• Entrepreneurship

Women Entrepreneur Program, or why accelerate businesses led by women

Sofia Merlo
Sofia Merlo
BNP Paribas, co-CEO BNP Paribas Wealth Management

Women entrepreneurs outperform their male counterparts. But only if they have the resources they need to succeed! To kickstart the growth of high-potential businesses run by women, we at BNP Paribas Wealth Management created the Women Entrepreneur Program: a week of intensive training and networking at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Intensive training

On the right, the Hewlett building. On the left, the Packard building. A bit further down, the building of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. This is the intellectually stimulating environment of Stanford Graduate School of Business, the home of the Women Entrepreneur Program that we created with Martine Liautaud’s Women Initiative Foundation. Since 2015, the foundation has united women who run high-growth businesses. The session in July 2017 brought together 40 women entrepreneurs coming from a broad range of sectors and 12 different countries.

Our aim is to pack this week full of theoretical and practical lessons to help women entrepreneurs build their skills, improve their leadership and perfect their management techniques. The week’s agenda includes lectures delivered by Stanford professors, on subjects such as business growth (innovation cycles, mergers & acquisitions) and personal development (negotiating tactics, neuroscience and decision making), as well as guided tours of various companies. 

Helping women entrepreneurs gain perspective

At the same time, the Women Entrepreneur Program offers even more than pure and simple training. The week-long retreat is also a rare opportunity for businesswomen to take a step back from their daily routine to gain perspective on their business and reflect on their strategy. In addition, they can also meet with other women who share the same aspirations. That makes this a wonderful chance to exchange new ideas and experiences.  

Paired with training, networking forms the second ‘arm’ of the Women Entrepreneur Program, which aims to encourage women entrepreneurs to expand internationally and accelerate the growth of their high-potential businesses. For our 2017 edition, we notably hosted Aliza Jabès, founder and CEO of Nuxe, Sophie Desmazières from Woodeum and Odile Roujol, who provides consulting to Next World Capital in the United States. 

a wonderful chance to exchange new ideas and experiences.

A formula that works 

And it’s working! Take the example of Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, founder and CEO of Connecthings, a company specializing in sensors and connected objects. Taking part in the 2015 edition of the program was one of the initiatives enabling her to expand internationally. Today, she even has an office in New York! 

This year saw several participants from the agri-food sector, including three entrepreneurs coming from southern California. And though none of them knew each other before the program, we hope that their week at Stanford will inspire them to create business collaborations, as some of their predecessors have already done in past years. 

A bright future

After three years and several slight tweaks, such as adding company visits, the program has finally hit its stride. In fact, it has become one of the cornerstones of our strategy in favor of female entrepreneurship, aiming to give women the resources they need to embark on a bold new endeavor.

Our approach revolves around three main concepts: Understand, Serve and Celebrate, meaning: 

  1. Understand women entrepreneurs through in-depth studies of their place in the international ecosystem 
  2. Serve women entrepreneurs as customers, as well as through mentoring and training initiatives like the Stanford program 
  3. Celebrate women entrepreneurs by spotlighting their success through recognition and awards like the Women Equity for Growth index (a ranking of French companies run by women) or the new BNP Paribas Global Prize for Women Entrepreneurs, created in partnership with the FCEM (Global Women Business Owners) network, which will give out its second award in November 2017

Three main concepts for a single ambition: making female entrepreneurship a lever for global and long-term growth.

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