HARTFORD – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced on Wednesday that The Refinery of Westport is this month’s “Murphy’s Innovator of the Month.” Westport residents Janis Collins and Jennifer Gabler founded The Refinery in 2014 after realizing that between 2011 and 2013, women-led companies received only 2.7% of venture capital funding. Collins and Gabler launched The Refinery to help close this funding gap and fuel the growth of women-led companies. Since 2014, The Refinery has provided customized mentoring, advising, help with growth and funding strategies, and access to angel and venture capital investors to dozens of women-led companies. The Refinery hosts two types of accelerator programs — the Fueling the Growth Pitch Competition and the Winter Boost Accelerator Program. Through these programs, The Refinery has helped uncover more than 230 women-led technology companies, helped raise more than $20 million in funds, and connected 39 women-led companies to more than 90 subject matter expert mentors.

The Refinery’s programs have helped create more than 50 jobs and directly benefitted companies in the bioscience, education, beauty, apparel, food and beverage, and other industries. Many of these companies have received funding through the U.S. Small Business Administration or the state of Connecticut. 

“The Refinery is connecting hundreds of women innovators to the funding and contacts they need to build up their businesses,” said Murphy. “Janis and Jennifer know that Connecticut is a hub for innovation – it’s full of resources for creative entrepreneurs to launch new businesses and grow their ideas. I’m glad that The Refinery is working so hard to bring resources to more companies.” 

Janis Collins, Co-founder of The Refinery, said, “Women represent half of the workforce, exceed males in PhD’s and are starting nearly 35% of new businesses – developing women’s potential as entrepreneurs is not about fairness or equal pay or even equal opportunity, but rather about creating jobs, wealth and driving economic growth!”  

Murphy believes entrepreneurship and innovation are building blocks for a strong economy. In the U.S. Senate, he has introduced two bipartisan pieces of legislation to incentivize angel investors to put more money into startup companies – the Angel Tax Credit Act and the Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act. Last month, Murphy’s HALOS Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Startup companies create an average of 2 million jobs each year.