Eagle’s Jennifer Meyer Helps Women Entrepreneurs To Realize Their Dreams
by Liza Long, photos by Jim Peterson
Women are enjoying tremendous gains in a variety of careers. But women entrepreneurs and the investors who fund them are still under-represented in society. In fact, a 2010 report from the American Enterprise Institute found that women are 60% less likely to start their own businesses than men.
One Eagle woman wants to change that. Jennifer Meyer, wife, mother, and MBA, has spent her career in industries typically dominated by men. Now, as Chief Operations Officer of VentureCapital. Org, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching entrepreneurs how to take their big ideas to the next level by connecting them with investors, Meyer is passionate about helping business owners of both genders obtain the financing they need to grow their companies.
I sat down with Meyer in her office in the Zion’s Bank building in downtown Boise to discuss her work with VentureCapital.org. The nonprofit organization was started 30 years ago in Utah to address the disconnect between entrepreneurs and capital investments. Scott Anderson, president of Zion’s Bank, has been a strong supporter of the organization and wanted to bring it to Idaho. “Traditional financing doesn’t work for most entrepreneurs because they don’t understand the finance world,” Meyer told me. “Our mission is to connect those two worlds, to educate entrepreneurs in how to speak the language of finance so that they can make an effective pitch and get the funding they need.”
Many readers are doubtless familiar with “Shark Tank,” the popular television show where would-be entrepreneurs present their ideas to venture capitalists. “It’s the same concept,” Meyer told me. “We help people get ready to pitch their companies. Our goal is to try to prepare them for success.”
Would-be entrepreneurs are often connected with VentureCapital.org through service providers such as attorneys. The organization offers a series of classes on financing basics as well as more intense mentorship opportunities. There’s an extensive application process; Meyers describes mentoring partnerships as “cooperative venturing.” Mentors work with entrepreneurs to think through challenges and to build networks. Prosperity Organic Foods, the woman- owned organic food spread company that makes Melt, is one example of a VentureCapital.org graduate’s success story.
In addition to her expertise in finance, Meyer has also owned her own business. She and her family relocated here after living in Quito, Ecuador, where she operated an ecologically sustainable fair-trade jewelry import business.
Her children are now 8 and 5, so she understands the challenges that women face in balancing their families and their careers.
One challenge women entrepreneurs face in obtaining venture backing is that most investors are men. For that reason, VentureCapital.org will soon offer a program specifically devoted to women entrepreneurs: WE ROC (Women Entrepreneurs Realizing Opportunities in Capital). The co-chair of the board of directors of VentureCapital.org, Debra Guerin Beresini, personally understands the challenges that women face, since she has had a successful career as an investor and was named one of the 100 most influential women in Silicon Valley in 2013.
The WE ROC goal is to increase investing in women-led companies, in part by “getting women to believe in themselves, that they can do this,” Meyer said. “Women are about building community. Entrepreneurship allows women to provide for themselves and their families.”
Meyer loves living in Eagle. “The people are amazing here,” she said. “I love the easy access to the Greenbelt, the connection to nature, the downtown. I do as much business as I can in Eagle.”
When I asked her for some last words of advice for would-be entrepreneurs of either gender, Meyer said, “If it’s going to be venture backed, call me. Don’t give up. You will make it through the most bleak hours on faith and your belief. And then you can change the world.”
For more information, visit www.VentureCapital.org