Simone Castillo recalls as a youth serving hors d’oeuvres at her mother’s investment club during meetings held at her Long Island, New York, home.
“I knew I was going to invest in entrepreneurship from (that experience) of seeing a community collective of people investing in equities, mutual funds, and businesses,” says Castillo. “In black families there are always family members who are the go-to seed investors for anything and everything. And my mom was definitely that person as well.”
The millennial professional has more than 13 years of experience providing fiscal management and operational adviser services to nonprofits and other charitable organizations, but it wasn’t until Castillo attended the White House Women Economic Summit in New York in 2012 that she formally gave thought to investing in startups.
While there she learned of the Pipeline Angels (formerly Pipeline Fellowship), a sisterhood of angel investors–new and seasoned–who are creating capital for women social entrepreneurs.
Since launching its first angel investing boot camp in April 2011, Pipeline has trained more than 180 women who have invested $1.7 million in more than 25 women-led companies.
It has also expanded from New York City to Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Charlotte, North Carolina, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Pipeline Angels form cohorts ranging between five and 10 women, with each member committing to invest at least $5,000 in the same woman-led for-profit social venture at the end of the program.
Entrepreneurs get to present their businesses at one of Pipeline’s pitch summits to secure funding in exchange for a negotiated equity stake and a board seat.
Pipeline equips its participants with an essential angel investor toolkit while also providing access to a network of engaging philanthropists, explains Castillo, who was completing her M.B.A. at Columbia Business School when she first joined the group.
“We had to spend four months together going through the process of investing, social impact, social enterprise, and triple bottom line investing.”
African American women are starting businesses at six times the national average. Despite such numbers, female entrepreneurs start their ventures with 80% less funding than men, reports the Kauffman Foundation. For most of the Pipeline angels, like Castillo, this is their first equity investment.
They are attracted to the program’s three components: education, mentoring, and practice. Castillo has invested in three women-led businesses, including Happily Ever BorroWED, an e-boutique providing rentable bridal accessories. “HEB is part of the shared economy which has grown and expanded over time.
It is something that is very important to my generation,” she adds, noting that her goal over the next three years is to have deal flow—or an overall investment portfolio—of 10 scalable companies.