Bad Girl Ventures Brings out the Best in Women Entrepreneurs

It takes more than a great idea to start a successful business. Entrepreneurs also need practical knowledge – including how to create a business plan and set up a budget – along with a network of advisors and potential customers and, most cases, startup money.

For women entrepreneurs, that’s where Bad Girl Ventures, Inc., (BGV) comes in. With locations in Cleveland and Greater Cincinnati (including Norwood and Covington), BGV is an educational and micro-finance nonprofit organization that helps women start businesses with access to business loans, education and mentorship from seasoned professionals who’ve already built their own successful businesses.

Women make up 60 percent of the U.S. population, and earn 60 percent of all bachelor degrees, but even though half of all privately owned companies are owned by women, women only have access to about five percent of traditional capital, according to BGV. The difficulty in obtaining financing makes it challenging for women who aspire to launch the next Google or even a line of gourmet pet food.

Since its establishment in 2010, BGV has made more than $600,000 in small loans and educated more than 600 female business owners, says Nancy Aichholz. About 80 percent of their loan recipients are still in business, and the education they provide has helped create 400 to 500 jobs.

BGV support includes classroom education and temporary co-working space for use as the business gets off the ground, Aichholz says, as well as the chance to compete for loans or make contact with lenders and investors interested in supporting start-ups.

Some of the women who sign up for classes are what BGV calls “explorers,” in the very earliest stages of setting up their businesses. Most have ideas of what they want to do, but no real plan for how to get there. With BGV’s classes and advice from their network of mentors, entrepreneurs can take their idea from the exploration stage to the launch stage, Aichholz says.

In order to compete for the loans, applicants must present a viable business plan, and brand to demonstrate that they are fundable, she said. Those who are not awarded BGV’s loans can work with their coaches and network to find other funding sources.

“Part of what BGV does is help entrepreneurs secure venture capital,” says Cheryl Coy Stamm, BGV’s board chair and owner of CCS Software Solution Consulting LLC. “We want to help connect people. We want people to succeed and grow. It’s building up the tax base. It’s jobs and creating jobs!”

Once a BGV client is in business, the organization also helps the company grow to its next phase. For some clients, that’s setting up franchises. For others, it’s going public.

Ongoing classes and workshops offer clients education, Aichholz says, but they also offer each “class” the chance to build their professional networks, all women business owners who may themselves decide to become mentors and coaches to other would-be entrepreneurs.

“We are helping them achieve success, and we are giving them all the support they could possibly need to get their business off the ground,” Aichholz says.

Most of us think of tech companies when we hear the phrase “startup,” but not everything is an app, Stamm says. BGV’s Cincinnati success stories include The Spicy Olive, which offers fresh gourmet olive oils and other high-class goodies at three locations, including Hyde Park Square. Other clients have gourmet pet food lines, yoga studios, wine and cheese shops, restaurants and food products designed to meet the special nutrition needs of cancer patients and other people with critical health needs.

Melanie Cedar Gren, owner of The Spicy Olive, pitched her business idea in 2012 to BGV. That presentation earned her a scholarship to BGV. She was not awarded the seed money loan, “but through BGV, the bank came to us and offered us the loan we needed,” Cedar Gren says. The Spicy Olive now has three locations, and 16 employees.

Pamela Paley, senior vice president and wealth management advisor with The Private Client Reserve, is a long-time member of BGV’s selection committee, which determines who wins the seed money loans. U.S. Bank Foundation is also a BGV contributor.

“Bad Girl Venture represents a great opportunity to give back to the community, which is what the founder of the organization had in mind. She had been the recipient of mentoring and support and it was her goal to give back in the same manner. U.S. Bank is extremely community service-oriented. It’s part of what makes us such a unique organization. The philosophy is embraced from the top down. We are encouraged to volunteer; hence our employees give thousands of service hours which make a difference. In addition U.S. Bank and our officers support these organizations with personal and corporate donations,” Paley says.

Write Bad Girl Ventures Inc. at P.O. Box 5555, Cincinnati, OH 45201. Call them at 513.421.0305 or visit them online at