Starting your own company from scratch is difficult, regardless of your gender, sex, race or age. Theoretically, gender shouldn't matter when it comes to fundraising and getting your company off the ground, but female entrepreneurs unfortunately do experience different challenges than their male counterparts. I've seen just how skewed the funding process can be against women first-hand in my experience as the founder and CEO of Beautiac, a subscription-based makeup brush company I started in 2018.
As soon as I had the idea for Beautiac, I was excited to hit the ground running. I wanted to create a makeup brush that would prevent breakouts; as the solution, I designed an interchangeable makeup brush system. Customers get new brush heads in the mail every month, pop off the old ones and send them back to us for recycling. This concept had never been done before; it was quite a hectic period while I designed and sourced everything from scratch. I knew I needed capital to turn this dream into a reality, so I started the fundraising process ASAP.
Luckily, I was familiar with fundraising. Before Beautiac, I was the founder and CEO of a candle and home décor wholesale company, where I raised over $2 million to expand brand partnerships and retail channels. When I exited that role to start Beautiac, I was excited to get back in the swing of investor meetings, but I also knew to expect some ups and downs. After all, female founders collectively received $10 billion less in funding than the company Juul alone received in 2018. That's right. Let's say it louder for the people in the back: a vape company accused of causing a teen smoking epidemic received $10 billion more in funding than the hundreds of female entrepreneurs combined.
Given that, along with the nature of my product, I knew that explaining the nuances of makeup brushes to rooms full of men wasn't going to be easy. However, I also had something else to worry about: a growing baby bump. Don't get me wrong—I was overjoyed when I found out I was pregnant with my son. Fundraising while pregnant however, opened up a whole new can of worms, and I had a lot of anxiety about it. As a woman in a man's world, I was used to the subtle digs and implied biases, but nothing could have prepared me for the blatant sexism to come.
While speaking with potential investors, I would constantly be asked whether my pregnancy would impact my vision and abilities as an entrepreneur or how I was going to manage both an infant and a startup. I've even sat across the table from a potential investor who said "We would be interested… but given the state your in, we're going to pass," while gesturing at my large belly. Every encounter like that left me incredulous, but nevertheless I persisted. The key is to find investors who not only believe in your brand and in you as a founder, but also in you as a person. Business partners who respect and celebrate every aspect of your life—not just your company—are the partners you want. Sometimes, that means walking away from a check. Turning down cash is hard, but you'll never regret standing up against biased behavior, and in my case, standing up for the desire to have a family and be an entrepreneur at the same time.
Admittedly, there were a few times when I got worried and asked myself, "Should I really be doing this? Are they right?" To doubt yourself is to be human, but don't let a little doubt deter you. Throughout my experience, I used my pregnancy to fuel my passion for Beautiac even more. It's hard to be in a position where you constantly feel the need to prove something, change peoples' minds and change the way something is thought about. It feels like a nearly impossible task and it's exhausting. Someone once said to me, "just show up every day, and every day thereafter, and every day after that." By showing up time and time again, you break down barriers and prove to people just how serious you really are. I subscribe to that method in my life with almost everything I throw myself into. I just keep showing up!
I took Beautiac from concept to consumer launch in just nine months, raising a $750,000 seed round along the way. Incredibly, it was the exact same time frame I was pregnant. In fact, I was in labor only two days after we began officially shipping Beautiac kits to our first customers! I was able to do this balancing act because I work with investors who understand the vision of Beautiac and support me as a founder, CEO and mother. And as Beautiac is fundraising again, I've become even more confident in my role as both a mom and an entrepreneur. There's no place for sexism or bias in my company. We celebrate all women, all people, and all stages of life, encouraging everyone to dream big and be at their best each day.
I'm looking forward to instilling those Beautiac values in my son as he comes of age and to everyone else the Beautiac brand touches. Because together, when united, we can be a powerful catalyst—making this world a more open-minded, caring and supportive place. A place where women are not just included but are actually thriving in their roles and sought after because of their amazing talent and skill sets, which are often developed by being moms with undeniable perseverance. A woman who is determined is a powerful force, one that is unstoppable.
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"Bare down and push like you're taking the biggest dump of your life," were the wise words of my midwife during the last leg of labor.
My husband and I had sat in traffic on the George W. bridge for close to three hours on a Sunday night while I bellowed God-knows-what during erratic contractions. Deepak Chopra whispered sweet nothings into my ear by way of our car's speakers. Side note: if you don't listen to Deepak's meditations, you should. Between bursts of stab-like contractions, I'd say adorable things such as, “honey, the stars look beautiful tonight, don't you think?" and “wow, the new flowers in front of our townhouse are incredible."
Now it was 3 a.m. on Monday morning, and wisps of euphoria had transformed into savage rage.
I'd spent most of the pregnancy crippled by headaches and nausea. By the last trimester, my pelvis had cratered, I could barely walk, and the baby slept upright over my bladder in a permanent ninja kick. This was not an optimal position for my daughter's debut exit from my uterus. Eventually, she turned head-down, but I knew long before her delivery that it would be an arduous back labor. Despite this, I had timidly and thoughtfully committed myself to an all-natural birth. I had determined that our existing medical care system was a little too trigger-happy with its knives. The epiphany to experience boatloads of undesirable pain came with a lot of firsthand research, coupled with the belief that excruciating temporary pain was better than risking preventable permanent damage. This was, of course, out of the ordinary in my geographical location, even amongst mothers whose pregnancies were highly healthy and, for lack of a better word, easy. Many young mothers I spoke with prior to my own newborn's delivery had one horrific labor story after the next, and their opinions echoed the pervasive research indicating that the medical system was failing healthy pregnant mothers as a method to prevent less likely outliers. So, I made a choice. No IV. No epidural. I found a wonderful midwife who studied on the farm with Ina May Gaskin, and had successfully delivered thousands of babies, and I committed to an all-natural birth.
“What? Who sh*ts like this?" I blurted, and clenched my abdominal muscles as though I were about to push out a Ford pickup–a sturdy American car.
“Just touch her head!" my husband instructed, elated. “Feel it. She's almost out."
I clamped my body back against the handicap rails above the toilet. “I can't."
“Honey, come on, feel her head," he said again.
“I can't," I repeated, unprepared for the realness of a child to congeal in my mind. “I want drugs," I pleaded for the umpteenth time to no avail.
My midwife took hold of the reigns. “Honey, open your eyes and look at me now."
“The baby's head is half way through your birth canal. She has twenty minutes or she's going to suffocate."
Suddenly I was confused. “Who sh*ts like this?" I retorted. “Do you sh*t like this? I don't sh*t like this."
We all snickered a little “no," and transferred to the bed. Several more pushes and something warm and smooth slid out of my body.
“Did I do it; is she out?" I asked.
My midwife scrunched her forehead and peeped under the blanket. “No honey, you just sh*t yourself. Let's get you cleaned up."
I cringed, and continued pushing as hard and as frequently as I knew how. With each push, the baby inched out a little further, but I felt as though it would never happen. “I can't!"
My husband and midwife encouraged, “Yes you can! You already are!"
I zoned back in. It was true. I was. “Help me with my legs," I told them. My husband held my legs behind me, and in several more pushes, a creature emerged from my body. Her name is Sydney.
I cried instantly, as did my husband, who recited, “You did it!" in pure bliss.
A few moments later, my midwife pulled out the placenta, which my husband later ate (kidding, kidding).
It was baller. Confetti fell from the ceiling. My makeup artist zoomed over to prepare us for our family photo shoot, and the Paparazzi eagerly stood in line outside waiting for a coveted chance to meet my newborn. I am being sarcastic, of course, but childbirth is no small feat–I was a hero on top of the world.
Yes, there I was holding my little one, thanking the heavens she was all right, but at that same time, I was also looking down at my deflated belly sack, trembling while my midwife stitched together what remained of my lady parts. My breasts filled with milk, a sensation akin to filling an over-stuffed water balloon with a hose, and before I could blink, people were pinching my nipples and trying to explain to me how Sydney was supposed to latch. The room then filled with residents and strangers who watched me in the nude as if I were their third-grade biology experiment. When I rose to pee, so much blood exploded from my nether bits that the cleanup crew had to throw away the mattress. I imagine this isn't unusual. I imagine many women have their own versions of the same story. Why? Because this is real life.
And business, my friends, is real life too. It's messy. It doesn't SWAAY too far one way or another, regardless of how you are wired or, in my case, MISSWIRED (a little homage to the terrific book I wrote in vignettes while cradling my newborn through her early years of life).
Why? Because in business and in creation, there are several truths that overlap. Here they are below. I hope you find them empowering.
1. Like pregnancy, the development of a new product or service is a long and arduous process with bursts of euphoria in between.
There's a saying, “nine women can't make a baby in one month." It's true, so find productive ways to expand the joy, such as meditating.
2. Pain can be temporary, or it can be long-lasting.
Do your research, factor yourself into the equation, and make a choice. Each decision you make in business follows the same formula. “How much temporary pain am I willing to endure today in order to prevent systematic pain later? Is it worth it?" Sometimes you'll get it right; sometimes you won't. But you're better off educating yourself.
3. Yes, you are powerful. But you are not self-sufficient.
You may be able to develop a significant portion of a product or business on your own, but not without quality help. Determine whom you want to have by your side–ideally someone compassionate and credible–particularly when you're in heat and nearing the finish line. They need to be able to help you pick up the slack when you think you just don't have a single iota of strength left.
4. If you can't get sh*t done one way, do it another way; adjust.
And by the way, pushing out crap is good; it allows your ultimate product the space it needs to find its way into reality.
5. Miracles are born in blood and tears. So are new services and products.
6. Once you deliver, the infrastructure you have to support your creation will, at first, be stitched together and deflated.
This is absolutely normal. You might have an idea of what you need, but until the real thing is available to you, you can't have it all figured out. That's when everyone and their mother will try to tell you what to do. They mean well, but you're the CEO. Listen to them, but trust your instincts. After all, it's your baby, and these are your nipples.
May all you mothers out there prosper in business; you're already doing the hardest of life's work.