How ‘Founding Females’ is changing the game for women entrepreneurs in Peoria – Peoria Journal Star

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Francie Hinrichsen, owner of Founding Females, stands inside the new Generations Candle Company, 4600 N. Prospect Rd. Suite 2 in Peoria Heights. The fledgling women-owned candle company benefited from Hinrichsen's guidance during its startup phase. Founding Females will be hosting the Founding Females' Women's Day networking event in March at Loftie Spaces and Events, 25 SW Washington Street, in Peoria.

Regan Ward-Hill was a budding small-business owner in 2019, trying to get her interior design company, Leslie Tyler Design, off the ground and running, all with her toddler daughter in tow. 

That same year, she met Francie Hinrichsen, the proprietor of Founding Females, an organization designed to help women entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground.

That meeting proved to be a game changer. 

Helping women in unique situations

Ward-Hill said any woman starting her own business, like she did, should connect with Hinrichsen and her business incubator. 

Hinrichsen started Founding Females six years ago with a mission to help female entrepreneurs flourish in the business world while also juggling life as women and mothers.

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She does this by helping craft messaging for female-owned businesses and creating spaces where entrepreneurs can network and share ideas. 

“Founding Females came from just having a wide network of women who are carving their own path and making their own way and really thinking about, ‘What is it that you need in business?'” Hinrichsen said. “What gaps do you see that aren’t being filled?”

Hinrichsen said the “core principles” of her organization are to “educate, to encourage and to empower” female business owners.

Ward-Hill met Hinrichsen at one of Founding Females’ networking events in 2019, “Lipstick and Lattes.” Ward-Hill was a stay-at-home mom back then, just trying to break into the interior design business. 

But it was challenging because Ward-Hill had to run a business and care for her daughter, who went everywhere she went. It is the type of conundrum many women entrepreneurs face. 

“The idea of family is changing. Families are beginning to write their own rules and write their own scripts,” Hinrichsen said. “But it’s also very prevalent that the woman is the one who does much of the child rearing, does much of the grocery shopping, does much of the running children around. So her business schedule looks very different.”

Founding Females gave Ward-Hill the resources and connections she needed to learn to navigate the path she was embarking on. 

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“She (Hinrichsen) is really good at supporting women, mothers, that have a very unique set of challenges, and she speaks our language to a T,” Ward-Hill said. 

Ward-Hill said in 2019, her daughter was an infant beginning to transition into her toddler stage. She did not have the capacity to put her daughter in day care. 

What Founding Females could do for someone like Ward-Hill was invaluable. 

“Having someone who understood that and didn’t want you to be ashamed of it or want you to apologize for it, and celebrated it even, for me it really made the difference,” Ward-Hill said.

Connecting women business owners 

Networking events, referred to by Founding Females as “mastermind sessions,” that connect women business owners is the main way Hinrichsen pushes toward those core principles. 

“I am finding that women are craving community,” Hinrichsen said. “They want to be in spaces, in dialogue and relationship with other women who are all working through the same challenges. So, it’s finding that group of peers.”

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Hinrichsen is in the planning stages for what could be one of Founding Females’ biggest networking events, to be held in Peoria on March 5, 2022, which is also International Women’s Day. 

The event will be held at Loftie Spaces & Events, at 725 SW Washington St. in Peoria. 

It will include guest speakers, on-site child care for mothers and a “mama office hours swap” so stay-at-home moms can swap child care with other moms to have time for their business, Hinrichsen said. 

Local female vendors will be set up in booths at the event, and there will be a space available where women business owners can get a professional headshot done. 

“We’re just really thinking hard about, ‘What do women need?'” Hinrichsen said. “Women starting their businesses will have a ‘Starting Your Business 101’ booth with resources, checklists, one-sheet business plans and just guidance for them so this event can be a springboard for them to launch their businesses.”