New Program Accelerates Women-led Student Businesses

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s GWomen initiative partners with Springboard Enterprises to incubate promising women-led ventures.

GWomen X Springboard
The new GWomen X Springboard program will incubate the ventures of 10 GW students. (Photo courtesy of OIE)
December 02, 2019

By Tatyana Hopkins

Evelyn Ramirez, a senior majoring in American studies, conceptualized an app last spring  in her entrepreneurship course that would help women who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

Inspired by her own experience with harassment, Ms. Ramirez hoped to create this app, Stop Sexual Harassment, to connect women affected by workplace sexual harassment with free and low-cost mental and physical health resources as well as legal advice. Now she is working to actualize her idea with the assistance of GWomen X Springboard, a new program within the George Washington University Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship seeking to empower women-owned startups on campus.

“This is happening day to day,” she said. “As many as 81 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment, and a lot of the resources [victims need] are scattered on the internet. I thought why not just put it on an app.”

Through GWomen X Springboard, Ms. Ramirez was connected to advisers in the space and hopes to secure an app developer, turning what was once a class project into an impactful company.

The program is a partnership between OIE’s new GWomen initiative and Springboard Enterprises. GWomen aims to empower and accelerate women innovators and entrepreneurs at GW by connecting them with resources, networks and skills that can transform their ideas into successful businesses. Likewise, Springboard offers a virtual accelerator program for female businessowners seeking investment of financial and human capital for product development and expansion. Since 2000, it has helped nearly the 800 women-led ventures in its portfolio raise more than $20 billion in capital.

"The fastest growing segment of startups in the world are led by women, and yet founding teams with women only capture about 20 percent of venture capital investment,” said Stephanie Asher, OIE’s associate director of programs. “Our new GWomen initiative focuses on building a supported pipeline of stellar GW women entrepreneurs by providing resources, networking and training to GW women students in innovation and entrepreneurship. That makes our partnership with Springboard, which has an amazing track record with women entrepreneurs, a phenomenal fit.”

The partnership marks the first adaptation of Springboard’s programming for university students.

“GW is a treasure trove of entrepreneurial talent that programs like GWomen X Springboard, Pitch George, the New Venture Competition, eMerge Americas and I-Corps are revealing and fostering,” said Amy Millman, Springboard president and co-founder. “Springboard has been providing access to capital and resources for women innovators for 20 years and recognizes GW as fertile ground for sourcing leaders building commercial and social ventures led by women to drive our entrepreneurial economy.”

While some students were nominated to participate by the deans of their respective schools, all students in the program underwent an application process that involved a written component and an interview.  Ms. Asher said students should stayed tuned for future programs through GWomen on its website and through the OIE newsletter.

Ms. Ramirez is one of 10 female student entrepreneurs to participate in the program, which consists of a two-day bootcamp and two-month tailored advisory period.

The bootcamp, which took place in November, provides intense pitching and networking training and helps students refine their business plans for investors.

“I think that with the Springboard bootcamp, I was really able to take my idea to the next level by honing in on what would make this not just an idea but a business,” Ms. Ramirez said.

Students will also work with personalized mentors and strategic advisers to assess their venture’s critical short-term needs through December.

Katherine Meng, a third-year law student participating the program, said so far, the program has not only helped her polish her business plan and presentation skills, but it has also connected her with experienced entrepreneurs she believes can help take her biotech startup to the next level.

“At any stage in business, networking is really important,” Dr. Meng said. “With the GWomen X Springboard program, we will make some great connections. I have already gotten to meet a lot of very successful entrepreneurs.”

Her company Kancure Therapeutics, which she co-founded with three colleagues from her doctoral program in biomedical science, has developed patent-pending technology that targets the eradication of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) to manage tumor metastases. Having completed some animal testing with “promising” results, she said the company’s next step is to raise funds to have an independent contractor perform further experiments so they can move onto the pre-clinical trial stage.

Take a look at GWomen X Springboard’s other student ventures:

  • Sara Prifti, a senior studying political science, is developing an app, Greenway, that rewards members for using sustainable forms of transportation such as bikes, busses and subways.
  • Zaniya Lewis, a senior studying political science, founded the YesSheCanCampaign, a nonprofit that empowers and shares the stories of young women that overcome adversity while pursing education.
  • Shirali Nigam, a senior studying biomedical engineering, is developing a data analytics system to predict disease outbreak in medically underserved countries.
  • Artisha Nadu, a graduate student studying public administration, runs the Girls’ Leadership, Apprenticeship and Mentorship (GLAM) program that offers leadership, apprenticeship and mentorship opportunities to underperforming low-income female high school students in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8.
  • Toni Junious, a graduate student studying public health, co-founded Soultry Sisters, a women empowerment organization that curates hosts arts and wellness events.
  • Regina Da Silva, a graduate student studying international development, hopes to establish Medicine Bottle Philanthropy to provide doctors in rural villages with recycled medicine bottles collected in the United States.  
  • Katherine Hurley, a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, is developing Cognitive Gym. The subscription-based collection of online classes and training programs aims to help individuals with neurodevelopmental delays and challenges build self-efficacy, social acumen and mental and physical stamina.
  • Quiara Mosley, a junior studying international business, is developing Eye-Spy, an app that will take initial scans of a user’s eye for quicker eye doctor appointment turnaround.   
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