Aviatra Accelerators’ programming helps women-owned businesses grow

Bad Girl Ventures was created with a catchy (and some thought offensive) name. It was an organization for women-owned endeavors.

Not all women want to be called a “bad girl” or “bad ass” and not all funders want to be affiliated with this mentality. Many want to do good things and invest in the positive.

Strong, successful, positive women.

In 2017, BGV relaunched as Aviatra Accelerators, a place for women to grow their businesses.

“The organization has evolved and changed. The economy had changed,” says Nancy Aichholz, CEO. “The prior organization was gritty and boot strappy because that is what the economy was like then. I was brought in to take it from a grassroots organization and raise it to the next level.”

Aviatra Accelerators is a robust and results-driven effort with a brick-and-mortar office space and programming that addresses “idea” stages through full deployment of a concept. This includes three different levels of curriculum — soon to be five — and influence across Kentucky and Ohio.

Membership is diverse.

“We have men, women, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and every[one] that you can imagine,” says Aichholz. [It’s] great for connections and perspective.”

“Our funding source has changed significantly,” she continues. “We are recipients of commonwealth of Kentucky state funds. We still depend upon private foundations and donors because we have to match the state fund.”

Nancy Aichholz herself could have used an organization like Aviatra when she launched her own concept. Like many women she worked tirelessly in the corporate world and then opened her own business. She was passionate about her carrot cake recipe.

“I put my business on hold — if I had had something like Aviatra maybe I would have stuck with it.” (Note, her business, called Nan Cakes, does still exist, but is not currently in a high growth mode)

Nan Cakes was in Nordstrom, Honey Baked Ham, and Madison’s. She wanted to grow, and it was going to take significant funding and the perfect location.

“Women tend to get risk averse regarding debt,” she says.

She knows now that the path of additional funding would have likely made her more successful and she may well revisit her original plan.

Women interested in pursuing an idea are encouraged to reach out to Aviatra.

There is currently one late spring/late summer LAUNCH™ session that is capped at ten companies. Additionally, there is a twice-per-year, cross-industry EXPLORE™ cohort. Aviatra has partnered with The Findlay Kitchen to offer an EXPLORE™ for food entrepreneurs. And there’s a dedicated EXPLORE™ group for Women of Color in partnership with Aviatra Alum Sherry Sims, founder of Black Career Women’s Network.

The LAUNCH ™ application process is rigorous and determines who gets in the class. The program culminates in a pitch competition.

“The whole ecosystem is supportive of what we do, but none of the other organizations provide funding,” Aichholz says. “They certainly send us clients.”

Aviatra sees diverse concepts and many have been successful.

“We see businesses and all kinds of industries. We have women in biologics, pets — including a woman who started a pet-care business called Allie’s Walkabout,” she says. “Our most recent cohort included two women in optical retail and house renovation. Another is a young woman who developed a line of beautiful clothing for women who have had mastectomies to hide the drain.”

“These women have great ideas and we give them support to grow, but if they do not have access to capital we hit a wall,” she continues.

Most of the capital is coming locally.

Aichholz advises that anyone who has that “idea” or dream to take a look at associating with Avaiatra.

“We are focused on helping you,” she says. “Most businesses have started as a side hustle. Don’t let barriers get in the way of making things happen.”

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Read more articles by Jennifer Mooney.

Jennifer Mooney is a reformed corporate communications senior executive. She has also worked in the advertising industry and founded The Mooney Group, LLC, a boutique public relations practice. She is an avid adventurer and traveler, which includes climbing/hiking, open water swimming, and downhill skiing. She is a downtown resident and is married to Donald Mooney. She has two grown daughters.