Miami Is Top City for Women Entrepreneurs, but New Group Aims to Help Their Businesses Grow

Considering Miami is the only U.S. city founded by a woman, it makes sense that female founders continue to shape and define life here. In fact, according to a 2015 American Express report on women-owned businesses, Miami ranks in the top five metro areas for its high rate of women-owned businesses.

But research also shows these businesses aren’t scaling up like male-owned businesses. And that’s in line with national trends; across the nation, despite a growing number of women entrepreneurs, male-owned businesses are still three times likelier to grow.

A startup accelerator wants to change that balance in the Magic City by elevating women entrepreneurs. The Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab, created in 2013 by the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College in Boston, will launch its first Miami cohort in September. The Knight Foundation is funding the Miami accelerator with an $800,000 grant.

“There’s this culture obsession with the hoodie-wearing, high-tech male entrepreneurial figure,” says Heatherjean MacNeil, global director of WIN Lab. “That’s the quintessential startup success story, and women don’t see themselves reflected. That's why we developed our accelerator differently.”

At its core, WIN Lab will offer Miami’s women founders mentorship and coaching from top entrepreneurs and executives. The program will begin in the fall with a two-day retreat, and then participants will meet one evening a week for eight months (participants can continue their day jobs). Founders will get help in every step of launching and growing a business, from building a team to raising capital and scaling. The program also provides access to co-working space.

In a nutshell, “WIN is about preventing any value being left on the table,” MacNeil says. “We’re creating an environment where women entrepreneurs can thrive.”

The Miami program is directed by Miami native Nelly Farra, a University of Miami and Babson College grad, who most recently led business development for the Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra accounting firm. Farra says the program seeks entrepreneurs and companies from all sectors, such as consumer products, tech, and service. These companies can be early-stage or entering the growth phase.

“We’re interested in women who have big ideas from any industry,” she says. “Products, tech, health, fitness — we’re industry- and age-agnostic.”

In the first part of the program, “WINners” will develop their entrepreneurial identities, refine their business concepts, and conduct prototype testing through retreats, guest speakers, one-on-one coaching sessions, and field excursions. In the second half, they will evolve their prototypes, create a marketing plan, and develop a launch and funding strategy. The final goal is to pitch investors with a business model, growth plan, and viable prototypes.

Recently announced partners include Women Innovation & Technology (WIT), a track within eMerge Americas to propel innovation and investment in South Florida and Latin America, as well as Wyncode Academy, a coding boot camp.

For Farra, it’s the perfect time for this type of program to hit Miami.

“It’s a new Miami — a collaborative Miami,” Farra says. “Everyone wants to work together and build an ecosystem that will be longstanding, that will change lives. And we want to create the next generation of female CEOs here.”

Applications are open and will be accepted until May 2. 

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