- JvS Philadelphia Fund for Women has committed $2 million to support women entrepreneurs in Philadelphia.
- The fund partnered with Ben Franklin to make nine investments in technology-based ventures led by women in Philadelphia.
- The JvS Fund is accepting applications for its next round of funding to support women-owned and led businesses positioned for their next stage of growth.
A new fund in Philadelphia is drawing attention to the need to invest in women entrepreneurs. Despite the growth in venture capital funding, women only received 2.3 percent of all venture capital investments in 2020, with Black and Hispanic women founders making up less than half a percent — 0.43 percent.
One fund looking to address this disparity recently gave twelve companies direct investments or grants. Started by long-time Philadelphia entrepreneur Judee von Seldeneck, the JvS Philadelphia Fund for Women supports women-owned enterprises with strong growth potential in the Philadelphia region through coaching and providing capital.
In 2021, The JvS Fund partnered with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (Ben Franklin), a venture development organization, who through the fund made nine investments in technology-based ventures led by women in the Philadelphia region. The fund also provided grants to three women-owned businesses: Addison Bay, Naturaz and Studio Sustena.
The fund has committed $2 million to support women entrepreneurs in Philadelphia, with $650,000 allocated in this first round. $500,000 went towards the nine Ben Franklin investments.
One of the first round grant recipients, Naturaz, is a hair product line run by Mumbi Dunjwa, an entrepreneur originally from Kenya who has a background in chemistry, big pharma, healthcare and technology.
Launched in 2018, Naturaz was an outlier as a startup; still, the advisory committee was very impressed with its founder, VP of strategic initiatives at Ben Franklin Margaret Bradley told The Plug. Moving forward startups will not be considered for JvS grants though.
Dunjwa used her professional and ethnic background to formulate a hair care system using natural ingredients. Although based in Philadelphia, Naturaz’s products are sold online and in boutiques around the United States.
Naturaz is currently in a $1 million raise round and has raised $185,000 to date. The company has received funding from the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority, an economic development agency, and an investment from Ben Franklin prior to applying for the JvS grant.
Naturaz is using the JvS grant for its retail entry strategy to participate in a beauty trade show and natural products expo, and for its packaging rebranding.
“The work that JVS Fund for Women is doing is instrumental. It’s crucial, it’s timely and it’s very much needed by women such as myself and many others who very much deserve the support and who are working so hard to make a difference in our communities,” Dunjwa told The Plug.
Another JvS grant recipient, Laura Hansplant, the owner of integrated landscape architecture firm Studio Sustena, learned about the grant through the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia. The company is using the funding from the JvS Fund to create a planting design tool and a visualization tool for 3D modeling.
“It’s been such a constructive and empowering process,” Hansplant told The Plug.
“It’s such a wonderful experience to be able to connect with other women business owners, both women who have already been very successful in their careers and have great insight, and also owners of emerging women-owned businesses,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to in turn being able to help support other women who are starting their own business and being able to help pay it forward.”
After completing this pilot round of funding, the JvS Philadelphia Fund for Women advisory committee has decided to support businesses with grants that are in their growth stage like Studio Sustena. The business was founded 25 years ago, but Hansplant became the majority owner two years ago and has been working to transform Studio Sustena’s approach to design since.
The fund is currently accepting applications for its second round of grants providing up to $50,000 to selected recipients.