9 Lives for Women Blog

Where Angels Tread | July 20th, 2012

Though I helped many women successfully return to the workforce in my recruiting days, there were quite a few who said they were ready for the transition—but they really were not.  That caused a lot of frustrating starts and stops and 11th hour change of hearts.  It’s just a reality that some women have to return to work in stages—and that can mean not taking on a big part-time or full-time commitment as step one.

I’ve written blog posts about the fact that work is not black and white:  there are many definitions and shades of grey.  If you don’t need immediate income and you’re interested in helping women-owned businesses, angel investing can be a very compelling toe in the work waters option.

The Pipeline Fellowship is one organization that is well worth checking out (www.pipelinefellowship.com).  Unlike many angel organizations that recruit women able to plunk down major cash, Pipeline Fellowship’s program encourages more diversity and requires only  a less than $10,000 outlay:  a $4,500 fee for training an a $5,000 investment in a start-up company.

According to Chief Operating Officer Lauren Abele, Pipeline Fellowship often attracts women on the cusp of launching second or third careers.  Returning professional women often fit that category—especially, as Lauren points out, if these women are having difficulty finding meaningful opportunities.  The opportunity to be an angel investor who also advises startups/entrepreneurs is a great avenue to explore.

Angel investing can be a logical next step for women who have spent their non-working years “giving back” to various organizations.  The Pipeline Fellowship trains women philanthropists to become angel investors through education, mentoring, and practice.  Fellows commit to invest in a woman-led, for-profit social venture in exchange for equity and a board seat at the end of the training.

How do you get involved?  Pipeline Fellowship works with high net worth women and criteria they consider includes: meeting an accredited investor definition, passion for philanthropy and/or social change and an interest in the group learning model.

A group of 10 angel investors is chosen for each six-month program held in Los Angeles, the Bay area, Boston, New York and D.C.  Fellows are intergenerational (ranging from late 20s to late 60s) and come from a variety of professional backgrounds.  Life situations vary as well—Pipeline Fellowship attracts stay-at-home Moms, empty nesters, women who are semi-retired and those who participate while they’re pursuing a full-time career.

My pressing question was whether most Fellows have an investing background.  Surprisingly (and perhaps refreshingly), only 10 to 20% of Fellows have backgrounds in finance.  The rest become students of the business through comprehensive training.   Pipeline Fellowship assembles an interesting and diverse group:  on their list of recent Fellows I saw women who have backgrounds in media, law, HR, web design, academia, animal rehab, corporate training, healthcare, recruiting, community development, television, science and more.

For those who are not quite ready for a five-day-a-week work commitment, Pipeline Fellows meet just two full days each month.  Along with training, Fellows review applications for funding—which come from companies with a wide array of social missions, such as clean birthing kits, water purification, and collaborative consumption initiatives to encourage re-use of wedding attire.

Fellows narrow the group of applicants to around 10 entrepreneurs who are invited to the Pipeline Fellowship Pitch Summit, conduct interviews and engage in the due diligence process with about three companies.  Once the Fellows choose one company as their investment target, they often rotate as board members and advise the company owner as she grows her business.

Pipeline Fellowship was founded in 2010, so most of the investments made by Fellows are only about a year old.  The hope is that the companies Fellows invest in will grow and prosper.  When these companies turn a profit, the Fellows stand to benefit as well.

Since many women do not return to the careers they left behind, the angel investing opportunity is also a way to do well by doing good.  You have your finger on the pulse of societal needs and new business trends.  You get lots of ideas about work you might want to pursue.  You interact with and learn from women who have incredibly interesting backgrounds.  And you wear a halo for helping women help the world.  —KAS

Pipeline Fellowship is now accepting applications for its Bay Area and LA local programs (September 2012 – March 2013). To apply, go to: http://pipelinefellowship.producteev.com   For Boston, DC, and NYC programs, add yourself to the Pipeline Fellowship Candidate mailing list.

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