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Phoenix Startup Week launches, focuses on female entrepreneurs

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Phoenix’s first Startup Week kicked off Monday.

Organizers touted a week filled with more than 130 networking events, panels and presentations all geared toward boosting the city’s startup community.

One major effort included a push to increase the number of female entrepreneurs among those ranks. Chase presented a $175,000 grant to Arizona State University’s women’s entrepreneurship initiative to help change the landscape of Phoenix’s startup scene.

Phoenix saw a 20-percent increase in women-owned firms since 2002, but the area still ranks far below other major metropolitan areas when comparing growth in number of firms, revenue and employment, according to the 2013 State of Women Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express OPEN.

Phoenix was the fourth city nationwide to host a Startup Week, which aims to spark excitement in the startup community. The push to encourage more female entrepreneurs was well received.

“This is incredibly important because we need to include all prospective entrepreneurs in the community,” said Mitzi Montoya, dean of ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiatives.

Audrey Iffert-Saleem, who will lead the initiative, said the grant will help ASU accelerate the success of women-business owners.

“If we’re not helping women accelerate their businesses and start new companies, then unfortunately, we’re failing to tap this entire population who could be creating jobs,” Iffert-Saleem said during a panel discussion about women in entrepreneurship hosted by ASU.

The good news: More women are starting businesses. Female-owned businesses now account for 29 percent of all enterprises nationwide. However, those businesses aren’t collectively thriving yet. Female-owned businesses only employ 6 percent of the country’s workforce and contribute less than 4 percent of business revenues, according to the women-owned business report.

When entrepreneurs try to start their business, they have plenty of support.
The problem is that once the business is up and running, they don’t have that same level of support. That gap is what led Amy Scerra to co-found the Think Global Institute.

The institute is active in Denver, Milwaukee and Phoenix and works exclusively with female entrepreneurs to provide ongoing support to accomplish a simple mission: make sure that good businesses stay in business.

The Think Global Institute works alongside some of ASU’s entrepreneurship programs through workshops and other initiatives to provide students with the knowledge, resources and support to accelerate their businesses.

Iffert-Saleem said the efforts could lead to job creation.

“It would also lead to the creation of all kinds of services and products that would serve new markets,” Iffert-Saleem said. “If we can help more women be successful, certainly we can diversify all types of industries that Phoenix has to offer.”

Phoenix Startup Week continues through Friday with more than 1,700 participants registered to participate in more than 130 free events Valleywide.