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Q&A: Hinrichsen’s Founding Females aims to support women in business

Francie Hinrichsen is the founder of Founding Females, is the founder of Founding Females, an organization offering guidance and support to Peoria-area women entrepreneurs.
Joe Deacon
Francie Hinrichsen is the founder of Founding Females, an organization offering guidance and support to Peoria-area women entrepreneurs.

Getting a new business off the ground and keeping it running smoothly can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be even more difficult for women.

Francie Hinrichsen thinks that shouldn't be the case. Hinrichsen is the founder of an organization called Founding Females, and her mission is to provide support, guidance, resources, and a community of peers for women entrepreneurs in the Peoria area.

Last week, Founding Females celebrated its one-year anniversary with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Loftie Events and Suites in downtown Peoria, and the group also plans to hold an entrepreneur conference there on March 5. Hinrichsen says the conference will have expert speakers and advisors on hand to offer tips for women on how to start and grow their businesses.

In a conversation with WCBU Reporter Joe Deacon, Hinrichsen discusses her vision of Founding Females, what the organization has to offer and its upcoming plans. This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Joe Deacon: What is Founding Females? What is the organization's purpose, and when did it get started?

Francie Hinrichsen: I think of it like an ecosystem for women starting and running businesses. We help women all along the spectrum, whether they're just getting started or whether they're advanced in their business and moving on to their second or third.

The reason this came about is because I was surrounded (by) women who were looking to not just network, but to get better at business. So Founding Females took that lead, and we took that role in women business owners’ lives to help connect them with resources and support and camaraderie. And we are definitely growing; we have a lot of exciting things in the works.

And you started this just a year ago. Is that right?

Hinrichsen: Yeah. So the brand came about a year ago. I have been running another business for about seven years, and networking and being in community all the while. And so Founding Females really was putting the stake in the ground for a message that I had already been speaking for several years, and that was: support for entrepreneurs. So we decided to give Founding Females its own name and its own brand, and so officially, yeah, we've been around for just about a year. But the message has been reverberating much longer than that.

How does Founding Females assist women and getting their businesses off the ground? What kind of resources do you provide?

Hinrichsen: Our main component is a mastermind, and we serve three types of entrepreneurs: We serve who I call “DIY Dolly.” She's just getting started; she has a dream on her heart (and) she's researching a lot. Maybe she's told a few people. She's very nervous about her idea, but she knows someday she's going to start her business.

Then we have “Passionate Pearl,” and she has one foot in and one foot on her business. She's the revenue producer, but she's also acts as the CEO role in her business. Finally, we have “Fullscale Fiona,” who is the CEO. She is a powerhouse; she moves chess pieces in her business around very strategically.

So the difference between a “DIY Dolly” and a “Passionate Pearl” is the proof of concept. So DIY Dolly is trying to figure out if her business will float; Passionate Pearl already knows it will, but she wants to get better. And so our mastermind is mostly for Passionate Pearl and Fullscale Fiona; those conversations sound very different than a conversation with DIY Dolly. So right now, our mastermind is our main component.

Moving forward, we are publishing a book, a guided journal for people to start, research, build, grow, profit and scale their business. It's called “Dream, Build, Grow.” So, that's coming in the spring. We're also launching a startup community specifically for DIY Dolly, so that the conversations she's having are with peers who are going through the same challenges as her who are asking similar questions and who she can learn from.

What are some of the different kinds of challenges that start-ups led by women face compared to other businesses?

Hinrichsen: Women who run businesses, first of all, have their home front to look after, and that always comes first; it has to. But it doesn't mean that there aren't other priorities in the business that must be attended to. We don't just wipe our hands clean of business responsibilities when there's a curve ball in our home life, and so that's one of the major ones.

We also face funding challenges. Specifically, women of color are turned down for business loans at twice the rate of white men. So there's this very real challenge, knowing that funding is that core piece that's going to move the needle for businesses, especially in the very beginning. We can get creative; we can bootstrap. But there's some things that we cannot do without the correct funding to be able to do it, and so funding is another huge concern.

Then I would say the third one that sticks out to me most in conversations with women is the lack of business literacy, specifically financial literacy. So those types of cultural norms are things that we’re really trying to change the dialogue about in order to empower women.

What's in store for Founding Females in the next year? Where do you see the organization heading?

Hinrichsen: One of the things I'm most excited about is conversations that are taking place about seed funding. So, we want to help bridge the gap from women who need funding in their business, and we plan to create in the next year, seed funding to be able to give women the financial support that they need on their journey to success.

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.