Innovation

For Visa, She’s Next Is What’s Next

Visa Next

Women are starting small businesses at a faster rate than ever before, a trend global in scope. Offering  access to everything from research to peer workshops, Visa is launching She’s Next, geared toward female entrepreneurs. Visa execs sat down with PYMNTS to explain how tackling issues as far-flung as digital campaigns and working capital considerations through shared knowledge can unlock new opportunities.  

If knowledge is power, then shared knowledge is … shared power.

To that end, Visa said on Tuesday (Jan. 15) that it has launched a global initiative, She’s Next, Empowered by Visa, which seeks to support the advancement of women-owned small businesses around the world through shared research, experience and technologies.

The announcement comes as, since 2014, more than 163 million women have launched businesses across the globe, at a rate that outpaces that of businesses launched by men.

The payments firm said that a key offering through She’s Next will be research — and where initial findings across an as-yet unreleased report commissioned by the firm show that, across U.S. small-business-owning women, the motivation behind launching a business are pursuing their passion (48 percent), having financial independence (43 percent) and having flexibility (41 percent).

But where there is passion and a desire for financial freedom, there is also frustration tied to financial concerns.

As many as 73 percent of those surveyed said that it remains difficult to gather the funding needed to get a business off the ground. And 61 percent of those queried said they self-funded their business.

What’s On Tap

Visa said Monday evening at a New York gathering in anticipation of the launch that events through a year-long campaign will include interactive workshops, tailored on a community-by-community basis.

An inaugural Jan. 30 kickoff in Atlanta will include access to experts from Visa and entrepreneurs operating both nationally and globally. Notably, at the Atlanta event, participants from Visa, Square and Yelp will participate in the workshops.

In addition, the firm said that it is launching the second phase of its advertising campaign known as “Money is Changing,” and where the campaign will train a spotlight on millennial women, with focus on steps they have taken to tackle and overcome money-related challenges.

In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, David Simon, senior vice president, global head of small business and medium enterprise business at Visa, said that in reference to the She’s Next network of women, the initiative is being supported by the Female Founder Collective, a  group with more than 3,000 members that launched last year and which seeks to provide peer support and expertise among female entrepreneurs.

“We know this is a critical segment around the world and we see that as small businesses grow this is one of the fastest growing segments,” he said.

She’s Next, he said, will embrace new or existing businesses, and through a “one step at a time” approach will see how “the demand and supply match” for certain areas of expertise. For example, Simon said, the Jan. 30 Atlanta event will focus on digital marketing, which was identified as being among the top choices for an initial topic.

These entrepreneurs would like to sharpen their social media skills to broaden reach and grow their firms. Simon said that moving forward, votes will be taken to determine which subjects to include at future panels.

In addition to the mentoring aspects of the program, Simon told Webster there also exists the opportunity to take advantage of curated tools developed by Visa and its partners, with an eye on the fact that resources are constrained, and that access to funding can be constrained as well.

Simon pointed to the figures that show a majority of women have difficulty accessing funding, and that education remains key for these small business owners, a sentiment echoed in a separate PYMNTS interview at the New York event with Suzan Kereere, global head of merchant sales and acquiring at Visa.

Kereere said that to date there has been “not enough conversation” around the issues that are being explored through the new program. As such, for example, smaller firms may find it attractive to tap Square Capital for business loans (and have an online as well as physical presence to accept payments), specifically for funding working capital needs, especially in the retail sector, which is changing so quickly. Atlanta exists as a hub for entrepreneurship, and looking toward global presence She’s Next will also target regions as far flung as the U.K., India and Mexico.

Simon noted that in bringing tools to female entrepreneurs to accelerate growth, Square and Yelp are the initial partners tied to She’s Next.

“We are going to continue to look at all the partners we have within the Visa family,” he said of future efforts and noted that the company’s issuer partners globally have “many small business owners within their files on a local basis, a national basis and a global basis.”

In addition the Visa Commerce initiative — which allows merchants to connect cardholders to offers — can drive customer loyalty. Visa Direct, he said, with real-time funds delivery, can help speed vendor payments.

The overarching goal, Simon and Kereere told PYMNTS in their respective commentaries, is to help female-led smaller firms pay and get paid, and provide an opportunity where education, mentorship and technology come together in what Simon called “a sweet spot of innovation, a sweet spot of acceptance and a sweet spot of payments.”

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