Terri talks to Jennifer Ehlen of Brazen Global about her focus on supporting the advancement of women-led companies including why she created Brazen Global, a for-profit company, to better serve female founders.
Who is Jennifer Ehlen?
Jennifer Ehlen is the founder of Brazen and Prosper Women Entrepreneurs (PWE), two organizations aimed at advancing women-led companies. She is the CEO of Brazen Global and a Managing Partner of the PWE Startup Accelerator. Before making the entrepreneurial leap to focus on Brazen Prosper full-time, Jennifer was a Director at Thompson Street Capital Partners, where Jennifer worked with senior management to help source and evaluate investment opportunities for the St. Louis based $1.5B+ private equity firm. Prior to joining Thompson Street, Jennifer was the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Saint Louis University.
Jennifer is an angel investor and invests in early stage ventures. She is also a member of Golden Seeds (NYC chapter). Jennifer serves as a coach, mentor and advisory board member for companies ranging in size from pre-revenue to $200M+.
Jennifer’s favorite and most important venture is raising her four children with her partner Craig.
- Jennifer shares her path from a small town in mid-Missouri in a socio-economically challenged family that provides a unique perspective where she has worked in and with the top 2% in private equity.
- Jennifer has been fascinated by intersectional feminism in entrepreneurship. She worked at the St. Louis University, has been an investor, raised a fund, worked in private equity and saw the differences between men and women in entrepreneurialism.
- Jennifer saw some research in 2012 about the state of women-owned businesses and saw that St. Louis came in dead last, tied with San Francisco. She and her colleagues had worked very hard at getting women a seat at the table and they were very frustrated by the reality and the study results.
- Jennifer, through Prosper, raised a $3M fund to invest in women and they built an accelerator.
- Realizing that the power is in the peer advisory groups, they decided to create Brazen to build the tools to create better peer groups and allow for global scaling.
- Brazen operates in 7 cities including St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, and Philly. Their goal is to expand into more cities this year.
- Brazen’s flagship program is the peer advisory groups (growth groups). 7-9 women are in each group and meet every month. They use Brazen’s proprietary software that provides a rigorous structure that allows the participants to feel like they are fully understood before their peers start to provide guidance and support.
- Brazen is a for-profit organization and they license to franchisees. They have 50 cities that could foreseeably be a new Brazen market, but it comes down to the director and who is delivering the program.
- At Brazen, they feel strongly about making sure that the directors understand startups/entrepreneurship/growth process at a deep level. They need to be able to speak about gender parity in an articulate, evidence-based way. The directors need to have a good network in the market already.
- Brazen has found that the software for the peer groups is applicable across sectors…not just for entrepreneurs.
- Jennifer shares what has been most surprising about her journey over the last year.
- Jennifer talks about how quite a few of their investors are men as they see the financial opportunity in this space.
- Terri asks Jennifer about what she is doing to temper the founder roller coaster. Her response is a lot of self-care and she is no longer following her competitors in order to be focused on what she is trying to accomplish. Her team follows them for her.
- Terri talks about how when she was going through a tough spot her executive coach reminded her that regardless of what ‘failures’ occurred or ‘down times’ existed in the past, I was able to recover, and this is so important to remember when we encounter tough times.
- Terri shared what she discussed with her executive coach about the comparison game and how easy it is to lose sight of your own goals. It is important to focus on your own journey and not someone else’s.
- If Jennifer could wave a magic wand to change something in this world, she would create true, total equity in the early stage capital space and have more women investing.
- Jennifer’s favorite founder resource is Brazen Global (of course) and recommends becoming a Brazen member.
Terri’s Key Takeaway
Some of the best entrepreneurial ideas come from anger or angst.
References in the Podcast
AmericanExpress article on women owned businesses: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/2012-american-express-open-state-of-women-owned-businesses-report/
Paul Heirendt: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulheirendt/
Prosper Women Entrepreneurs: http://www.prosperstl.com/
Brazen Global: https://brazenglobal.com/
Brazen Vault (resources); https://brazenglobal.com/category/blog/
Golden Seeds: https://goldenseeds.com/
Pipeline Angels: http://pipelineangels.com/
You can follow Terri on Twitter at @terrihansonmead or go to her website at www.terrihansonmead.com or on Medium: https://medium.com/@terrihansonmead.
Feel free to email Terri at PilotingYourLife@gmail.com.
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