All posts by ruiqichen2020

Spidey-senses and an entrepreneurial spirit: a Q&A with Balodana founder Dana Todd

By Ruiqi Chen
Medill Reports

Dana Todd founded Balodana, an online made-to-order retail platform for women, in fall 2019 after many years in and out of the corporate world and entrepreneurship. Todd said the freedom of entrepreneurship ultimately led her to pursue this startup, which she hoped can give women greater confidence in their appearance and clothing. But the business doesn’t come without challenges. Accessing funding as a woman has been especially difficult, she said. Todd discussed her ideas for how that can change.

Why was the idea of Balodana so compelling to you?

I believe in starting companies with very big ideas, and I had a sense that this would be big. I had a spidey sense, my hair stood up, and my whole body was electrified when I hit upon the idea and started doing more research. Everything told me that this was going to be very, very, very big.

The company easily worth a billion dollars in sales once we convert 10% of the 56 million women who fall into our general category for targeting, but the more important, and the more exciting, part to me is systemic. As I’ve gotten into this, I’ve understood the damage fast fashion and all garment manufacturing has on the planet, and how very, very broken that system is. It’s an area that needs to be changed because there’s still slavery, and usually female slavery, in the supply chain for garments.

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A new company, and a new baby, drive the passion in one of Chicago’s female startup founders

By Ruiqi Chen
Medill Reports

The day after Borislava Baeva’s new fitness subscription startup went live, she found out she was having a baby girl.

The Chicago-based entrepreneur launched her fitness studio bundling service My Strong Circle last month after nearly two years of planning and preparation. She said she’s always been motivated to succeed as a woman in the startup industry, but she became even more determined to be a strong role model after finding out she was having a daughter.

Chicago has the world’s highest proportion of female startup founders, according to research company Startup Genome’s 2019 global report. Over a quarter of the city’s estimated three thousand startups are founded by women compared to the worldwide average of 14%. Baeva said this level of representation was important for encouraging women to pursue their career ambitions.

“Once you see women (in the industry), you feel like, ‘Oh, I can do that. I belong here,’” she said.

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Women talk pay gap and finances at new wine and networking event series

By Ruiqi Chen
Medill Reports

BottlesUp!, a Chicago wine shop, organized a networking and wine tasting event for women last week to discuss strategies for combating pay inequity and managing their finances, two of the biggest challenges that stand in the way of professional success for many women.

Melissa Zeman, the owner of the Lakeview East store, said she hosted the event and brought in Kristin Summers, an advisor with financial services company Ameriprise Financial, to give a presentation on what women can do to improve their financial situations. Around 40 women attended.

Zeman said she was passionate about “girl power” and supporting other women long before she opened BottlesUp! in the fall of 2019. The many woman-produced wines and liquors in her store were labeled with the female symbol, and she served snacks from woman-owned businesses.

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Chicago’s female founders find support and resources through local organizations

By Ruiqi Chen
Medill Reports

Chicago has the highest proportion of female startup founders in the world, helped by the city’s abundance of support organizations that provide women with resources and a sense of community.

Research company Startup Genome’s 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report found that over a quarter of Chicago’s startups were majority female-founded while the worldwide average trailed at 14%. The company’s analysis credited a “groundswell of women supporting women” and an abundance of women’s business support organizations as a potential explanation.

One such organization is the Women’s Business Development Center of Chicago, which provides training and guidance to women entrepreneurs. The organization’s managing director of entrepreneurial services Maura Mitchell said there are about 130 business service organizations like it in the city, and many of them offer programs specifically for women as well as financing help.

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