The small number of women business leaders is no secret. Women make up more than half of the workforce yet represent just 14 percent of executive officers and four percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Tech startup numbers are just as low (about nine percent), with access to funding being a significant barrier. Dani Davis, co-founder of Girl Starter, a platform and new television series that mentors young female entrepreneurs, aims to turn the tide. Here, Visa’s senior writer Theresa Gonzalez talks with Davis about her former life as a Broadway producer (when few female producers were running the show) and how she launched this passion business and her new series with the help of Visa.
Q: What sparked the idea for Girl Starter?
Dani Davis: The best part of this story is that it wasn’t my idea or my co-founder’s [Jeannine Shao Collins] idea. About two years ago, I brought Jeannine’s 16-year-old daughter Julia to an event that I was hosting at my alma mater Duke University about women, venture and risk. After the event, which I thought was completely electric and awesome and inspiring, Julia came up to me and said, “You know, I think you’re having this conversation too late. I’m entrepreneurial and I think if you’re going to make a change for women in society it’s going to have to start with girls while they’re still my age.” There was so much that she said that really struck a nerve. She was right on, because it has to become a culture shift.
Q: How did the idea turn into a television series?
DD: After Julia returned home, Jeannine, who is a long-time publishing executive, said, “I love your idea [of starting a club] but you’re not going to change the world by starting a club at a school in Manhattan. If you’re really going to inspire change you need to reach those girls who are out in Oklahoma and Montana and who have no idea that women like this exist. I think you might need to make a show.”
A week later they contacted me. Fast forward and we are in production on the Girl Starter television show, which will appear on TLC this spring and is one component of a media company we built called Girl Starter. Each episode puts eight young women through the paces of Girl Starter’s six steps to develop the early stages of a business. We’ll follow that airing with a live tour around college campuses in the United States. The third component is a robust digital platform that over the next three years will be a place for women to come and build out their businesses with access to mentors and funding.