TheWMarketplace raises $500K to grow platform supporting women entrepreneurs

Susan Gates (left) and Kate Isler, co-founders of TheWMarketplace. (TheWMarketplace Photo)

New funding: Seattle-based TheWMarketplace recently closed a $500,000 pre-seed round that will help fund the expansion of its online sales platform that promotes women-owned businesses or those with significant female leadership and women-friendly business practices. The funding is from Synergy Technologies, an IT services firm specializing in talent solutions. Florida-based Synergy is woman- and minority-owned with offices in the U.S. and India.

Big aspirations: Kate Isler and Susan Gates launched TheWMarketplace in May in response to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19, which hit women harder than men.

“We plan to take Amazon on,” said Isler, CEO, in September. “There is a hunger for alternatives.”

The platform has grown to include 310 vendors and professional service providers selling more than 2,000 products and services. The site has logged 60,000 visitors since going online. The startup is partnering with the Small Business Administration’s affiliated offices that support women, and is teaming up with multiple women’s networking organizations helping their participants to create online presences.

TheWMarketplace has seven employees.

Unexpected hurdle: TheWMarketplace hit a snag in December when Facebook rejected its ads promoting Askanya Chocolates and its female Haitian founder.

The startup was advised by Facebook: “Your ad may have been rejected if it mentions politicians or sensitive social issues that could influence public opinion, how people vote and may impact the outcome of an election or pending legislation.”

After being contacted by Mekhato, Facebook reviewed the ads, discovered they were incorrectly flagged and approved them for posting. But in January, Facebook again rejected the platform’s ads, which this time celebrated Vice President Kamala Harris.

For the founders, it feels like an attack that is gender-specific.

“It is an ongoing issue for us having to delete words like ‘personal care.’ I know it sounds crazy, but the fact that we are all women promoting women’s businesses and experience push back … from the large tech companies owned or controlled by men is disheartening,” Isler said. “I want to keep bringing it up because like most women-owned business, we just keep revising and resubmitting [our ads] until we find something acceptable. Just doesn’t seem reasonable and takes a ton of time.”

Founder backgrounds: Isler was previously CEO of Daysaver, a calendar software startup, and worked at Microsoft for more than a decade, promoting Windows in markets worldwide. She is active in groups promoting women and girls’ empowerment, co-founding Be Bold Now and as a board director for Girl Rising.

Gates, who is chief marketing officer, has a background in international commerce. She previously worked as a national account executive for the Specialty Coffee Association.

Similar startup: Intentionalist is a Seattle-based platform that promotes brick-and-mortar businesses and restaurants nationwide that are owned by women, people of color, LGBTQ people, military veterans, disabled people or some combination of traits.

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