Aviatra Accelerators has had two lives.
It’s first life began when it was founded in 2010, by an attorney who saw her female colleagues struggling to get the funding they needed for the startups they were launching.
“She [the attorney] decided to do something about it,” said Aviatra Accelerators CEO and President Nancy Aichholz. “She got it started [and it] took off really well.”
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, it looked to connect women to the funding they needed while also provide them with mentors and education to grow as entrepreneurs.
Its second life began earlier in 2017, when Bad Girl Ventures shed its original moniker and became Aviatra Accelerators. “When they first started, [the name] was great,” Aichholz said. “It cut through the clutter.”
However, the idea of what a woman entrepreneur was changed with the times. “She went from a girl to a woman,” Aichholz said. “She has a great job at a bank or an insurance company.” The name “Bad Girl Ventures” no longer captured the right spirit, she added.
The team began exploring options with a branding company, considering names and ideas in conjunction with “women on the rise” and symbols of flight, such as female pilots in World War II. They looked at “the Amelia Earharts of the world,” she said. “The real groundbreaking, strong women, [who had] every bit of the talents and skills of their male counterparts, but didn’t get the recognition.” Eventually, the group landed on “aviatra,” a repurposing of “aviatrix,” the word for a woman pilot.
“We learn and we help other women.”
While the team is still brand building around their story, they’re pleased with the fact that Aviatra participants can say, “I’m an Aviatra,” Aichholz continued. “They can say it with pride, dignity and strength.”
But Aviatra is not just about having a catchy, meaningful name: it also wants to uphold its tradition of powerfully equipping women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. And that’s what they do.
“We learn and we help other women,” Aichholz said. “This is where we differ from a typical accelerator. Through a cohort or through a workshop, any way that you become a part of us, you’re part of the family. We never leave you, you never leave us. No matter where in the business cycle a woman finds herself.”
Aviatra’s biggest venture is its tiered cohort approach, a method they’ve been employing since 2015. There are two different types of classes for two different types of entrepreneurs in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area or the Northeast Ohio region: Explore and Launch.
The Explore class exists to help women kicking the tires around startup fully weigh their options before diving in. It tackles questions like if and when they should quit their day jobs and whether or not their dream is scalable.
Then there’s Launch, a class that takes a traditional accelerator tact. It helps participants decide what their cash flow will be and what their business plan looks like. There’s a pitch competition at the end of the program for participants.
Each cohort supports a host of women entrepreneurs. As Aviatra is “agnostic when it comes to industry,” it has participants from the food science world, tech, the service industry and more.
The results of this work have led to Aviatra serving more than 1,500 women in Ohio and Northern Kentucky. “Our women have received over $6 million in follow-on funding and have generated over $68 million in sales revenue upon completion of our program,” its website states. Aichholz added that an estimated 80 percent of Aviatra women who go into business stay in business.
Beyond sustaining numbers like those, plans for Aviatra’s future include fielding interest from “regional and not so regional markets” to bring Aviatra their way. There’s talk of a Lexington and Columbus market — and even Baltimore.
“This same concept can happen anywhere,” Aichholz said. “It’s needed.” While there are many accelerators all over, she added that she knew of only 14 nationwide that cater solely on women, with “maybe two or three that cross industry as broadly as we do.”