In 2021, female founders in the U.S secured a mere two percent of venture funds. To help address the gender imbalance in venture capital and entrepreneurship, it is imperative that women are empowered with resources and tools that open doors and provide access new opportunities.
Webex by Cisco powers a more inclusive way of working. Our technology – which brings together calling, meetings, messaging, events, polling and asynchronous video in one app, the Webex Suite – breaks down barriers so that everyone can participate equally, from anywhere. With inclusivity and equality at the core of everything we do, we set out to provide female founders with the necessary resources to support their future business endeavors.
Webex by Cisco joined forces with the Female Founder Collective (FFC), an initiative co-founded by businesswoman and renown fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff and start-up veteran Alison Wyatt, to provide education and pathways to funding for over 17,000 women across the globe. Together, the companies launched THE NORTH, a mentorship platform designed to connect female founders with support, mentorship, and strategic counsel from industry leaders. This exclusive partnership leveraged Webex technology and resources to make a tangible impact on FFC’s network of female founders and entrepreneurs.
We knew core to the campaign was to drive strong social engagement and visibility of the campaign, as well as to directly engage with aspiring female business leaders, to raise visibility of this important cause.
The Female Founder Collective (FFC) and Webex joined forces to support women-led small businesses through mentorship, funding, and technology.
The multi-phase campaign kicked off with the launch of THE NORTH, an innovative digital platform from FFC that puts the most influential women in business on speed dial. With THE NORTH, female founders could book one-on-one time with expert advisors, investors, and consultants to get advice on their immediate business needs – from raising capital to scaling operations to leadership skills and beyond. The sessions equated to over 100+ hours in free mentorship for aspiring female entrepreneurs – a $60,000 value of donated time. As the exclusive presenting partner of THE NORTH, Webex technology underpins the platform, with each virtual mentorship session held via the collaboration app.
What makes the platform special is it solves for two of the major issues plaguing women in business today: female executives are often asked to give their time to others without compensation, while aspiring entrepreneurs must spend hours searching for appropriate resources to grow their expertise. THE NORTH puts inspirational thought leaders – including Rebecca Minkoff, Whitney Port, Karla Welch (celebrity stylist), Candace Nelson (Sprinkles), Michelle Cordiero Grant (Lively), Piera Gelardi (Refinery29), Kirsten Green (Forerunner Ventures), and so many more – within reach to any ambitious business owner. Meanwhile, each expert advisor agrees to donate two hours of her time to the initiative before being made available for paid consultations, driving an additional source of revenue.
To celebrate the launch of THE NORTH, Aruna Ravichandran (Webex by Cisco SVP & CMO) joined Rebecca Minkoff for a LinkedIn livestream. The two inspirational leaders led a riveting conversation about the importance of equity for females to be paid well for their time and the key female mentors who have impacted their lives.
FFC and Webex also teamed up to take their commitment a step further by introducing a life-changing grant program for female small business owners. The recipient received a $20,000 grant, courtesy of Webex, while a runner up took home $10,000 to invest in her business. From a pool of more than 100 qualified applicants, seven founders were selected as finalists to deliver a three-minute pitch to a panel of luminaries, including Minkoff, Ravichandran, and Erica Duignan Minnihan (Reign Ventures). The campaign culminated with a virtual pitchfest – hosted on Webex, of course – in front of a live audience of hand-picked investors from influential venture firms across the country.
By equipping FFC and its collective of 17,000 entrepreneurs with Webex technology, FFC and Cisco jointly helped empower women in business. Through this partnership, FFC has been able to host more than 80 workshops and community events on Webex to impart essential education and build community among female founders.
FFC also curated a group of 20 inspiring leaders to be featured in a custom Small Business Spotlight content series. Each founder’s entrepreneurial journey and best advice for other women was highlighted on FFC's blog and promoted via the FFC newsletter and social media channels.
Empowering founders of female owned and led businesses
The program’s success is much in part due to the high caliber of inspirational leaders who serve as expert advisors on THE NORTH platform. FFC secured 50+ advisors to donate their time for 1:1 mentorship sessions -- including 5 Webex executives -- equating to over 100+ hours in free mentorship for aspiring female entrepreneurs, a $60,000 value of donated time. On its debut, the 196 donated sessions sold out almost immediately. Since, more than 76 paid bookings have been scheduled, generating almost $20,000 in revenue for the expert advisors.
Elevating the conversation on diversifying the VC ecosystem
THE NORTH generated coverage in various popular media outlets and sparked conversation and interest online:
Social Media Engagement: Social interaction was at an all-time high thanks to the content series and promotional posts from FFC co-founder Rebecca Minkoff, driving 1M+ social media engagements.
THE NORTH Website Views: THE NORTH platform received tens of thousands of views just after launch.
Pitch Event Engagement: More than 393 small business owners registered to attend the virtual pitch event where community engagement exceeded FFC’s typical benchmark by more than 56%.
Overall, the partnership reinforced Webex and FFC’s shared mission to empower the next generation of female business owners -- and successfully did so. Additionally, it drove strong brand awareness for Webex among an influential target demographic.