‘Queen Bee’ Creators Talk Empowering Female Entrepreneurs on Ora.TV
Hosted by Tonya Lewis Lee (Spike Lee’s wife), the show from SWSI (Smart Women Smart Ideas) Media pits three women with business ideas against one another, each with the help of a personal, accomplished mentor. The “Queen Bee” mentors include Julie Roehm, senior VP of marketing for SAP and Fox Business contributor, Divya Gugnani, co-founder of Send the Trend, and Lawrence Lenihan, founder and managing director of FirstMark Capital.
The idea for “Queen Bee” came about due to SWSI co-founders Marci Weisler, Heidi Lehmann, and Suzette Cabildo understanding the relative difficulty women face when it comes to getting ahead in the business world. As Lehmann cited, “Only 4% of CEOs are female — that’s a pretty low number.”
“Pretty low” seems like an understatement — the figure is disturbingly low. Thus, SWSI’s co-founders, all of whom have ample digital media and tech backgrounds, noticed through the “Smart Women Smart Ideas” blog (which came from the tastemaker promotion platform, MoxieQ, that Lehmann founded with Weisler and Cabildo as advisors) that many of the female entrepreneurs featured had companies focusing on the likes of jewelry or fitness — in other words, consumer products. (The three contestants on “Queen Bee” sell baked goods, belts, and scarves, respectively.)
Unlike tech companies, it’s hard for those types of businesses to get early funding from a venture capital company. The women at SWSI wanted to help these entrepreneurs secure capital, so they figured they’d go a different route.
Thus, they turned to the reality TV model. As Lehmann put it, “The power of reality TV brings a product to light in front of consumers who might want to purchase it…it seemed like a great way for companies launching a new product to get exposure.”
“Queen Bee” gets its inspiration from the accomplishments of entrepreneur/reality TV star Bethenny Frankel, founder of Skinnygirl Margarita, and follows the model of CNBC’s “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurs try to kickstart their companies with capital from successful business execs.
However, “Queen Bee” targets a younger, primarily female demographic, beginning with a focus on food and fashion. The series serves as part of SWSI’s overall plan to “build a platform that combines reality programming or content with powerful crowdfunding to launch new consumer brands.”
So, why did SWSI choose Ora.TV as the home for its women-powered series? “We were looking at a number of different options,” said Weisler. “When we met Ora.TV, we felt there was a real synergy…Their whole focus is on unscripted, from the shows that they launch within the Ora.TV digital platform to the fact that they’ve taken shows from digital and launched them on traditional TV.”
Going digital appealed to SWSI in part because of the speed and lack of red tape when it came to getting “Queen Bee” out to audiences. “We all come from digital backgrounds,” Weisler explained, “so for us, often if you’re pitching a show to TV as your first mode of entry, there’s a really long lead time.” Instead, SWSI didn’t have to encounter these TV-specific barriers. They partnered with Ora.TV in the spring of 2014 and were able to launch the show on October 28.
However, SWSI isn’t against having “Queen Bee” appear on traditional television. According to Lehmann, they’re already “sort of discussing season two on digital,” but part of why they chose Ora.TV was the company’s track record of moving series from the web to TV. Thus, Lehmann described a potential move to TV as “thrilling…but the success of the show is not dependent on it.”
You can watch “Queen Bee” here on Ora.TV.