With over 10,000 members and 200 businesses in its portfolio, Elite Business Women, the biggest club for women in business in Romania, has launched the first investment fund dedicated exclusively to women, called the Elite Business Women Investment Fund, with the purpose of supporting of women who choose the entrepreneurial path. BR talked to Bianca Tudor, Founder of EBW Investment Fund, and found out more about the project and the idea behind it.
By Romanita Oprea
How did the idea arise and how did it come to life?
As an entrepreneur, instead of going on holiday in the December-January period of every year, I outline my strategy for the following year. I approach business and life from a pragmatic point of view, with numbers and facts in mind. Before deciding on the new strategy, we had an email marketing campaign at Elite Business Club, asking 10,000 women entrepreneurs about the challenges of business growth. We also had a study from the European Commission as a foundation to our research. Long story short, both our survey and the EC survey found that the number one challenge for women entrepreneurs is the lack of money to grow or open a business. I analysed this challenge and in response I started to write down ideas and ways to help our Elite Business Club members grow. And this is how I managed to find the solution: the Elite Business Women Investment Fund.
Where did you get the inspiration for it?
I believe that we are part of a global economic ecosystem, and I see that the sharing economy concept is trending. EBWIF is an example of the sharing economy, as the entire strategy is based on an Affiliate Membership in our Elite Business Club. First of all, giving is in our nature at EBW, and secondly, we are innovators, so after launching Elite Business Club International, starting from Romania and growing internationally, we decided that an Investment Fund based on an Affiliate Membership Program is the next hard challenge that will make us grow as entrepreneurs, as human beings and as an International Business Club. As an example of how it works: EBW is reinvesting 40 percent of the membership fee to finance scholarships for women entrepreneurs, once per year. Every time a woman entrepreneur subscribes for a membership in Elite Business Club, 20 percent of the fee turns into a financial bonus for the person who recommended the member and another 20 percent goes to the Elite Business Women Investment Fund.
What made you launch it at this particular time?
I pay attention to the trends: women are more and more present in the economy, with more and more of them becoming entrepreneurs. Romania managed to climb 4 places in the global ranking of the countries with the most women entrepreneurs, and globally we are heading towards a sharing economy (see Uber, Airbnb, and so on), where people are no longer interested in owning things, but in sharing things.
What has been the business environment’s reaction so far?
We launched the idea in May, held a press conference in September and so far, experienced investors and business people have been really interested in our Program and have joined our team as Board Members: people such as Corneliu Bodea Adrem, Mariana Bradescu from Piatra Online, Peter Barta or Sergiu Negut. First we will have a conversion among people who are innovators, and afterwards move on to other categories on the market. Step by step, we will build the Elite Business Women Investment Fund.
What are your business goals for the fund in the first two years?
First of all, our aim is to have 500 new members in the next 2 years. Another related goal is to offer 6 scholarships worth EUR 15,000 as part of the Elite Business Women Investment Fund.
How does it work exactly? What are the steps that someone interested in accessing the fund should take and why?
The main reason why you should be interested in the EBWIF as a woman entrepreneur is business development. A major priority for a business is to build a personal brand, a company brand, a network of high-quality people, and to start promoting your business in order to start growing it. Elite Business Club Romania and International offer you: visibility on our online platform with 10,000 women entrepreneurs, offline visibility at high-quality business events, branding programs such as Media KIT for SMEs and a Mastermind Board system to grow your business with know-how from an Elite Board of Entrepreneurs.
If you see this resource as what it is, namely a business development tool, you will subscribe to the EBWIF. In this first step you will pay the membership fee of EUR 1,000 and receive an Affiliate Membership with all the benefits listed above. As an Affiliate Member you can: recommend the Elite Business Club membership to others and receive in EUR 200 in cash every time a new member subscribes based on your recommendation, but you can also apply for the cash scholarships we offer once per year, as another EUR 200 goes to the EBWIF every time a member subscribes. Moreover, you can vote for the businesses you think should receive a scholarship because you are a member.
You once said that of 750,000 companies only 240,000 are run by women, and that women have the largest unemployment rate. Why do you think we are still seeing those unfortunate numbers and facts?
The numbers have increased a little bit in the meantime – now we have 40 percent women entrepreneurs compared to 30 percent in 2018. In the Global Report for women entrepreneurs, Romania ranks 9th in 2019, up from 13th in 2018. In the near future we will have a 50-50 split in terms of businesses founded by men and women. Still, the challenge for a woman to manage a family and a business at the same time is significant. In the rural area, women still think about a business as a dream. We are still in the beginnings of growing an entrepreneurial culture in Romania.
Where does Romania stand, from that point of view, compared to other countries?
In Europe, Romania is more developed in the area of women entrepreneurship than Germany, Austria or Slovenia, for example. EBW is part of the Interred Danube Region Program for women entrepreneurs and we’ve managed to share our experience and financial reports with 9 countries from the Danube Region. A disadvantage for us is the fact that a small number of businesses are profitable – a study from Keys Finance shows that only 10 percent of 650,000 companies are profitable.
From your point of view, what are the main issues women are still facing in the Romanian business environment and why?
We are living in a business environment which is shaped by men. They are more oriented towards making money, being competitive, while women are less aggressive in business and more interested in the community, society, teamwork.
Sometimes it is hard for women to adopt this style of doing business. Secondly, we don’t have an infrastructure to support mothers in our society, with childcare and healthcare, and this is a real problem for a mother entrepreneur. Another social stereotype we’ve borrowed from our past is that we cannot work in teams or communities and women entrepreneurs tend to isolate themselves when they should be part of every Club or Hub in town for networking, business knowhow exchange and promoting their personal brand! And last but not least, women don’t have access to small financing programs as they start their business.
How do you plan to change that?
In 2015 we launched Elite Business Women, a Club for women entrepreneurs where we promote equality, equity, teamwork and collaboration between our members. Moreover, Elite Business Club provides networking opportunities, know-how exchange, access to international and national business partnerships, a Mastermind Board system for our members to grow and scale up, and of course our new Investment Fund Program. We innovate, it takes a lot of effort to do that, we team up with all the likeminded entrepreneurs out there who are go-getters and team workers. Four years later, we have 10,000 entrepreneurs in this Club and 8 Elite Business Clubs, in Romania, UK, Portugal and Italy.