Prosper Women Entrepreneurs eyes national expansion, membership program

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs has plans for a national expansion and a membership program up its sleeve for next year.

The two-year-old organization, which supports growth-seeking women entrepreneurs in the St. Louis area, hopes to begin establishing itself in “tier two” cities, or those similar to St. Louis in terms of size and community needs, said Aimee Dunne, Prosper Institute’s senior vice president of national programs.

Dunne also said Prosper Women Entrepreneurs is evaluating cities based on whether they are in the “central corridor,” or located within the Midwest and mid-southern regions. Prosper plans to announce and establish a presence in its expansion cities in early 2017.

“We are thinking about how we can bring the successful programs we started in St. Louis to women entrepreneurs in other cities,” Dunne said. “We know Prosper works in cities like St. Louis, which has a vibrant and collaborative startup community.”

Jennifer Ehlen, founder of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs and a managing partner of Prosper Capital | Courtesy of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs/Facebook
Jennifer Ehlen founded Prosper Women Entrepreneurs in 2014. In 2017, the organization is looking to expand beyond its St. Louis home. | Courtesy of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs/Facebook

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs consists of two separate divisions: PWE Startup Accelerator and Prosper Institute. The accelerator, a for-profit entity, provides female entrepreneurs with capital for their businesses. The institute, a non-profit organization, offers mentorship and peer-advisory programs to women entrepreneurs.

In addition to Prosper Women Entrepreneurs’ anticipated growth, Prosper Institute expects to launch a membership program in January 2017. One benefit the program will offer is the ability to sign up for 30-minute sessions with specific subject matter experts, such as accountants and product manufacturers, and for one-on-one meetings with expert mentors who have built successful businesses.

Currently, any female entrepreneur in the early stage of developing her business can sign up for weekly office hours with Prosper Institute’s staff to discuss her general ideas. Every other month, the institute also hosts “Office Hours After Hours,” an event during which entrepreneurs can register for 15-minute feedback sessions with expert mentors, much like the meetings that will be available to members next year. Unlike its weekly office hours, this Prosper Institute program caters to entrepreneurs who are further along in the startup process.

“The new membership program will allow us to reach out to more women entrepreneurs,” Dunne said. “It will help us serve women entrepreneurs no matter where they are in the life cycle of their business.”

Dunne also said Prosper Institute hopes to give members access to discounts for various business services and online content that could support them as they kick off their businesses.

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