Rose Maizner on the Need for Women Investing in Women

Rose is a Partner with RenewableTech Ventures and is the founder and CEO of CR Consulting, an organization dedicated to helping early stage social and environmental ventures to reach their fullest potential. Rose has worked closely with companies across a wide variety of sectors, including water treatment, advanced materials, sustainability and renewable energy generation. In addition to her work with RTV and CRC, Rose is also the co-founder of Womenpreneurs, a professional collective dedicated to closing the gender gap by igniting bold female leadership and empowering the next generation of women entrepreneurs.

Rose serves on the advisory board of SHERO and is also a member of several nonprofit boards of directors, including the advisory board for the Westminster Center for Entrepreneurship and the Utah branch of the Cleantech Open. Before entering the private sector, Rose served as a Fulbright Scholar in Argentina and then spent a number of years in the nonprofit world, serving as both Associate Director and Interim Executive Director of an organization working with underserved communities in Salt Lake City.

Why did you start Womenpreneurs? 

When I was working in the nonprofit sector, I had a group of female friends who also all worked at nonprofits and we would get together every week or so. Mostly we drank wine and commiserated about upcoming grant deadlines. But it was so great to have a group of other women who were working in similar roles and facing similar challenges who I could turn to for support, to help troubleshoot a problem, or to celebrate a success.

When I made the jump from the nonprofit sector to venture capital, I was suddenly the only woman in the room. And honestly, I missed having that community of strong women to turn to. So, in part, my motivations were super selfish! But the other thing that started happening simultaneously was that, suddenly, any time there was a woman starting a business, from travel companies to quilting websites, they ended up in my office, having been sent there by well-intentioned men who didn’t know where else to send a female entrepreneur for advice and support. And don’t get me wrong…I’m so thankful for that! I love it and I hope it never stops. But in talking to these women, I realized that one of the things that they all had in common was that they were struggling to access mentorship and resources and capital.

It was around this time that I met my co-founder, Stephanie Stettler, who was then working at Boomstartup and having similar experiences with the female founders that she met. And she had this idea to host an event called Womenpreneurs where we would bring some of the women that we knew who had been down the entrepreneurship path before and put them in front of women who were just starting out. The idea was that it would be kind of like mentorship for the masses. I loved it and told her I’d be happy to help.

That was 5 years ago. I honestly don’t think either of us thought it would be anything more than that single event. But the response was so positive, and the need for this type of community and programming felt so big, that we thought, “well we’ll do one more event.” And then another one. And then a third. And then, before we knew it, we had an amazing, incredibly dedicated team, a phenomenal online presence and are now building out programming not only for entrepreneurs, but for leaders and investors as well. The idea is to build a big, vibrant community of powerful women-supporting-women and we’re pretty excited about where we’re headed right now!

How difficult is it juggling your full time job and Womenpreneurs? 

It's definitely not easy. At least not all the time. But I get so much energy and inspiration from the work we're doing with Womenpreneurs that it doesn't feel like a second job...there's the odd administrative task that’s not the most exciting, but, for the most part, I have so much fun working on Womenpreneurs that it's hard to stop and take a break. Case in point: my "summer reading" material on this vacation was a book on splitting founder equity for an upcoming training that we’re hosting. And yes, I brought sticky tabs and highlighters. I’m also really fortunate in that I get to make my own schedule at RenewableTech Venture (RTV), and I have the most amazing partners who are not only incredibly supportive of the work that we do, but they’re also happy to lend our office to Womenpreneurs when needed, which makes splitting my time infinitely easier.

And, interestingly, there are actually more ways that my work with RTV and Womenpreneurs overlaps and is mutually beneficial than not. I’m always meeting amazing female investors and entrepreneurs when I'm traveling for RTV, many of whom are now part of our national network of mentors and resources. And what I learn coaching and supporting female entrepreneurs is constantly valuable and relevant to my work as investor. 

Where do you see Womenpreneurs 5 years from now?

Our theory of change is that, in order to build companies that are not only female founded, but which are inherently inclusive of the values, traits and skills that women bring to the table, we need to have more women on the other side of the table as decision makers and investors who can support, champion and fund these companies. We’ve coined this “The Ascendant Economy:” an alternative entrepreneurial ecosystem in which businesses are built with female founders, who can access female investors, who then infuse capital back into female-led startups. Basically, it’s a virtuous cycle of women-investing-in-women.

Hopefully, in five years, we’ll have made this big, bold vision a reality: we’ll have cultivated a strong, supportive and interconnected community of women who invest in each other, build together and are creating a new generation of businesses where both women and men can thrive.

Where do you see yourself with Renewable Tech/venture capital space in 5 years?

In five years, I hope that we’re on our third fund (we’re raising our second fund right now) and are crushing it with an awesome second portfolio made up of groundbreaking tech and diverse, talented founders, as well as a strong pipeline of exciting new opportunities. I love being in VC and am really excited to see what Fund II, III and beyond brings. And I also really hope that, in five years, the VC landscape looks a lot more diverse than it currently does and a women-led clean tech fund won’t be an anomaly at that point!

What's your favorite thing about Salt Lake City?

I love that it’s Small Lake City. I love how easy it is to bump into people that you know…it feels like a small town with all the perks of city life. And I love that, because of that, it’s relatively easy to plug in to different communities and segments of the city. You almost always know someone who knows someone who can make the intro you want or help you get the information you need.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sitting on a deck on the coast of Maine with my honey and a glass of wine, watching the sunset (this response might have been influenced by a week of vacation!). But really, my idea of happiness is doing what I love, with the people I love, whether we’re working or playing or, as is often the case, both. In fact, my partner and I both work in the same space and we actually do a bit of work together. I know it’s crazy and probably not recommended by like 99% of therapists, but I love it and am just as happy when we’re practicing our pitches or mapping out new strategies and ideas as I am when we’re skiing or camping.

What is your greatest fear?

That my idea of my perfect life, which feels like it’s just at my fingertips, will slip away. I feel like I’ve worked so hard, personally and professionally, in pursuit of some big things, things that I am deeply passionate about and have been dogged in my pursuit of. But they’re also things that, in my weakest moments, have felt too far out of my league or just too impossible. I joke that it sometimes feels like I’ve chosen the path of most resistance. So, now that so many of those things that I’ve worked towards are finally in sight, it’s terrifying to feel like it could still all crumble around me.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Can I have two? I overcommit and I also shy away from confrontation. Oh, and I might be just the teensiest bit indecisive.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I hate when people don’t show up (mostly metaphorically, but also, I guess, literally!). I’m willing to give a lot of myself, in friendships, to my partner and my family and in my professional relationships. So when someone doesn’t follow through on something or isn’t there in a way that they have committed to be, I have a hard time with that.

Which living person do you most admire?

Oh wow. Tough one. I just finished Michelle Obama’s autobiography and am even more blown away than before by her grace under fire, intelligence and wit, and the power that she cultivated in herself and inspires in others (myself included!).

And RBG. Because, c’mon. How could you not?

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