The Female Founders Fellowship at NYU
Empowering women entrepreneurs to bring their ventures to life
Thanks to the team at the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute, women entrepreneurs at NYU can access an array of resources and support through the Female Founders Fellowship. The Fellowship provides women founders and anyone who supports gender equity with the community, network, and funding they need to start building successful businesses. The Fellowship upholds one primary goal: to cultivate an empowering and inclusive environment for women entrepreneurs.
“When we looked at our programs, we noticed, by far, more men than women were applying and participating,” says Rebecca Silver, the associate director of the Entrepreneurial Institute. “Moreover, the entrepreneurship space is wildly disparate in terms of the share of capital that goes to women-led ventures versus those led by men. Because of this funding gap, it’s harder for women to work on their ventures full time after they graduate. That’s why we launched the Female Founders Fellowship. We wanted to offer women educational resources and a supportive network. As well as the opportunity to apply for up to $50,000 in funding to put toward their student loans.”
Support and Resources Abound for Female Founders
Through the Female Founders Fellowship, NYU student entrepreneurs gain access to a wide range of resources. These include:
The Female Founders community: This ready-made community of like-minded innovators meets each month to work on their businesses, solicit feedback from peers, and discuss challenges as a group. Additionally, community members can attend the annual Female Founders Forum and networking events with the program’s advisory committee and individuals from the start-up community.
Comprehensive start-up training: This training guarantees interviews for the acclaimed NYU Startup Sprint program and NYU Summer Launchpad accelerator. Each program helps students better understand their target customers and sharpen their overall business model.
Coaching: Enjoy regular coaching sessions with one or more NYU start-up coaches, entrepreneurs-in-residence, or founders-in-residence.
Mentoring: Receive real-world insight and support from experienced entrepreneurs and investors from the New York metro and national start-up communities.
Funding opportunities: Fellows are invited to apply for the Mark & Debra Leslie Female Founders Fellowship Grant. Several grants, ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, are awarded each year.
Interested in Applying?
The Female Founders Fellowship accepts applications twice a year: the spring and the fall. Any undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in an NYU degree-granting program can apply for the Fellowship as long as they are actively working on a start-up venture. Recent alumni who started a venture while studying at NYU are also eligible to apply.
If applicants aren’t quite ready for the Female Founders Fellowship, they can apply to the Female Founders Circle. This program caters to start-ups in the earlier stages of development. Circle members receive similar benefits to fellows, with two exceptions. They don’t (yet) have access to the external mentor network, and they can’t (yet) apply for the Mark & Debra Leslie Female Founders Fellowship Grant.
Impactful Experiences in the Female Founders Community
Across the Female Founders Fellowship and the Female Founders Circle, Silver says the Female Founders community and its peer support network are the most valuable resources. For Anastasia Vlasova, a rising sophomore at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study, that sentiment rings true. As a member of the Female Founders Circle, she has participated in monthly cohort meetings, regular coaching sessions, and the two-week Startup Sprint. In the future she plans to apply for the Summer Launchpad. She hopes to launch her start-up, Mellow, a subscription box service that focuses on the mental well-being of college students.
“It’s really great having this community,” says Anastasia. “We have regular meetings, which hold me accountable as a student during the school year. Juggling academics while working on a start-up can be tough. But these meetings put just enough pressure on me to keep going without feeling super stressed.”
Adriana Teresa Letorney, who graduated from NYU in 2021 with a master’s degree in Journalism, echoes this sentiment. After participating in the Summer Launchpad with her company Visura, she joined the Female Founders Fellowship. Visura’s mission is to help publishers hire freelance visual journalists and to help freelancers develop their global network. As a woman entrepreneur, Adriana says her work often feels lonely. The Female Founders community has been a bright spot in her journey.
“Entrepreneurship can feel like a very solo path,” affirms Adriana. “The journey of building a start-up is very humbling. It challenges you in multiple ways. When you have a place where you can share your fears, concerns, and vulnerabilities without judgment, you feel like you’re not alone. To share your experiences and get feedback in a way that feels empowering and positive makes a huge difference.”