Business For Good: JVS Philadelphia Fund For Women

A new partnership offers grants and investments for local, women-owned and led businesses — courtesy of Judee von Seldneck, a woman who’s been there.

By any measure, Judee von Seldeneck has had an incredible career.

She started in politics, working as an executive assistant to then-Sen. Walter Mondale after graduating college. When her husband’s job required the family to relocate from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia in the 1970s, she joined a small talent search firm in the city, eventually buying out her partners. Now, her company, ​​Diversified Search Group, is the largest woman-founded search firm in the world. [Editor’s note: Judee von Seledeneck and Diversified Search are supporters of The Philadelphia Citizen.]

That path, from executive assistant to founder, CEO and chair of her own company wasn’t easy, however. Women had only gained the right to open bank accounts in the 1960s, and von Seldeneck suspected financial institutions wouldn’t be eager to loan money to a woman with a fledging small business. So, she never borrowed money to build her company, instead using a portion of its profits to invest in growth.

“I feel like I got a lot of breaks, but if I had a little money or access to capital sooner, maybe things could’ve happened faster,” von Seldeneck says.

A lack of investment in women-owned and led businesses is a problem von Seldeneck still sees today. In 2022, women-led startups received only 1.9 percent of venture capital funds, TechCrunch reported, a drop from 2021, when they received 2.4 percent.

Since traditional financing sources weren’t investing in women and their businesses, von Seldeneck thought she could. In 2021, she created the JVS Philadelphia Fund for Women, a collection of capital that provides investments and grants for women-led businesses in the greater Philadelphia area.

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