Sheila Johnson, partners launch capital fund specifically for women-led startups

Salamander Resort owern Sheila Johnson

Middleburg business titan Sheila Johnson and 11 like-minded women have launched a venture capital consortium that will invest in female-led startups that focus on social impact work.

The president of Salamander Hotels and Resorts and a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, Johnson has co-founded WE Capital along with Dr. Sachiko Kuno, the president and CEO of the S&R Foundation and the Sucampo Group.

The investing consortium aims "to advocate and invest in female leadership with the dual aim of promoting social impact and generating financial returns," according to its website.

WE stands for Women Enterprise.

The idea spurred from the fact that women have a more difficult time securing venture capital than their male counterparts. According to Babson College, only 3 percent of venture capital dollars currently go to companies with female CEOs

Loudoun County businesswomen Sharon Virts, founder of FCi Federal and the Sharon D. Virts Foundation, and Karen Schaufeld, founder of 100WomenStrong, are among the 12 early investors who have collectively pledged $12 million in initial capital.

The consortium's investment will be managed by Rethink Impact, a female-founded venture capital firm with a national reach.

For Johnson, helping women navigate the business, political and entertainment world has been a long-time passion. A founder of the Middleburg Film Festival and a member of the Leadership Council at Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership, she has consistently urged women to demand a seat at the decision table.

"I think women are able to juggle a bit more," Johnson told the Times-Mirror in a 2014 interview. "I think they're often more visionary, more creative. They're a little more patient. They're more willing to make changes and they're more resilient. I really admire the women I have around me."

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