This article initially appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Archna Sahay has a passion for helping women. On top of that, she’s racked up more than 12 years on Wall Street, making her an expert financial advice-giver.
With that background, she thought up a special organization that aims to connect women entrepreneurs to capital. Consequently, Female Founders Network was born.
FFN has already proven its value in Philadelphia. Its first networking event, in February at Impact Hub, attracted about 100 people. Its second event, during Philly Tech Week in April, had a similar attendee outcome.
In September, Sahay rolled out FFN’s investor meeting series, in which she brought a New York investor to Philadelphia to meet with a select group of female founders. They each were able to pitch their respective businesses.
Sahay recently started working on FFN full time, with hopes of one day growing it into an organization that can sustain itself. The main goal is to form FFN into something like an accelerator, where it is providing advice, mentoring and connections to capital for female entrepreneurs.
Sahay took time out of her hectic schedule to chat more about FFN, why its mission is important and more:
Why did you decide to start FFN?
Female Founders Network came about to connect women entrepreneurs to resources to help the scale their enterprises. It functions as a complimentary organization to Girl Develop It and other female-oriented groups in the city by connecting the many organizations and providing a pipeline for women who are either entering tech or already in tech to continue building their careers and ventures. GDI helps the ladies learn this valuable skill set and connect them to the startup ecosystem. FFN aims to continue supporting this effort, and continue developing the skill-set of these women by providing mentorship and access to resources like finding funding for their ventures. A recent win for us has been attracting capital from outside the city to fund female founders here in Philly. That’s a big deal. It brings capital into the city, keeps talent here and gives younger women role models to look up to in the city.
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Why is an organization like this so important for the Philadelphia community?
Women serve as catalysts for change in many communities. Empowering them empowers the surrounding community. Philadelphia experiences one of the highest rates of poverty among the top cities in the United States. I hope to help alleviate this problem in a way by helping the women in the community, empowering them to build healthy financial lives and transferring that energy to the communities they live in. Create jobs for them and they can help create jobs for others. Help them and they can help others.
How has your financial expertise helped to guide this initiative?
Finance is a foreign language and one that I have been speaking for some time now. It’s not a difficult one to learn; just takes some time. I felt my biggest value add in helping others would be to take my skills and contacts and direct it at getting funding for female founders and at the same time helping my city grow.
FFN doesn’t just work with women in technology, right?
No, we work with women founders across the board, from non-profit, to brick and mortar to tech.
Are men allowed to get involved?
Absolutely. I do believe that it takes the entire village. I have had male mentors that have been critical to my success, male sponsors as well. And my male friends have been some of the biggest supporters of FFN. The United Nations recently launched its HeForShe campaign. I agree with that mission and am looking to actively partner with them.
What feedback have you been getting since you launched FFN?
The Philly community has been incredibly supportive of FFN — everyone from the investing community, to the co-working spaces to the founders themselves (male and female).
Where’d the passion to help female entrepreneurs come from?
This is a big question with many answers. I have two younger sisters who I want to make the world a better place for. I have young nieces who I want to make the world a better place for. I think financial independence is extremely important for women because it allows them a certain level of freedom and strength to make the best decisions for themselves. There was a moment in my life where I was not financially empowered and thus found myself staying in a relationship longer than I needed to. I have a very supportive family and they were able to help me but not everyone has that, and I recognize that. The reason I am passionate about helping female entrepreneurs is because I never want a woman to feel that she has to stay in a negative situation because she doesn’t have the financial resources to get out and find or build a healthier life for herself.
Last but not least, tell me about yourself.
I am originally from India. I came to the U.S. when I was 5 years old, and grew up in Northern Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C. I went to Virginia Tech for undergrad. I came to Philly many years back but didn’t settle in until just last year. I love it here. Philly is the original startup. I feel fortunate to be able to contribute to the wonderful changes happening in the city. I am excited for what is ahead for Philly.
Photo by Lauren Hertzler-30-
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