corporate and government contracts as suppliers, earning less than 1% of the money that is spent by those organizations.
Women "run businesses because they want the financial flexibility because they want to do meaningful work and because they want to make a difference," said Kereere at the NRF panel. "This is a big idea. And it's going to take all of our economic muscle, our digital skill set, our know-how to back these badass women out there."