How Circular Board Helps Female Entrepreneurs Rev Up Funding


Despite the gender disparity in funding, Carolyn Rodz is deeply committed to getting female-run businesses the capital they deserve. To help level the playing field, the energetic entrepreneur is focused on providing women with resources men tend to have organically accessible to them.

Elizabeth Gore, entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell; Carolyn Rodz, founder of Circular Board

“We realized when we looked at the start up economy that women weren’t participating in resources at same rates as men,” says Rodz, founder of The Circular Board. “When applying to accelerators and going after capital, women simply weren’t getting the same traction. We wanted to figure out how to actually move the needle.”

After doing some research, Rodz and her team determined it wasn’t due to a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of advocacy for women from those influencers who could help streamline the funding process.

“So much of what happens in the startup space centers on our networks, and because women aren’t active in those networks it’s hard to get those referrals,” says the three-time entrepreneur, who has successfully raised billions in capital for various initiatives.

The Circular Board, which was launched in 2015, was created as a way to close the gender gap, and give women access to “mentorship, content, community and capital, and connection” they needed to start multi-million dollar businesses and ignite growth.

Partnerships have been a driving force behind Circular Board’s rapid growth, including Dell Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, Urban Decay, Guggenheim Partners and United Nations Foundation.

Rodz says her goal was to “start from scratch” and create a self-reliant ecosystem that mimicked what many business men enjoy without having to think about it. The goal was to help capture the strengths of women, one of which is fostering an environment of collaboration rather than competition.

“The traditional startup world tends to be very competitive, and women are shying away because they felt they weren’t ready for that,” says Rodz. “Even though we are performing at the same level, women are more risk averse. We think about the opportunity for failure and we don’t oversell. But once we get past the hurdle of raising capital, women are fantastic leaders. We are empathetic, collaborative, and great at taking input from others.”

Rodz, who was recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as a 2016 “Woman to Watch” and is a TEDx speaker, says after meeting many female and male entrepreneurs, she realized that while men like to look at big picture then drill into details, women prefer a step-by-step frame work. Since the launch, Rodz says there have been many learning lessons along the way, including navigating cross-cultural businesses and providing flexible working enviornments for women with families.

The Circular Board not only provides access to industry-specific mentors, but it also helps women learn everything from working with lawyers, applying for grants, to navigating crowd funding. In addition, all Circular Board members have access is for life.

“It’s a very accessible group in the fact that everyone has my personal email, and cell phone number,” says Rodz. “We meet up when we’re in the same cities, and like to connect in person when we can. Most new companies come to us now through referrals, almost entirely. We have an open enrollment process. It was really important to us that there is no constraint based on who you know or who you are connected to.”

According to Rodz, an important element of the Circular Board comes in the form of supporting women in developing countries. “We never decline a company because of an inability to pay,” says Rodz, adding that firm is actively expanding in Latin America and is focused on India. “Our hope is to democratize access across the board.”

Among the innovative ideas The Circular Board has helped fund include a line of solar bikes, as well as a senior care facility in Mongolia.

“This woman is opening the first privately-owned chain of senior care facilities in every zone of the country,” says Rodz. “Drug access is a really big deal in Mongolia, and here is someone working to improve access to pharmaceuticals.”

“There’s a lot more happening with smart technology,” says Rodz about today’s company trends. “It’s getting more functional and beginning to work in our everyday lives. Also, looking from an impact perspective, it’s been more about how to solve bigger problems and get more inclusive in terms of who we are taking to the next level.”

According to Rodz, the overall goal of The Circular Board is to help ramp up the launch process by helping members determine what to streamline and how to identify priorities by women who have been through it.

“The burden lies on the company going through the accelerator,” says Rodz, in terms of the brass tacks associated with brand building. “They have to ask for what they need. Some founders ask for a lot; constantly asking for support, following up with every tool, and they are the ones who benefit the most. Our goal is here is the frame work and here is the process and best practices. But ultimately we are not the ones running the company.”

When asked about current projects, Rodz has plenty on her plate. She is currently prepping for the Circular Summit, an invitation-only event for high-growth entrepreneurs, held March 30 and 31 in Houston, Texas. She is also focused on Pitch With Purpose, a global pitching competition (think Shark Tank with a humanitarian edge), held in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, to encourage women entrepreneurs to "embrace the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit." Eligible businesses will be judged on scalability, impact on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, innovation, strength of team and overall presentation. Winners receive $15,000.

Looking to the future, Rodz said she is focused on technology, as well as offering more resources to Circular Board members.

“For us it’s about refining and growing the accelerator,” says Rodz. “We are going to keep supporting female-run companies and find more of them.”

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7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.