Untapped Women’s Markets Hold Huge Potential for Startups, Small Biz and VC

women competitors

Erin Andrew tossed out some interesting numbers on the SBA blog the other day, numbers that point to missed entrepreneurial opportunities:

  • Women control $11.2 trillion, 39 percent of our country’s $28.6 trillion investable assets,
  • Women angel investors accounted for only about 26 percent of all angel investments in 2014, and
  • Women in venture capital and private equity firms are at the most only about 10 percent of top management.

No one understands what women need or what women want better than other women. However, the figures I cited above show that the startup world isn’t tooled up to really provide the kinds of products and services that will nail the various women’s markets.

Crowdfunding sites have been created that are starting to fill in this gap, but there’s a long way to go. Among these are Plum Alley, CrowdHelps and MoolaHoop, which I’ve written about here before. I think smart entrepreneurs and venture capitalists of either sex would be wise to bring women into decision-making positions and make a concerted effort to uncover missed opportunities.

Another avenue that’s showing some potential is the SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge. This competition judges new products and services using the following criteria:

  • Makes a measurable impact on the lives of women and families (30%),
  • Has potential for commercialization (40%), and
  • Fills a need in the marketplace (30%)

The first challenge recently ended with the following top three winners:

  • 1st place: Bethany Edwards, LIA Diagnostics, Philadelphia. LIA designed a pregnancy test to provide a better experience for women at a stressful moment in their lives.
  • 2nd place: Lisa Crites, owner of The SHOWER SHIRT™, Cocoa Beach, Florida. Crites designed a post-surgical, patented, water-resistant garment designed to prevent post-surgical mastectomy drain sites from coming into contact with water while showering.
  • 3rd place: Sophia Berman, designer at Trusst Lingerie in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Berman developed effective and attractive products aimed at eliminating the pain and discomforts experienced by women with cup size DDD+.

Contestants compete for up to $70,000 in cash prizes and the event starts out with local competitions, ending with the top 10 finalists making pitches to a panel of experts. It doesn’t cost anything to enter. You can read all the fine print and get links to all the other official contest pages on the SBA website.

Finally, although InnovateHER Business Challenge 2016 will only have three top winners, we know that there are far more commercially viable ideas for products and services that appeal to women. So even if you don’t win – or don’t even decide to enter – get busy developing something for this huge market.