and at MCC, Hammer had been involved in the develop-
ment of products that she thought were perfect for the cus-
tomers, but the organizations showed lack of enthusiasm
for them and would either kill them or shelve them. She
was not going to let that happen to this project. She was
willing to reinvent herself, again!
In fall 1991, Hammer
attracted an initial investment of $250,000 from Admiral
Inman, a business angel. Following 200% growth in the
next five years, a West Coast venture capital firm, VC1,
also invested $1.25 million.
Hammer’s story is not unusual. She used her academic experience
and education in literature and language as a basis for developing new
capabilities in computer programming. This knowledge and experience
inspired the idea for her new venture. Her human capital formed the
basis for the venture idea, and the seed for the unique technology pro-
viding market differentiation. Importantly, she was willing to learn, to
improve her human capital, and in her words, to “reinvent herself.
Unlike Kay Hammer, most women do not have a Ph.D., a back-
ground in computer science, and the backing of Texas Instruments. The
big question here is this: How can women who want to lead high-
growth businesses address questions about their human capital?
Assessing Your Education and Experience
In the rst place, consider the link between your educational back-
ground and your business. For instance, someone with only a high
school education might be less likely to found a technology-based
company than someone who has some type of technological education
or training. Although formal education and clearly related technical
experience provide the most common ways to gain education, there are
many other ways to develop this knowledge. Take the example of Ann
Price, founder of Motek, a provider of supply-chain executive systems.
Price attended one year of high school before joining the workforce
and was self-taught in the area of technology. Yet, she was able to build
a company that successfully competes in a technology market space.
She gained the knowledge necessary to launch her venture through
means other than formal education. After years of consistent growth in
prots, Motek was named to the Deloitte Touché Fast 50 list three
times, she won a Smithsonian award for innovation and boasted a For-
tune 50 client list.
Education can come from a variety of sources including volunteer
activities, workshops, courses, and self–study, and it works together
with experience. Consider the example of Gina Jacoby.
Gina Jacoby was just 25 when she opened her first Merle
Norman Cosmetics Studio franchise in Van Nuys, Califor-
nia. Becoming a franchisee at such a young age was daunt-
ing, but thanks to her previous experience as a consultant
and her training, the franchisor had complete confidence
in her ability. While starting up, Jacoby took business
classes through a local economic development center to
improve her business skills.
Like education, the three forms of experience—industry, venture
start-up, and general business—directly inuence growth patterns.
Most entrepreneurs start businesses based on what they already know,
drawing heavily either from their previous occupation or their avoca-
tions. This is not surprising, because if you know the industry, it is
likely you can identify new opportunities or ways to solve problems.
Having this type of experience makes it easier for you to navigate the
distribution channels, understand customers, analyze competitors, and
build a solid network.
Although industry experience is central, start-up experience is
another form of knowledge. You can transfer your previous start-up
learning to a new industry or business concept. If you have already

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