Sponsor Spotlight: Bad Girl Ventures supports entrepreneurial growth at Night Market Cleveland
The premier of Cleveland Hustles this summer illustrated to viewers nationwide that Northeast Ohio has a passion for small business. The CNBC show created by Lebron James followed the successes and failures of four entrepreneurs opening their first storefronts in Gordon Square. But long before Cleveland Hustles, Bad Girl Ventures began providing opportunities to small business entrepreneurs in Cleveland.
BGV is an Ohio-based business ran by women with the goal of helping to assist bold female entrepreneurs through education, mentorship, and access to capital. It was founded in Cincinnati and has served over 600 Ohio women securing over $500,000 in loans.
The founders of BGV were frustrated and surprised by the fact that female-owned businesses didn’t have equal access to resources. Research by CB insights found that although women make up more than half of the population, only 2% of venture capital during early stage funding for start-up companies goes to women. Lack of resources is a huge reason why female-owned businesses statistically don’t grow at the same rate that male-owned businesses grow.
“Success is measured by looking at what is happening to our program graduates. I am pleased to see that they’re able to pursue success and receive funding. I love working with entrepreneurs, they are ambitious people with dreams,” says Réka Barabás, Marketing Manager of BGV.
Among many accolades, Bad Girl Ventures was named Cleveland Scene Magazine’s 2016 Best Charity.
This season, BGV partnered with Night Market to bring four small businesses to the festival. June’s market featured eclectic home goods by Wizard of Oddz; July introduced small batch clothing from Makers by J. Marks; and August showcased delicious chocolate creations by Fear’s Confections. The final event of the season will feature ethical, sustainable products by Free Range Skincare (previously Homestead Soap & Spa). “We thought that Night Market is such a good opportunity for new businesses to get their feet wet. It’s so accommodating — vendors don’t have to even worry about tents or signage. The event is a huge success in itself,” Barabás adds.
BGV is celebrating five years in Cleveland by expanding their curriculum and programing. They recently increased their footprint to Kent and the greater Akron area. Their nine-week educational programming includes marketing, finance, the creation of a business plan, and perhaps the most valuable tool, introducing entrepreneurs to a community.
Cassandra Fear of Fear’s Confections enjoying her time at the August Night Market Cleveland.
The networking opportunities provided by BGV was pivotal in the rebranding of Sandra Bontempo’s egg-based skincare line called Free Range Skincare. “The networking and educational opportunities created by Bad Girl Ventures is the reason that I rebranded my company, and I credit that education with getting my products into Heinen’s and Mustard Seed Market and Cafe. It was really a life changing event,” she says.
Although Bontempo’s story and mission have never changed, BGV inspired her to reinvent her vision for the business by creating a new logo and website. Along with distributing her products at the aforementioned grocers, she also recently opened her first temporary store at Legacy Village. “As a entrepreneur, and especially when you’re the sole owner, it can be a lonely business. You don’t know if you’re doing things right and you have doubts. You have to have a certain mindset to be an entrepreneur. One of the best things about BGV is that the network of likeminded people knocked me on my butt and caused me to grow and make changes,” Bontempo says.
She started off by selling her soaps, lotions, and creams at the Geauga County Fair and since then she has also sold her products at the Cleveland Asian Festival, One World Festival, and Hale Farm and Village. These experiences can serve as low risk test markets for small businesses.
“We see value in partnering. A lot of these vendors have trouble with exposure and finding their market. Events like this give them a reason to really be out there and see what resonates with a target audience. It gives them an opportunity to see what sells,” says Barabás.
November 3rd begins BGV’s 9-week accelerator program geared toward businesses at the idea stage or less than one year old businesses. You can get involved with Bad Girl Ventures and checkout their future class listings here. Bad Girl Ventures will host Free Range Skincare at the last Night Market Cleveland event of the year on September 30th from 5 to 11 PM.