If you’ve read any of our articles or guest posts about entrepreneurship, you will be familiar with the stats about the abysmal lack of funding that goes toward female-owned businesses, especially minority women-owned businesses. Less than 1% of global corporate spend goes to women-owned businesses, although there are an estimated 224 million women entrepreneurs owning 35% of firms worldwide. This widens the wealth gap and decreases the number of opportunities women-owned businesses have to succeed, according to data from UN Women and Kearney.
And while we’re certainly seeing some improvements, for example female-run VC firms looking to fill the gaps in the market by funding women-owned businesses, the disparities are still very apparent when it comes to the lack of funding, support and equality for female entrepreneurs.
One woman who is all too familiar with the barriers many women founders have to overcome, has launched a brand new initiative that encourages fellow women-owned businesses to pledge to one another in an effort to close the gender pay gap and eliminate the troubling disadvantages the community continues to face.
Carina Glover is the founder of HerHeadquarters – the only dedicated technical solution for connecting a person working at a woman-owned-business with another entrepreneur, organization, or brand to join forces on any venture no matter how big or small. It’s a unique networking tool that harnesses tech to bring people together for collaborations, with a focus on woman-owned-businesses solely.
Carina started an SOS campaign that encourages women to become one another’s ally to increase the success, opportunities, and wealth accessible to women-owned businesses. A brand’s pledge is a commitment to reserve 15% of its project and vendor contracts for women-owned businesses.
Why is she doing this? As a proud black woman and founder who is at the forefront of the type of discrimination women deal with on a daily basis, Carina understands what failure feels like. In 2013, Carina cried on the bathroom floor after the failed launch party of her first business – no one showed up. That devastation became the catalyst to her evolving into the founder, advocate of women-owned businesses, and public speaker she is today. She’s experienced the lows of working hard for scraps and the highs of having allies that boosted the trajectory of her success.
Instead of allowing the status quo to dictate her and other women’s paths to success, Carina is hacking the system and creating a new way forward. We had the chance to dig into the SOS Campaign with her, and learn more about her personal journey, as well as the biggest lessons she has learned from both failure and success.
Can you first tell us about your entrepreneurial journey, and how it began?
My journey started in 2013 and I can’t believe it’s been a decade already. I started an event planning business in my senior year of college. My first day as an entrepreneur was devastating. No one showed up to my launch party and I ended the night crying on the bathroom floor. I had sent out invites to 75+ professionals, spent thousands, rented a venue, and everything. I’ve been taking hits from day one. So it truly has been a journey.
While that business had a slow start, it eventually began a success. Before shutting the business down, we had worked with the Grammy’s, NFL Honors Awards, and more. But the higher I climbed, the more I felt I wasn’t aligned with my purpose. It was a deep, spiritual nagging feeling that wouldn’t go away. The only time I felt somewhat aligned was when I was working with, supporting, and serving women. For example, I had produced an event called The Aces Tour, an experience catered to entrepreneurial women. The first stop of the tour was Los Angeles, women came from all over the country to attend, and the magic in that room planted a seed. It made me think, “how can I create this on a national level?”
After praying, one day the idea and vision of HerHeadquarters came to me clearly. The rest was history. A few months later, I had gotten accepted into an accelerator program for tech startups. I had a big vision, with no experience and no clue on where to start. Once I got the proper guidance I needed, I hit the ground running. Within 18-months, HerHeadquarters app was live.
How did the idea for HerHeadquarters come about? Was there a catalyst moment in your career that made you want to launch this company?
I had personally experienced the consequences of not using collaboration as a tool for business growth, as well as experiencing the rewards. The rewards are much better!
Prior to having my launch party back in 2013, so many women-owned businesses offered to extend their services and support to me. I had this detrimental mindset that if you’re good at something, you should be able to do it by yourself. I hadn’t yet learned the value of collaboration or community, so when I turned everyone down, I paid for it. Had I had the wisdom and courage to say yes, these women would have been invested in the success of the launch party because their names would have been attached to it. Their years of experience would catch my rookie mistakes that contributed to its failure and they would have corrected it in time.
Once I learned my lesson, I then incorporated collaboration into that business going forward. A collaboration with another woman-owned business is what led to my contracts with the Grammy and NFL Honors Awards.
So when God gave me the vision for HerHeadquarters, it was a full circle moment for me. HerHeadquarters could prevent another woman from crying on the bathroom floor. It would give her a network of experts and fellow women-led businesses ready to support her and make her projects a success. It was an opportunity to give women-owned businesses access to projects and collaborations on a national scale.
The statistics about women, especially women of color, received the least amount of investment money, is well known. In your opinion, what are some of the fundamental problems that perpetuate this issue?
There are not enough women and women of color in boardrooms, as venture partners, or as decision-makers. If white men are carrying the power and controlling the dollars, they will continue to look out for themselves. Women, especially women of color, are not their priority. They don’t trust us to get the job done and rarely do they respect us, so many of them don’t feel an obligation to support, protect, or open doors for us.
That’s why there’s an urgency for women to take up space and build wealth, because the unfiltered truth is that it’s our job to save ourselves.
Black women are amongst the fastest-growing business owners in America. Why should more investors get involved at the early stage in more Black women’s startups?
Many black women are used to doing more with less. We know how to make a dollar stretch into 50 directions. I hear so many stories about Black women starting their business with only $500 in their account, but building it into a 6 or 7-figure company. If that’s what she can do with $500, imagine what she could do with $500,000 or $5 million!
We’re capable of building profitable, scalable businesses and Black women founders and CEOs like Monique Rodriguez, Beatrice Dixon, Morgan DeBaun, Julia Collins, Angelica Nwandu are just some examples.
When ‘they’ choose not to invest in us, they lose too.
Can you tell us more about the SOS campaign, and what it aims to do?
HerHeadquarters SOS 15% Pledge is a mission to boost the amount of spend that goes to women-owned businesses by 15% over the next decade. We’re calling out how women-owned businesses in America have had to survive the disadvantage for centuries and how the scraps they receive shouldn’t be acceptable. Some examples of this are the less than 1% they receive of all corporate spending or how in 2020, the federal government spent $532 billion with businesses owned by men, but only $27 billion with women-owned businesses.
This SOS isn’t just about awareness, it’s a plea on behalf of women-owned businesses for allies. Whether you’re a consumer, a business, or a corporation, becoming an ally means that going forward, at least 15% of your project and vendor hires will be woman-owned businesses.
We seem to be experiencing a moment in America where capitalism is coming under bigger scrutiny than ever before. How can women entrepreneurs, especially women of color, take advantage of this moment and work to change the entrepreneurial landscape?
There are many companies that have committed to giving funding to women entrepreneurs and women of color. One of the biggest ways you can take advantage of this moment is getting certified as a woman-owned business. This certification is often required by government and corporate entities to confirm that the funding or contract they’re about to give is indeed going to a woman-owned business.
HerHeadquarters is launching its own Woman-owned Business Certification process. It’s a more entrepreneur-friendly process, with significantly fewer hurdles, and less expensive than other programs. Our application went live on September 1, 2023 and we’ll begin processing applications starting September 15.
We also additional support through our certification. This includes access to our platform, have priority consideration to work our corporate clients hiring women-owned businesses through HerHeadquarters, and qualifying businesses can receive free legal services. Women entrepreneurs can visit our website starting September 1 to learn more and apply.
What are some of the exciting peer-to-peer experiences you have seen since launching HerHeadquarters, that gives you more hope for female entrepreneurs?
I’ve seen some some of the most amazing project collaborations on HerHeadquarters. From businesses joining forces on producing conferences, to fashion shows, limited-edition collections, PR campaigns, pop ups, and so much more.
The most exciting thing is that this is only the beginning. As our platform continues to grow, we’ll see even more of this. I’m constantly in awe of the creativity, innovation, and strategy women-owned businesses birth when they work together. The icing on the cake is that each of the projects or events they collaborate on is mutually beneficial, so everybody wins.
As a public speaker, what do you like to talk about and share with your audiences? And what are some calls-to-action you leave with them after hearing your story?
I’ve spoken on a number of topics, but some of my most popular are conversations around my fundraising journey, my rollercoaster experiences of building a tech startup with the raw lessons I’ve learned, and the art of business collaborations. Each topic is filled with personal stories that the audience can relate to and with tips they can apply to their life.
One call-to-action I always encourage audiences to do is give themselves permission to be vulnerable. The most beautiful opportunities and their most genuine allies will be attracted to the unpolished, raw version of them. The one that wins and loses, that one with that has the confidence and humility to show the world that they’re human.
For a woman of color who is experiencing today some of what you have been through in the past, what advice or encouragement would you give them to keep going?
I know how heavy the load can be, I know what it’s like to feel that weight on your chest. If you’re hungry for more, but don’t know how to get there, I’ve felt that. If you’re your biggest critic and you know so many people, but feel understood by so few, I’ve been there.
My biggest advice is this: sometimes, taking it one day at a time is too much. If you’re already stretched thin, focus on one task at a time. Give yourself permission to breathe and give yourself grace. For what you know, for what you have, and for what you’ve overcome, you deserve to be celebrated today.
Thank you for not giving up, thank you for your contributions, and the impact you’ve already made. If you feel alone, make space for a new village to come into your life. I dare you to be vulnerable enough to make a post on social media. Share what your dream village looks like and tell them your DM is open. Let that led to lunch or a social outing. That’s how I’ve found some of biggest allies.
Learn more about the SOS Campaign and take the pledge by clicking HERE. Get familiar with what HerHeadquarters is doing to help female entrepreneurs via the website. Follow HerHeadquarters and Carina Glover on Instagram.