New Columbia group looks to boost investment in women-led startups

About 15 years into working in the construction sector with degrees in calculus and accounting, Susan Hart, vice president and partner at Huebert Builders, was about to purchase stock from her business partner.

“I remember sitting in that attorney’s office in Columbia and him looking at my business partner and saying, like, ‘What’s wrong with you? Is this your girlfriend?’” Hart recalled. “It was so embarrassing.”

Hart doesn’t want any other women to experience that type of bias. A newly formed Columbia angel investing group called the Women’s Investment Network for Entrepreneurs — or COMO W.I.N.E. for short — is looking to help remedy gender-based discrimination in local investing.

The group, which held its first networking event on Thursday, wants to “propel the early-stage growth” of women-led companies, according to one of its founders, Mindy McCubbin, the owner of Truman Wealth Advisors in Columbia.

The group was heavily inspired by speeches and talks given in Columbia by Build-A-Bear Workshop founder Maxine Clark and Peach founder Janet Kraus, McCubbin said. Both women expressed similar messages in their speeches: When they started out, they felt like they lacked support from other women to invest in their companies or serve as advisors.

After hearing the speeches, a few Columbia women got together to see how they could mitigate this gap in support — and funding — of entrepreneurial efforts led by women in mid-Missouri.

McCubbin repeatedly cited a statistic that only 2% of venture capital funding last year went to female entrepreneurs. What’s more, the 10 biggest venture capital deals conducted last year all went to male-run companies, Fortune reports.

After hearing such statistics, McCubbin and other Columbia businesswomen took trips to Chicago, New York City and Kansas City to see what other groups of female angel investors were doing, and COMO Wine was born. Investors involved will pay around $750 to join the group, and its networking opportunities are open to all entrepreneurs — not just high-net-worth accredited investors.

McCubbin said that in mid-Missouri in particular, getting ideas off the ground is “really difficult for women.”

“Sometimes they’ll walk into a room and there isn’t anyone that looks like them,” she said.

This lack of diversity can cause women who may have the same ideas as men to be overlooked by male investors, she said.

As an entrepreneur, McCubbin credits much of her success to the female community she was introduced to when she started out in wealth and investment advising.

“I was absolutely floundering and lost until I met this other group of women that were incredibly supportive and helped me figure out how to do it in a way that was more efficient, that was more profitable, that was just so much more effective,” she said.

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