Woman Power

Female execs are headed to Houston to bridge the entrepreneurial gender gap

Female execs head to Houston to bridge the entrepreneurial gender gap

Carolyn Rodz, March 2016
Carolyn Rodz. Courtesy of Circular Board
News_Heather Rachel Roy
Rachel Roy. Photo by Heather Staible
2 Shelby The Influentials Janet Gurwitch October 2013 NO PHOTOSHOP
Janet Gurwitch. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
13 Drybar launch event September 2013 Karen Kelley, Alli Webb
Alli Webb, right, at Houston Drybar launch in 2013. Photo by © Chinh Phan/CultureMapSNAP.com
Carolyn Rodz, March 2016
News_Heather Rachel Roy
2 Shelby The Influentials Janet Gurwitch October 2013 NO PHOTOSHOP
13 Drybar launch event September 2013 Karen Kelley, Alli Webb

Research shows that if men are 50 percent sure about something, they will state it as fact. While women have to be 80 to 90 percent sure that something is accurate before they give it the gospel blessing. And that is just one of a number of differences that women in the start-up business world need to examine if they are to succeed.

Just ask Houstonian Carolyn Rodz, marketing exec and founder of the Circular Board, a collaborative accelerator for women entrepreneurs. As she prepares for her company's Circular Summit, April 14 and 15 at Hotel ZaZa, Rodz talks with CultureMap about the entrepreneurial gender gap in Houston and across the state. In 2015, there were 42 rounds of seed funding in Texas and none went to women-owned businesses.

To help reduce that gap, Rodz and her co-chair Elizabeth Gore have organized the two-day conference that is bringing in top tier speakers including Houston's Janet Gurwitch, founder of Laura Mercier Cosmetics; DryBar founder Alli Webb; Dermalogica co-founder Jane Wurwand; and fashion designer Rachel Roy.

"We expect top-tier entrepreneurs," Rodz says. "The conference is application based so everybody who is there will be high caliber with a high-growth story. And we have investors from across the country, investors like Signia Venture Partners, the Mercury Fund and Johnson & Johnson Development Corp."

While most venture capital and intellectual capital is focused on the East and West coasts, Rodz says, "Let's get this conversation going among start-ups everywhere." In fact, she adds, Houston is a logical place for such an effort as the city is ranked third in the country in terms of economic clout for women-owned businesses.

The conference is an outgrowth of Rodz' Circular Board, a 12-week virtual program providing a road map to building a scalable business.

"Women make certain decisions at the onset of starting a company that hinder them later on," Rodz says. Examples include bringing in partners at an earlier stage, seeking out investors early on. "Women tend to bootstrap a lot more and be a lot more risk averse in the early stages. You should be addressing those natural tendencies and how you acknowledge them and use them to your advantage."

After working at JPMorgan for five years, she launched her own marketing agency in 2005 and she soon began taking on start up projects pro bono, aiding with marketing expertise. But she soon realized that there were many other problems in this area that needed to be addressed. So last year she founded Circular Board.   

Her view of women entrepreneurs: "I think the reality is that as many obstacles as we have, we have advantages. There are so many opportunities that are available only to women. Women have an incredible leadership skills. We have an ability to build relationships. Lots of times, we are the only one in the room which is to our advantage if we use it correctly. "

Two key bits of advice: "Think bigger. So many times women limit themselves and set goals that aren't big enough. Thinking bigger opens so much. Number two is bringing in partners, I mean advisory boards, co-founders, investors, a support network and utilize them effectively."