Elaine Wyatt, executive director, WomenVenture


WomenVenture Executive Director Elaine Wyatt said the Minneapolis-based nonprofit “hit our groove” in 2016 in helping women start and build profitable businesses. WomenVenture last year worked with more than 600 female business owners, lent nearly $600,000 to new businesses and worked with banks to help clients access more than $5 million in capital, Wyatt said. Female business clients created 1,300 jobs with a median wage of $27 an hour. “It was the year we fully realized the work of our new strategic direction,” said Wyatt, who joined WomenVenture in 2013 shortly after the organization narrowed its mission to focus on entrepreneurship.

In 2017, Wyatt hopes WomenVenture will reach more low-income women and women of color who might opt not to work with WomenVenture because of concerns about past credit problems. “That’s a key reason why we exist,” Wyatt said. “We’ve helped women in those situations transform their businesses with just a little bit of capital.

WomenVenture offers free information sessions twice a month. A new program, Scale Up! Twin Cities, helps female-owned midsize companies accelerate their growth, Wyatt said. Wyatt’s experience includes working at Deloitte and nonprofits including the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys. She’ll discuss applying an “entrepreneurial mind-set to work and life” at a luncheon sponsored by Encourage Her Network. Information and tickets: encouragehernetwork.com.

Q: How do you define an entrepreneurial mind-set?

A: One of the most significant differences I see in entrepreneurs is curiosity. They’re great observers. They will see gaps in the market or even if they’re going to bring an existing service or product to market, they’re going to be that differentiator because they’re paying attention in a way that many people don’t. It’s that curiosity that I see in women too.


Q: What led you to work with Encourage Her Network?

A: This is for women who own a business or are trying to make their way in business. It’s a place for them to connect, to gain additional skills and also to expand their network. One thing I’m going to talk about is what I call intentional networking. It’s being clear about who you want to meet, what are the gaps in your own network in terms of skills or connections and intentionally networking to fill them.


Q: How would you describe WomenVenture’s new focus?

A: We’re really about changing the economic profile for women through business ownership. We work with women to help them make a decision about small business ownership that’s going to be productive for them financially.

Todd Nelson