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First Person

A business of her own

Sudbury native and digital pro Heidi Lehmann, whose breakout came in 2007 when AOL bought the Boston-based startup she cofounded, is pushing a reality show for female entrepreneurs.

Viet Chu/BlublinkMedia

 Female entrepreneurs typically receive a lot less funding than their male counterparts. Also, product companies raise less capital than services companies. Product companies do not fit the venture model as well, so accessing that growth/early stage capital is more difficult.

We want to discover the next Tory Burch, Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, Kate Spade, or Bethenny Frankel, founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails. Reality television is a whole new platform for business promotion. Think about shows like Shark Tank, The Apprentice, and even Real Housewives, which is where Bethenny Frankel built her Skinnygirl brand.

Smart Women, Smart Ideas is a reality competition that showcases women and the businesses they’re trying to launch. We successfully completed a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign for the show pilot in half the allotted time, and we’ve recently secured our first sponsorship from E*TRADE.


We’ve got great female business leaders and entrepreneurs involved. People like Julie Roehm, who’s currently a senior vice president at SAP and formerly with Walmart and Chrysler Group, Jennifer Hill, who has discussed startups on MSNBC, Rosemary Maggiore, former president of Rachael Ray Digital, and Alana Muller, president of Kauffman FastTrac, are all high-profile women with the experience to help advise the competitors and judge the competition.

The show’s set to debut in June 2014 with an online premiere, and we’re exploring broader television distribution. It’s so gratifying to see that there’s interest in helping women achieve their goals.

— As told to Craig Fitzgerald (Interview has been edited and condensed.)

FOR MORE INFO To learn more about Smart Women, Smart Ideas or sign up to participate, go to swsimedia.com.