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When it comes to funding women-owned businesses in Utah, these are the groups that are making it happen for women across the state.

This Utah-based VC is funding women-owned businesses

When it comes to funding women-owned businesses in Utah, these are the groups that are making it happen for women across the state.

Utah might not be the first state that comes to mind when we think about women-led businesses, but it’s certainly attracting some attention. 

A group of all-female angel investors founded The Artemis Fund after closing their first fund in 2021, and since then, they have moved on to their second funding round. The group is led by three female powerhouses—Diana Murakhovskaya, Stephanie Campbell, and Leslie Goldman Tepper, who come to the fund with years of experience fulfilling both roles as business leaders and family caregivers. 

In Greek mythology, Artemis is the protector of women and the goddess of the hunt. The name “The Artemis Fund” seems fitting, given the group’s initial inspiration to target the lack of funding for women-owned businesses. In 2021, just 2 percent of the $300 billion of venture funding went to women-owned businesses, and only 0.34 percent of funding went to Black women-owned businesses. 

“People didn’t even think there were enough female founders. But in reality, we see upwards of 2-3000 deals per year that are by women,” Tepper says. “Once we get over that hurdle, people ask, ‘Well, what are they founding? Could they make the same returns?’” 

 A 2018 study on 350 startups by Mass Challenge and BCG found that women-led businesses produced more than two times per dollar invested in higher revenue than their male counterparts. That’s hugely significant, given the disproportionate funding allocation between the two genders. 

According to Tepper, the mission of The Artemis Fund is to democratize access to wealth. “We want to allow the CEO of the family to pursue her work dreams and goals at the same time she takes care of her aging parents or her children,” she says.

The founders of the fund didn’t have it easy when they first started. “One of my partners grew up in Ukraine, where her family lived on breadcrumbs, Tepper says. “She fled the country when she was seven years old. My other partner grew up with a single mom and raised the kids herself. She had 11 jobs by the time she was 22. They had to be very resourceful. They’ve seen struggle firsthand.” 

When it comes to what they’re looking for in a company to invest in, Tepper cites very specific things. “We’re looking for companies that fit our mission that are in the sectors that we invest in, which is notably fintech,” she says. “It’s one of the most obvious ways to create financial inclusion. Another is care tech—being able to take care of aging parents. The third is e-commerce tech as it pertains to small businesses to monetize the creator economy, like small businesses that need access to smaller tools to generate revenue and sustain business.” 

But not every woman-owned business needs venture funding, Tepper says. “Venture funding is when you want to build a scalable business that would create a billion-dollar business. A lot of women-owned businesses are lifestyle businesses—the bagel shop or the hair salon. Those are critical businesses to our society, but they generally don’t need venture funding. Many small businesses just require bank loans to get started. We’re looking for scalable businesses.” 

"People didn’t even think there were enough female founders. But in reality, we see upwards of 2-3000 deals per year that are by women."

Tepper says that founders must show leadership, grit, determination, and the ability to recruit an exceptional team. Securing funding can be intense, and persevering through that process can reveal someone’s character. 

“Many people want a business they can work into their lifestyle with their family. Being a founder [growing] a huge company takes incredible juggling to have a family and build a business,” Tepper says. “It’s very hard. When you’re a founder, you’re generally working 24/7. I know this because I’m building a business. We’ve been building [The Artemis Fund] for 3-4 years now. There’s no secret to it. You have to have a great spouse. You have to have health for your children. I don’t know how some of my founders juggle it.”

One leader who fits that profile is Stefanie Sample, founder and CEO of Fundid. Sample says The Artemis Fund funded the startup with the mission “to simplify business finance and access to capital for the 26 million businesses in the US that have under 10 employees.”

It can be difficult for small business owners to receive loan approvals since most of that funding is based on personal rather than business finance. Fundid has a free business finance platform with tools and resources for business owners, like finding grants and applying for and getting loans and capital. The company recently launched a business building card in September, which allows small business owners to become lendable as a business based on business performance rather than personal credit history, which Sample says is “the biggest barrier to growing capital in this space.”

Sample had many helpful male mentors and came to The Artemis Fund with years of experience leading small businesses. By the time she met the women at the fund, she showed all the traits of leadership and tenacity they sought. 

“I definitely loved their mission and what they were all about,” Sample says. “It aligned really well with Fundid. I was raising around with a lot of investors but ultimately chose for them to be investors because of their mission.”

When asked why she chooses to remain based in Utah, Sample cites an unexpected reason. “Salt Lake is actually a horrible city for women to work,” she says. “Utah is 49th in the country in regards to the gender pay gap. I’m here because I think I can solve that problem.”

Sample hopes to hire women who see the gender pay gap as a work in progress and see Fundid as a trustworthy company that values women and their leadership. The majority of Fundid’s executive team is led by women. 

“There is absolutely a natural proclivity for female founders to want to work with us and be mentored by us,” Tepper says. “We understand firsthand the challenges that go into this—working full time, having a family, things you just can’t imagine unless you’re a woman. We understand their drive; we understand their passion. We have a different lens than our male counterparts.”

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