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By Patty Simonton

Women around the world are looking at entrepreneurship as a way to make a real and lasting impact in their communities and beyond. 

Women are questioning the lack of healthy, responsible, affordable snack options for our children. They’re wondering why we, as a society, continue to tolerate single-use plastic and fast fashion despite the social and environmental impacts. They’re looking around in our grocery stores and noticing that most of the fresh-cut flowers being sold are imported, mainly from Central and South America, where chemical fungicides and pesticides are frequently used. 

But what’s really exciting is that women are increasingly stepping up to address the problems that they notice around them.

Here in the DMV, Margarita Womack at M’Panadas, and Meredith Cymerman at JaM Treats are proving that snacks can be healthy and delicious. Saba Tshibaka is connecting university students with unique, affordable, lightly-worn clothes, and educating them about the impact of fast fashion at Rendered, Inc. Carey Thompson at Elysian is creating 100% compostable packaging out of industrial hemp to replace single-use plastic, and Sarah Daken at Grateful Gardeners has said enough is enough with the chemicals when it comes to fresh-cut flowers, and is selling organic flowers in Montgomery County, Maryland. 

And they’re not alone. All around country, the number of women-owned businesses is growing.

According to the American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, growth rates for the number of women-owned business in the United States continue to rise. The share of women-owned businesses stood at only 4.6% in 1972, but has since exploded to 42% in 2019. From 2014 to 2019, the number of women-owned businesses increased 21% (opposed to 9% for all businesses), total employment for women-owned businesses increased 8% (opposed to 1.8% for all businesses), and revenue growth for women-owned businesses was 21%, paralleling that of all businesses (20%). 

It takes investment to support the growth of these businesses, and Crunchbase reported that as of Q3 2019, over $20 billion had been invested into female-founded or co-founded startups, amounting to one of the highest levels in history. 

Yet access to such funds remains out of reach to many, especially for entrepreneurs-of-color. Shelly Bell, the founder of Black Girl Ventures reports that 18% of all businesses in DC are owned solely by women, and 27% are owned by people of color, in an article on the startup ecosystem for black women entrepreneurs in DC for the DC Policy Center. Bell also provides an in-depth look into the many challenges faced by entrepreneurs-of-color, particularly black women, when it comes to accessing the financial resources entrepreneurs need to grow their companies. I encourage anyone working within the startup ecosystem to read her piece. 

At Bethesda Green, our member companies tackle challenges related to the environment by building solutions in the fields of clean energy, water, climate, natural resources, and the zero-waste / circular economy. They also contribute to a sustainable food supply chain by developing innovations in agriculture, food production, manufacturing, distribution, and retail. We ensure that all members learn how to not only maximize their impact, but effectively communicate their impact to customers, investors, and the broader community.

One-half of the member companies in our current portfolio are female-founded or co-founded, an increase from 44% in 2019, and I look forward to growing that number even more in the coming years. 

If you would like to discuss how you can get involved, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

If you would like to meet fellow sustainability-focused community members, I encourage you and the sustainability-focused entrepreneurs you know to join us at Bethesda Green for our Community Welcome Event on Thursday, January 16th from 3pm-6pm at our offices in Bethesda, MD. 

Learn more and register here: 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/community-welcome-event-tickets-84626124015

I believe that there is something truly spectacular about being a part of a large and growing community of people who see what’s possible and are working toward a sustainable future. Together, we can change the world. 

Patty Simonton believes in the power of impactful entrepreneurship and conscious capitalism, and seeks to harness the power of the startup and creative communities to strengthen community engagement and civic responsibility to change the world.  Patty is the Director of Bethesda Green’s Be Green Business program, which supports innovative “eco-entrepreneurs” through an Innovation Lab, and helps local companies obtain B Lab Certification by providing best practices for key environmental and social impact metrics such as sound governance, support for workers, and sustainability.

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