Rent the Runway's Project Entrepreneur Supports Women-Led Startups

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Rent the Runway's Project Entrepreneur Supports Women-Led Startups

By Apparel Staff - 09/15/2017

Rent the Runway Foundation and UBS will expand the number of winning companies in their Project Entrepreneur Accelerator from three to five.

Project Entrepreneur is a philanthropic educational program and venture competition designed to increase the pipeline of women building high-growth companies. Online submissions for the 2017 venture competition are now open at projectentrepreneur.org.

“We are so excited to continue working with UBS in providing women with the tools they need to create high-growth companies, and see their visions through,” said Jennifer Hyman, CEO and co-founder of Rent the Runway. “Past participants in our accelerator continue to inspire us with their incredible progress, including closing rounds of funding. We are eager to provide the next class of talented female founders with the tools and support they need to scale, and to see the disruption their companies bring to various different industries.”

Entering its third year, Project Entrepreneur will provide additional enhancements for the five winners, as well as expand resources and startup services for participants and alumni in acknowledgement of the program's growth. Since its inception, the program has trained more than 1,200 aspiring entrepreneurs representing 131 U.S. cities, and maintained 50 percent ethnic diversity across its applicant pool and event attendees. The impact has also been seen in the funding raised by participants, with the 2016 finalists reporting $9 million raised in seed and pre-seed funding.

Project Entrepreneur's annual venture competition is open to female founders who are seeking to build high-growth businesses. Applicants are early-stage companies that are in the prototype or beta stages, have their first paying customers, or are generating revenue. The top 200 applicants will be invited to attend the Project Entrepreneur Intensive in New York City on April 13-14, 2018, a free two-day event comprised of in-depth workshops, expert speakers and a pitch competition. The five winning founders will each receive a $10,000 award, a spot in the five-week accelerator program at Rent the Runway’s New York office and mentorship and engagement with UBS executives, entrepreneurs and investors.

In addition to the venture competition, Project Entrepreneur will offer free educational summits where participants will hear from Rent the Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, UBS Americas ead of Community Affairs, Lori Feinsilver, past PE finalists, and attend workshops led by successful startups and investors including Refinery29, Coffee Meets Bagel, Levo League, Forerunner Ventures and Cowboy Ventures, among others. Details on the summits are available at projectentrepreneur.org.

Summits are scheduled for:

  • Chicago: Friday, October 6, 2017 at 1871
  • San Francisco: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at Galvanize
  • New York City: Friday, November 17, 2017 at The New York Stock Exchange

Last year’s winning companies included: New York-based LOLI Beauty, the first BIY (Blend It Yourself) clean and green beauty brand; Scottsdale-based The TouchPoint Solution, a neuroscience wearable that alleviates stress by altering the body’s stress response in as little as 30 seconds; and San Francisco-based Lace & Liberty, merging direct-to-consumer convenience with luxury bespoke bridalwear. Two additional New York-based companies were hosted by The Knot/XO Group Co-Founder Carley Roney and designer Rebecca Minkoff: Repeat Roses, a sustainable floral waste removal business that gives back to people and planet, and Reboundwear, athleisure wear with a purpose, respectively.

“Project Entrepreneur is like being in the room for five weeks with unlimited access to precisely the smartest, most relevant people you need to know for your company’s success,” said Tina Hedges, CEO and founder of LOLI Beauty Inc. “The program connected me to experts and leaders across a diversity of fields--there was no limit to the resources we could tap into then, and even now post the accelerator. All of this helped position me for success in closing my first round.”

“Since the accelerator this past summer, The TouchPoint Solution has seen a 200% percent growth with high projections for the Fall and Winter,” said Vicki Mayo, CEO and co-founder of The TouchPoint Solution. "The hands-on sessions, covering everything from app development, customer acquisition, to staffing, directly contributed to our growth."

"I learned so much from all of the people we met that have such wide-ranging expertise, and from the investor office hours and informative off-sites at incredible companies," said Danielle Wen, CEO and founder of Lace & Liberty. "I am so excited to be a part of this growing ecosystem. I firmly believe that female entrepreneurs thrive and grow in supporting one another and want to do all I can to give back to this community."

UBS will also launch a Female Founders (#ff) social media campaign in celebration of women entrepreneurs. The campaign will offer insights from past Project Entrepreneur Accelerator participants in weekly video conversations with UBS leaders across its social media platforms and on the dedicated UBS Female Founders website, starting on Sept. 15.