#SWAAYthenarrative

How I Landed $750K in Seed Funding While Pregnant

4min read
Finance

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.

4 Min Read
Business

Today, Companies Need to Retain Veteran Employees in Order to Survive and Thrive

In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.

At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.

Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.

What makes veterans valuable employees

Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:

Leadership

It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.

Commitment

The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.

Strategy, planning, and improv

Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.

Service

With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.

Best practices in retention of veteran talent

Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.

Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.

The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.

Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.

The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.

Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.