What Makes WIN Lab Unique? A WINning Approach.
Women entrepreneurs are facing a new and intriguing proposition: choosing the right venture accelerator. With the number of accelerator and incubator opportunities for women-led-businesses on the rise, women entrepreneurs must consider what unique elements a venture accelerator can bring to the table and choose the program that best fits their needs. Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab at Babson College’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership is a different kind of venture accelerator – one that broadens the possibilities for women entrepreneurs whose skills, ideas, and commitment to making an impact are too often unmet by the traditional entrepreneurial ecosystem. What makes WIN Lab unique?
Compared to short-term programs that measure completion in weeks, WIN Lab creates an innovative space to experiment with early-stage business development and growth through an 8-month residency program. We identify women with the greatest promise of entrepreneurial success and fully immerse them in a highly structured process that equips them to grow their companies.
Rather than focusing exclusively on the potential of the venture, WIN Lab is committed to helping participants develop their women-founder-power, building the next generation of women CEOs. Our admissions process is built around getting to know our candidates and supporting their entrepreneurial ambitions. Participants begin the program with a “Start-Up of YOU” Retreat and engage in gender enlightenment exercises, strengths based leadership training, and personal branding, all focused on empowering women to disrupt, experiment, and build successful businesses on their own terms.
Other venture accelerators focus on bringing business ideas to market in exchange for immediate equity interest; by contrast, we prepare our WIN Lab participants to be market-ready and to navigate the challenging course of venture creation without giving up ownership or control at this early stage. The roadmap is designed to help women entrepreneurs reach a steeper growth trajectory – graduates emerge transformed and empowered by their own abilities to open doors and close deals.
Some accelerators are limited by a focus on specific sectors: technology start-ups, life sciences, e-commerce. That narrow focus limits growth opportunities for women entrepreneurs who are interested in a broader range of ventures. Through a sector-agnostic approach and innovative model that convenes and engages local resources and experts from a variety of sectors, we are working to change the national conversation on venture creation and maintain a powerful impact on the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Entrepreneurial Thought and Action
Unlike other accelerators, WIN Lab builds on Babson College’s proven methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought and Action (ETA). Motivating participants to routinely and rigorously exercise and expand their expectations, the ETA method moves any desired goal forward by creating incremental, low-risk experiments of forward motion. Participants are retrained to move even when they do not feel completely prepared – to act their way into the unknown. Those actions lead to learning, and learning provides an advantage in the marketplace.
WIN Lab promotes a design-thinking approach, using hands-on experiments, interactive workshops, and round tables. It’s driven by women entrepreneurs—experts who have “been there, done that”—and are passionate about sharing their real world experiences. Participants produce work for immediate feedback, meeting milestones that go beyond the theoretical to provide the practical experiences necessary to create successful entrepreneurs.
WIN Lab is more than any individual venture, it is an experience. The experience educates, inspires, and empowers women entrepreneurial leaders to reach their full potential to create economic and social value for themselves, their organizations, and society. In their own words, participants have described the WIN Lab experience as “a community of women supporting each other to launch our businesses.” Participants have said that the WIN Lab taught them to be “bold, be fierce, and don’t back down” – to “dream big, and fight” for their ideas.
A Replicable Model
Most importantly, we have developed a program that, like any good business, is eminently scalable. Our flagship in Boston leverages local financial and entrepreneurial resources, but there is no shortage of smart, ambitious women across the world who have the potential to be successful WINners. The question we have is not what we can do to help women entrepreneurs, but what women entrepreneurs can do for our global economy. WIN Lab is not only posing that question, we are answering it.