t may be dubbed the Lone Star State, but that certainly doesn’t ring true when it comes to opening a business.
Women in Texas are learning it best, flipping gender inequality on its head as their homegrown businesses gain global recognition in a number of leading industries.
Bumble, a now household name in the realm of dating platforms, was born in Austin, Texas in 2014. Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd set out to create an app that allowed women to make the first move, stripping away unwanted advances.
A simple concept that ditches traditional gender roles has revolutionized online communication. Since its inception, her company has grown into a top networking platform for romantic, friendship and business relationships for women.
Show a woman the power of the first move, and you’ll teach her the potential to change the world around her.
“As women, there is always someone we can look to for inspiration and there is always another trail we can blaze,” said Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott in March 2023 at the Women Who Mean Business event in Round Rock. “In Texas, we believe in the unlimited potential of women. We know the work women are doing today will impact tomorrow. In the recipe of success in life, it is women who lead, and I thank you all here today for being a part of that success.”
In Texas, women represent more than half of the of the state’s workforce. A roster of over 1.25 million businesses are currently led by women, bringing innovation to sectors covering healthcare, technology, food and beverage and more, with the state ranking fifth in the nation for women-led startups, according to Merchant Maverick’s Top 10 States For Women-led Startups 2023 report. Additionally, Texas leads the Midwest for venture capital opportunity, having invested $6.5 billion in female-owned businesses since 2017.
In terms of gaining capital, 63% of U.S. women seek venture capital to meet operating expenses, while 26% seek financing to expand, pursue new opportunity and acquire business assets. For men it’s 55% and 33% respectively, according to data collected by the 2020 U.S. Census Annual Business Survey.
Yet, of the $332.8 billion in VC funding that backed 14,411 U.S. companies in 2021, only 2.4% went to female-owned businesses.
Texas is looking to change those numbers and bring more women entrepreneurs into the batter’s box. Statewide, local, state and institutional resources are available to provide guidance to get them ahead of the game.
Entrepreneurship brings the world fresh ideas, new perspectives and innovative products that are quick to integrate into our daily lives. That luxury does not exist in a vacuum, as months to years are spent in a stage of trial and error before a final product gains fruition.
“Starting out, I had reservations about hiring, firing, taking on capital — and no one talks about this — but how to start a business,” says Eosera Founder Elyse Dickerson.
Eight years ago, looking to address missing needs within the healthcare market, Dickerson developed a product that’ll keep the public listening. Literally.
The fresh-faced entrepreneur, naïve to the ins-and-outs of starting a biotech business, looked to her community for support. She found resources and mentorship through Tech Fort Worth, one of two Techstars start-up accelerators in the state.
Dickerson started in its ThinkLab accelerator. A program designed to help entrepreneurs determine if their product has sufficient value in its desired market, teaching steps to develop marketing strategy and how to ultimately pitch to investors.
Nine months later, with a grasp on how to approach opening her own business and a final product ready for use, Eosera was born. Today, the company offers a range ear care solution products for earwax, ear pain and itch, and can be found in major retailers like Walmart and CVS.
As a Texas native, Dickerson shared with Site Selection what has led to her business’ success and hopes of empowering women through her work.
In what ways (if any) did you notice or face gender inequality within your field?
Dickerson: Inequalities in the workplace add up and can be detrimental to your confidence and productivity. From being paid less than male counterparts, to seeing women not getting promoted at the same rate as men, I witnessed many gender inequalities in my day, and I started my business as a refuge from those inequalities.
What made Texas, more specifically Fort Worth, the ideal location to bring Eosera into an incubator?
Dickerson: Texas, and Fort Worth in particular, is a fantastic place to start a business. The support we received here blew me away, and the amount of people that came out of the woodwork to help us was humbling. Not only are we thrilled to be located and manufacturing in Fort Worth, but I was also born and raised here and have deep pride for my hometown.
What reservations did you face in the beginning processes once your company graduated from an incubator?
Dickerson: Manufacturing was a huge hurdle we had to overcome. We first contracted out our manufacturing, but soon realized that if we wanted to have ultimate control over quality and timing, we had to bring it in-house. Once we did that, it was much easier to control, and we created more jobs in the process.
Why is it important to have more women leading bio-tech operations and research?
Dickerson: It’s important for women to lead in the STEM and business space because representation matters. I am lucky enough to have had some great female mentors who excelled in STEM and business, and I want to pay it forward and pass that on to another woman hoping to make it in the industry. The more of us that speak out about our experience, the more will see themselves in us and join the fight for equality and do great things along the way.
For an entrepreneur like yourself looking to enter the space, what advice would you offer about beginning in Fort Worth or the state in general?
Dickerson: I would say you don’t have to do it alone. Sharing the highs and lows with someone or a team of people is worth it, and not to mention, it’s helpful to put heads together when things go sideways. There are so many great avenues available to start a business in Fort Worth, namely incubators with the sole purpose of making you successful. Don’t turn down the help that will make your dreams come true.
Could you see Eosera expanding its products beyond ear care, or potentially starting a new company? If so, would you stay in Texas of expand elsewhere?
Dickerson: You never know what the future holds. I had no idea that this company would turn out to be all that it is. The future is unknowable, but we like to think big things are coming. Texas forever, baby!