Message from the Chair
When I sat down with our board members last year to write our first annual report, it was with both excitement and trepidation.
Transparency has always been important to AWE’s board of directors and a key strength of our organization. At this time last year, I was excited to have a role in fulfilling the founding board’s vision for transparency yet also cautious about speaking to the year to come.
As it turned out, “the year to come” – last year – was better than anyone could have expected.
As we moved from the year of creation into our first year of maintenance and growth, it became clear that some big changes had to be made. Beginning in July 2016, AWE’s board of directors enacted a number of changes, detailed in this report, that will be the foundation of our success in years to come.
In the past year, we held fewer events, but events held were of better quality with higher average attendance and more carefully selected speakers. We eliminated the free membership level in favor of a paid only model, and saw membership numbers drop, but became more financially stable with more committed members. We weathered a near complete turnover on the board, as directors shifted their focus or moved out of state, but saw the introduction of new and valuable ideas. We celebrated, together, the awarding of our first scholarships.
2016-2017 was a roller coaster of a year, but such is the life of a brand-new nonprofit.
As you read this report, I hope it will inspire you to become more involved, whether by volunteering on a committee, serving on the board, or simply by making the financial commitment to support our efforts by renewing your membership or joining AWE.
We need you now more than ever. AWE was founded by five women with a vision of female entrepreneurs learning from and growing their businesses alongside one another: a vision of women helping women build “awe-inspiring” businesses together. Just as we will find success growing our businesses together, so too will we find success growing AWE together.
I. AWE’s Leadership
Board of Directors
Amber Hinds | Board Chair
Amber is the owner and creative director of Road Warrior Creative, an online marketing agency in Fort Collins, Colorado, that serves clients nationwide in a variety of industries. As a founder of AWE, Amber is passionate about supporting small businesses and women working toward business success.
Andrea Bazoin | Vice Chair
Andrea is the founder and owner of FreeUp, a company that empowers technology users to “delight in their digital lives” through consulting, workshops, and project completion work. She holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington – Seattle. Prior to launching FreeUp in 2016, Andrea spent the previous 13 years of her career working to increase access to higher education for first-generation, low-income, and underserved students.
Carrie Bennett | Treasurer
Carrie worked in K-12 education for 10+ years before earning a Master’s Degree in Conflict and Dispute Resolution from the University of Oregon School of Law. She is the founder and owner of Learning Through Difference LLC and provides facilitation and mediation services to small businesses, nonprofits, and schools.
Nikki Larchar | Secretary
Nikki is the co-founder of simplyHR LLC a Human Resource consulting firm located in Fort Collins, CO. SimplyHR LLC partners with small businesses to provide training, education, and resources to make Human Resources simple. Nikki has over 8 years of Human Resources experience both as a consultant to business owners located across the United States and providing HR support at the front lines of a business.
Amanda Armstrong | Exiting Secretary
Amanda Armstrong is the business librarian at the Denver Public Library (previously Loveland Public Library) and served as AWE’s Secretary through June 2017.
II. The Year in Review
Since its founding in January of 2015 AWE has continued to grow and evolve to best meet the needs of the Northern Colorado women’s entrepreneur community.
In the past fiscal year AWE withstood the transition out of most of its founding leadership and welcomed a new board of leaders. Through these changes, AWE continued to host monthly AWE Connect gatherings, expanded its paid membership base, raised money for scholarships, and awarded scholarships to deserving applicants.
Total Events in Fiscal Year 2016-2017
Over the past 12 months, AWE’s board of directors is proud to have held a variety of events, including AWE Connect, AWE’s signature educational and networking event, social gatherings, mini-workshops, and a fun and profitable fundraising event in March.
Narrowing & Refining Focus
Over the past year, AWE’s board has made a strong effort to be proactive in meeting the needs of the community and their duty to the organization as a whole.
Following the close of our second fiscal year, AWE’s board did a thorough evaluation of programs being offered. Attendance and member/community interest was weighed against the resources required of AWE, both with regards to financial impact and any time commitment required of AWE’s board members or volunteers to make each program successful.
It was determined that AWE’s efforts could be most impactful through a continuation of our monthly AWE Connect event and our scholarship program for female business owners. All other programs, including co-working meetups, workshops, and our mentorship matchmaking program were put on hold.
Renewed focus was put into attracting high-caliber speakers for AWE Connect in an effort to attract attendees who were more advanced in their businesses, beyond just startups.
Scholarships to Women Entrepreneurs for Business Classes
This year AWE continued its scholarship program for women entrepreneurs, and made its first scholarship awards.
AWE’s Business Improvement Scholarship Program provides assistance to female business owners with paying registration fees for classes or programs that will help them improve their business skills and knowledge. Scholarship funds are open to the public without requirement of membership in AWE.
During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, AWE’s board more clearly defined the purpose of our Business Improvement Scholarship Program and the award requirements. Approved and partner institutions were more clearly identified. Additionally, the annual maximum award was increased from $150 to $500.
AWE is proud to have established this fund and to have awarded $799 in scholarships to 3 deserving women entrepreneurs.
2016-2017 Scholarship Recipients
* Nikki Larchar was awarded a scholarship prior to indicating interest in or joining AWE’s board of directors. Current board of directors members and their family/friends are not eligible to receive scholarships from AWE.
This has been a great start to what I believe could change my business entirely.
— Jennifer Tracy
At the end of its 2015-2016 fiscal year, and at its membership peak, AWE had 135 members – the bulk of whom (101) were non-paying members at a free membership tier. Following the close of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, and facing fiscal concerns, the board of directors voted to eliminate this free tier, as well as a fourth, top-level tier which had previously only been utilized by board members.
These changes left AWE with two membership levels and more clearly defined member benefits at each tier, though resulted in a significant loss in membership numbers as women who had previously joined AWE at the “free” level were no longer considered members, and many of them opted not to pay for membership.
In recognition of the fact that paying annual dues may be challenging for some startup business owners, in addition to reducing the number of membership tiers in fiscal year two, AWE’s board also voted to implement a monthly payment option. The monthly payment option, though more expensive on an annual basis than one single payment, allows female business owners to spread out the cost of their membership over the year.
Membership in Allied Women Entrepreneurs fluctuated over the last year between 18 and 25 paid members.
At last year’s fiscal year-end, AWE had 7 Allied Entrepreneur Members ($150 annual dues) and 15 Entrepreneur Members ($75 annual dues), for a total of 22 paid members. Currently, we end our 2017 fiscal year with 5 Allied Entrepreneur Members and 14 Entrepreneur Members, for a total of 19 paid members.
With the transition to only paid memberships, AWE saw several notable changes in member demographics:
Higher Percent of Members Running Business Full-time
Chief among these member demographic changes was an increase in the percent of women who are running their own business full-time rather than seeking to start a business or running a business part-time while working for someone else or reporting themselves to be a homemaker.
Increase in Average Annual Income
Additionally, AWE demographic surveys report an increase in annual household income, with a greater percent of members reporting income over $100,000 per year. This is not surprising given the elimination of a free membership.
Decrease in Average Member Age
Interestingly, average age of membership shifted down, with the majority of respondents between 25-34 years of age.
Self-identification of race/ethnicity and parent status did not change. Nearly 100% of members identify as Caucasian and 50% have children under the age of 18 living at home.
Membership Looking Ahead
Looking ahead to our 2017-2018 fiscal year, we hope to continue expanding our paid membership in order to bolster our scholarship program and provide educational and networking opportunities to an even greater number of local women business owners.
Though current membership numbers are low, AWE has a robust reach among Northern Colorado female business owners, with 434 email subscribers and 606 women connected to our Meetup.com page. In our next fiscal year, AWE’s board of directors will seek to leverage these connections to increase both meeting attendance and membership numbers.
In the next year, we also want to improve upon our member engagement and promotion activities. Currently, AWE’s board of directors is expanding and several board positions are turning over to new chairs. As always, with new leadership often comes new ideas and fresh energy. We look forward to better engaging our members so that AWE can continue to thrive.
AWE’s fiscal year is on a July-June calendar. The second complete fiscal year ended with a revenue surplus thanks to increasing paid memberships, steady paid attendance at AWE Connect events, which transitioned from free to having a $10 charge at the door for nonmembers beginning in August 2016, and a successful fundraiser in March.
In addition, AWE was able to cut operating expenses significantly from the previous fiscal year. This sound stewardship of funds has allowed AWE to continue to fund its scholarships and maintain adequate reserves for the coming year.
July 2016-June 2017 Financial Information
Although AWE’s total revenue in 2016-2017, $4774.08 is significantly smaller than it was in the previous fiscal year, the sources of revenue were more sustainable. In the past, AWE depended on significant contributions from the board of directors (founders) and ongoing sponsorship/donations.
Under AWE’s current financial model, a majority of revenue comes from membership, program fees, and one main fundraising event. These revenue streams are more likely to be sustained over the long-term than one-time gifts.
Between July 2016-June 2017, AWE’s expenses totaled $2,760.70.
The largest portion of AWE’s expenses represents the $799 awarded in scholarship funds to female entrepreneurs.
The next two largest expense were for fundraising and for marketing, which includes fees to cover the expense of website hosting, domain registration, Meetup.com, etc.
Aside from scholarships, spending was significantly lower across all categories in this fiscal year.
Future Financial Considerations
To maintain its current level of financial soundness, AWE must continue to attract and retain paying members, hold a strong yearly fundraising event, and maintain ongoing drop-in program fees.
In addition, while the organization ended the year with a surplus, continued conservative spending will help ensure that the majority of AWE’s funds can go towards scholarships and giving back to the entrepreneurial community in Northern Colorado.
AWE’s board of directors is committed to maintaining a lean operating budget so that the organization can make the largest impact possible in support of female entrepreneurs.
V. Recognized Donors
Digital Workshop Center
Loveland Public Library
Road Warrior Creative
Allied Entrepreneur Members