Failure wasn’t an option for Carolyn Rodz. After her first startup failed, a high-end home and gift product line, she realized she had been doing it all wrong. She found success with her second endeavor, a marketing agency.
But, what was the main reason her first one failed? Initially, the 37-year-old Houston, TX native thought it was a marketing issue, not having enough time to execute successful marketing campaigns but then she realized that wasn’t the case.
“I had to dig deeper and realize that it wasn’t a marketing issue, it was a startup issue,” Rodz said.
Once that light bulb was turned on, that’s when the idea for her global franchise was born.
In 2016, Rodz launched Circular Board, a female-only virtual accelerator that helps female business owners turn their startups into multi-million dollar entities through guidance from other successful business owners. With Dell Entrepreneur in Residence and Circular Board partner Elizabeth Gore, Circular Board has helped hundreds of startup companies connect to the right resources, grabbing them by the hand and getting them from the bottom to the top.
While anyone can have a bright idea that they may think is cool, the highly competitive Accelerator program looks for more than a “get rich quick scheme.”
“Do you have a scalable model? How much money has your idea made you? Most importantly, how is your company impactful socially?” Rodz said. “Those are the traits my board and I look for when accepting entrepreneurs into the program. Not just a success story.”
What are the steps? First, business owners need to apply. Secondly, those accepted join a Circle: a group of ten women who will serve as personal mentors, and lastly, you will be given the opportunity to give a virtual demo to a board of investors, partners and mentors.
Through this program, Rodz has opened the doors to numerous businesses in across industries, like Inhaus Real Estate in California and an environmental company named Miraclum that makes eco-friendly fire repellant. Helping women of diverse backgrounds launch companies gives Rodz life.
“Engaging these founders and hearing their stories keeps me going,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to start this company so I feel that it is my responsibility.”
On May 9, Circular Board unveiled Alice, the first-ever artificial intelligence platform for women entrepreneurs. Developed in partnership with Dell and Pivotal, Alice is on a mission to make it possible for significantly more female founders to succeed at unprecedented levels. Women-owned businesses currently employ 7.8 million workers in the U.S. and generate $1.3 trillion in revenue overall, yet only 2 percent of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. have reached more than $1 million in revenues. Alice and her partners will work to flip this stat to 98 percent.
Driven by data analytics, Alice is a virtual advisor that connects women entrepreneurs in real time with the resources needed to scale based on startup stage, location, industry, revenue and individual needs. As Alice populates, machine learning will allow her to predict founders’ needs to guide them to referrals, events, mentors and access points to capital and ecosystems.
According to information released by Dell, in 2016, Circular Board approached Dell with an idea to disrupt the startup world by building an entirely new ecosystem for women founders. Built on its existing commitment to support growing businesses, Dell grabbed a leadership seat at the table to lend its expertise, capital and innovative spirit to create Alice.
In a world where women, especially female dreamers and business owners, are constantly told “no,” Rodz said those days are over and has one key piece of advice.
“Consistently take steps forward to make that dream a reality. Be the change that someone out there is waiting to see,”she said.