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Pass It Forward: Bad Girls Ventures Invests in Women Entrepreneurs

Posted: 01/09/12 01:20 PM ET

Women 2.0 interviews Candace Klein, Founder & CEO of Bad Girls Ventures -- a non-profit, micro-finance organization focused on educating and financing woman-owned start-up companies. To date, Bad Girls Ventures has educated over 250 businesses, financed 26 women with $700k and created 154 jobs across Ohio. Here is her heartfelt story of starting up and empowering women -- to solid economic results and job creation!

Women 2.0: How did you get the idea for Bad Girls Ventures? Start at day one, or even before then.

Candace Klein: I was born to a teenage mother on welfare and lived in a trailer park near Cincinnati, Ohio. As the oldest of five children and 35 grandchildren in my family, I was the first to go to college. I secured four degrees from Northern Kentucky University in 2003, and was then accepted to Boston University and the University of San Diego for law school. However, in April of 2003, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to move back in with my parents to go through surgery and treatment. All of my money went towards medical bills, so I could no longer afford to go to law school.

While working as a lobbyist, I was connected with a woman, Alice Sparks, who was independently wealthy and committed to promoting women's causes. She invited me for lunch where I told her my life story. Rather than focusing on my past, she asked me what I planned to do with my future. I told her I intended to change the world, and specifically that I would 1) understand the law; 2) run a successful business; 3) teach others to run successful businesses and 4) run for Governor of Ohio in 2027. Having only known me for an hour, she agreed to pay for my entire law school tuition that day. When I asked Alice how I could ever repay her for such an amazing gift, she told me to "find a way to invest in women."

So, I went to law school at night, and worked for a venture capitalist during the day. I noted that he never once invested in a woman-owned startup. When I asked him why he said that woman don't come forward, and when they do, their business plans are only half-baked.

After I graduated from law school, I began practicing corporate law. All of my clients were woman-owned businesses. I was then laid off in 2009 and set up my own law practice. All of my clients came with me. Because they saw me struggling financially, they became more open about their own financial situations. They told me that they had maxed out their personal credit cards and taken home equity lines of credit out on their homes, but that the banks wouldn't lend to their businesses. They were faced with the reality of closing their doors.

My heart broke for my legal clients that year. I learned that women represent 50 percent of privately held companies, but have access to less than 5 percent of traditional capital. So, I became obsessed with alternative forms of lending. I quickly realized, however, that my clients needed more than money. They needed training and education.

To repay Alice for her gift, I launched Bad Girl Ventures (BGV) in 2010. BGV is a highly localized, 501(c)(3) micro-finance organization focused on educating and financing woman-owned startup companies. We provide $25,000, low interest loans (zero to six percent). But in order to be eligible for our financing, the women must first complete an eight-week long training curriculum.

To date, BGV has received over 400 applications, has educated 250-plus businesses, and has financed 26 of these businesses with $700,000. BGV loan recipients have created 156 jobs across the state of Ohio in our first year of operation.

Women 2.0: What were the hardest parts about getting Bad Girls Ventures off the ground?

Candace Klein: The most difficult part of starting BGV was that, as the sole founder, it was a very lonely experience. I had the benefit of incredible volunteers and advisers, but the success or failure of the company fell solely on my shoulders.

Having started two businesses now, however, I do think that there are some helpful tips that I've learned along the way --

  • Every stranger is a potential new friend. Seriously! The person sitting next to you on the train, the stranger you pass on the street, you never know who is going to be your next business opportunity or investor.
  • There is value in volunteering and taking advantage of every social opportunity presented.
  • One should always guess with conviction. You are more likely correct than not.
  • There is true power in setting the intention of positivity every single day and being excited about your company. Excitement spreads!
  • There is no such thing as failure, only pivot. When you feel that you have hit a wall, you must simply pivot and continue in a different direction.
 

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