State of the City: Women, Denver, & Entrepreneurship


Jessica Fialkovich | @jfialkovich

Denver is one of the hottest cities in the country when it comes to entrepreneurship. The 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity ranks Metro Denver number 9 in the nation for startup activity, but how do women run businesses stack up? It turns out women are fueling a significant portion of that growth.

Using research from the U.S Census Bureau and the Small Business Administration, NerdWallet found that 3 out of the top 10 metro areas for women to start a business are in Colorado: Boulder (1), Denver (3), and Fort Collins (10). Still, with the number of resources and research to back Denver as a thriving place for female entrepreneurs, Colorado still falls short of the national average --10%-- in the growth of women-owned firms since 2007. What’s behind this Colorado lag? A few things:

  • Revenue: According to the National Women’s Business Council (NAWBO), only 4.2% of all women-owned firms achieve sales greater than $1 million annually. It takes money to make money, and increased revenue brings access to resources needed to grow and sustain a business like employees, capital, and new opportunities.
  • Support: There are many great resources for female entrepreneurs in Denver like Women Who Startup, Mi Casa Women’s Business Center, and MergeLane, among others. However, entrepreneurship in general can be an isolating and challenging career choice, and research demonstrates women in particular often feel the pain and challenges of solo work. Women are 51% of the population and 47% of the U.S. labor force. What can Denver’s business and entrepreneurship community be doing to increase support, education, and mentorship opportunities for roughly half the population?
  • Capital: In general, women tend to finance businesses internally by bootstrapping operations, ultimately placing more pressure on themselves and their companies and have more difficulty accessing capital. Just 5% of federal government contracts go to women-owned small businesses and start-up management teams made up of men are over four times as likely to receive venture capital investments than a team with even one woman. Lack of access to capital puts women at a significant disadvantage. BTW: Check out my article on 10 Ways to Finance Your Business in Denver to get an idea of capital opportunities available.

What the Future Holds

Resources that help women with funding and scaling will be critical to the success of entrepreneurship.  A few organizations are dedicated to getting capital in the hands of Colorado’s women entrepreneurs. If you count yourself one of Denver’s bad*ass lady ‘treps, be sure to check out these resources:

  • SheEO, a non-profit that connects five ventures with debt-free, equity-free financing and a team of mentors. In 2016, SheEO launched a Denver chapter and is committed to giving Denver broads an opportunity to connect and get ahead.

  • Dell’s Empowering a Billion Women by 2020 is an impressive national initiative with a focus on Denver. In a 2015 comment to the Denver Post, EBW2020 Founder Ingrid Vanderveldt referred to Denver as a “shining star” in women’s entrepreneurship in the U.S. EBW2020 will continue its mission to provide financing to women-owned businesses, and the local Colorado chapter has ongoing events to keep women connected in Denver.

  • Emerging Women, a local organization that helps women become the leaders of change they should be, chose Denver for their October 2017 conference featuring nationally renowned speakers and influencers. And yep, you’ll be reading more about it in coming months here.

Women entrepreneurship is good for Denver, bringing jobs, innovation, and revenue to our city. Let us--all of us--continue to see women entrepreneurs as the valuable resource they are and support the creation, growth, and sustainability of women-owned businesses.