I've been a social entrepreneur since I was young, but it took me until a few years ago, when I Co-Founded 121Giving, to realize this was a life-time pattern. Over the last few years I've stopped defining social entrepreneurship as just the act of leaving your day job and starting a social enterprise. It can look like that. But, it can also look like the act of volunteering, helping build programs in your community, supporting efforts to give back. It is part of who we are, it is something we chose to do with our lives and our talents, as women. And it spans the range of experience from our youth and past retirement.
Over the years I've helped countless nonprofits and startups to build their brands, programs and communities. Many of those roles were volunteer ones, as I followed my passion. From my early days teaching poetry to 3rd graders with Inside Out Literary Arts in Detroit to the life-changing year I spent serving with Youth Initiatives in Belfast, I've always been drawn to communities that nourish and empower. Haven is technically the 4th business I've started, but it's the first one that is focused on empowering women.
Over the last 3 years in the process of launching 121Giving, securing close to $1M in funding, and bringing the business to life, I've experienced first-hand the startup incubators and pitch contests available for entrepreneurs in Austin and beyond. As a female co-founder of a startup in Austin, I was even more of a minority that I thought. Even though close to $1B in funding went to startups in Austin in 2014, only 15% of startups in Austin are women-founded.
Many if not all of my pitch experiences were "shark tank" pressure cookers or some derivation of that theme. They may have taught me the basics of pitching, business plans and more, but they didn't nourish or resonate with me. I was often left feeling intimidated or ashamed, and often was one of only a few women. From gongs on stage to other gimmicks, I have seen it all. Now I don't mean to diminish the impact of these programs and the incredible growing startup funding scene in Austin, it's so important and I'm proud to call Austin home. But this approach just doesn't work for me. And as I started to talk to other women and share my perspective this year, one by one they shared their own versions of the same story. So last month I decided, it's time to launch Haven.
Haven is the community I have wished for over the years, and still need. We support women in all stages of their journeys as social entrepreneurs with programming and co-creation that empowers them with the network, skills and nourishment to get back out there and change their communities.
Our programming is not specifically focused on the businesses or nonprofits themselves, and their fiscal success. It's focused on empowering individuals who are changing the world and cultivating their passion and talents along their journey. It's about the whole woman, and what she needs and what she can give back.
As one of my mentors said to me recently,
When you venture to do any kind of social impact, the journey asks you to step up your game. - Linda Ford
Haven is here to support that growth and leadership, and we're here as a place where you can be completely real and raw about the challenges. At Haven, vulnerability is strength.
I'm blessed to be joined in my efforts to bring Haven to life by the enthusiastic and talented Rachael Windsor who has taken the jump with me. We're both passionate about this dream and we're working hard to bring it to life.
If this resonates with you, we'd love your support or involvement. We need funding to fund this summer and spread the word about Haven in Austin. If you're in Austin and you want to become a member, you can join and donate whatever works for you each month. We suggest a donation of $20/month.
If you're considering joining anyhow, and you are able to donate 3 months up front please do! We'll send you a Haven t-shirt and our everlasting gratitude.