Forté Foundation Power Pitch Competition Winner

Forté Foundation Power Pitch Competition

Women-led businesses were once relatively rare, but that is no longer the case. According to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, women make up 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the United States: a nearly 30 percent increase from 2007.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that women entrepreneurs get the same opportunities as their male counterparts. While there are numerous resources for women in business—including the Forté Foundation, a nonprofit focused on enhancing gender diversity among MBAs, as well as helping women to start careers in business and finance—would-be women entrepreneurs still face an uphill battle.

According to a 2014 report from the National Women in Business Council, female entrepreneurs start their companies with 50 percent less capital than male entrepreneurs. Women receive less capital due to “lower levels of demand prompted by women entrepreneurs’ preference for less, or at least slower, rates of growth” as well as supply problems, meaning, “networks providing access to external equity tend to be closely knit and male dominated.” The lower capital has nothing to do with the concept that women are any less adept at identifying gaps in the marketplace or seizing opportunities. In fact, Pamela Prince Eason, President and CEO of Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, said, “[women business enterprises] are agile, innovative problem-solvers, meeting corporations’ needs quickly, adapting to marketplace changes and providing deep value and cost-effectiveness.”

Women-only opportunities, like the Forté Power Pitch Competition, are one way to reduce this disparity and support the growth of women starting and growing businesses.

Forté Power Pitch Competition

The Power Pitch Competition is a real-world challenge that takes place during the Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conference each year. The conference draws hundreds of women MBA students from around the U.S. to connect, communicate and learn from other women MBAs and female business leaders. This was only the second year for the Competition, though it was the 10th anniversary of the conference.

The goal of the Power Pitch Competition is to encourage and support aspiring women entrepreneurs by focusing on ideas conceived or further developed as part of the MBA experience. The competition provides an opportunity to grow the ranks of women entrepreneurs and to demonstrate some of the steps involved in launching a new venture.

In 2017, there were 48 total entries from women entrepreneurs from around the U.S. Those were then whittled down to four finalists who competed live, on stage, during the Women’s Leadership Conference. The four finalists were:

 

Each finalist had the opportunity to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges, who evaluated the teams based on how convincingly they were able to pitch their concept to potential investors. Judges included:

 

In the end, Arrion Rathsack, the Director of the Forté Foundation’s MBA and Professional Programs, said in a press release: “The judges determined that 4Women had the best overall presentation of their business concept and were thorough in their description of how their business will work. They also recognized the social impact of the product they were developing.”

About The Winner: 4Women

4Women was conceived as a way to reduce the occurrence of cervical cancer. Developed by Chicago / Booth MBA students Sue Kim, and Arshiya Fazal—who pitched at Forté—alongside Courtney Burrows and Camille Emma, 4Women is a healthcare product aimed at early detection of the human papilloma virus (HPV), one of the leading causes of cervical cancer. “The product is an in-home self-collection kit that tests for the presence of HPV before a patient even walks into the doctor’s office, allowing her physician to know her HPV status and make a decision on next steps at the point of care,” explains the press release.

Sue Kim, one of the 4Women creators, talked about the competition saying: “We competed against very talented teams and ideas, so we’re incredibly grateful to have won. It was a different experience for us to pitch to a room full of women, and because the audience was essentially our target market, it was great validation to hear that our idea resonated with them. So many audience members came up to us afterward and urged us to make our idea a reality. For our team, this win is empowering and it has invigorated us with new energy to keep moving forward to improve women’s health.”

As the winners, the 4Women team took home $10,000 as well as a Microsoft Surface Book laptop. The team plans to use the award to secure legal help in conducting an in-depth patent search, as well as a “freedom to operate” analysis.

About the Header Image:

Forté Power Pitch Competition winner and finalists from left to right, Sue Kim and Arshiya Fazal of winning team 4Women, and finalists from three other teams, Meg Greenhalgh, Shapri Generette, and Diane Le. Photo by Matt Hagen

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