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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"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." -Willa Cather
A logical fallacy called bifurcation (yes, it sounds like a disease) is used to make people believe that they can only choose between two extreme choices: love me or leave me, put up or shut up, etc. In relation to my career and my love life, I was once stricken by this crazy malady.
I spent over a decade in and out of love relationships that undermined my career and drained my creative energy along with my finances. The key problem was that I was convinced that I had two options: be a kickass, and powerful professional who scares off any prospective mate or surrender to that deep and profound love such that my ambitions blow away in the wind. For years, my psyche ping-ponged between these two choices like that was the only game in town. But why?
Turns out we women are often programmed into thinking that we can't have love (at least that good, juicy heated kind) and any sort of real career. This is not actually that surprising given the troubled history that America has with women in the workplace. Post WWII, women were supposed to quit their jobs and scurry back home and leave the careers for the returning men. And if you think we've come a long way from making women feel they don't belong in the workplace, consider Alisha Coleman. In 2016, she was fired because her period leaked onto a chair!
But try to keep a good woman down, and well, you can't (Alisha sued her former employer). Given enough information we will always find a way to overcome our situation. As we teach in my practice, Lotus Lantern Healing Arts, we are all our own gurus. The light in the lotus just offers a way to illuminate your path.
So what was I missing so many years ago when I kept struggling between two suboptimal choices? The answer is the understanding that if I wanted to have it all, I had to start living right now as if I could. For me to be with someone who supported me having a fantastic career, I had to believe that that was actually one of my choices and start living that way.
Of course that is easier said than done (like most life lessons). So once I made that realization, here are the three key changes I made (and no they didn't happen all at once):
First, I stopped apologizing. Why the hell do women always feel the need to apologize for everything! (Sorry for swearing! Jk.) In particular, why do we have to feel bad about time away from the homefront? Remember Don Draper stopping off at the bar before heading home? I took a Madman lesson from him and stopped apologizing for my free time and let go of my usual rush to get back. Instead I focused on enjoying the transition, which was often needed to release the stress of work. Whether I was slow-driving listening to my jams and singing at the top of my lungs or stopping off for a pedicure, a little ritual went a long way to making me feel like a real human when I walked through the door.
Second, I let go of perfection in order to be present. I stopped stressing over a work deadline and instead rescheduled it to tend to my love life or postponed a romantic dinner because a juicy work opportunity appeared. In this way, I did not force an unnatural choice or one I did not want but really paid attention to what felt right. Instead of feeling subpar in each realm, I end up getting the most out of my time in both places.
Third (and perhaps most significantly) I began to welcome and expect encouragement from the most significant person in my life. I made it clear to my partner that I wanted insight and not criticism. And since I knew I needed understanding and not saving, I said, "Please help me look at my career woes from a different angle instead of offering me advice." Ultimately, I only accepted partners that truly supported my dreams and didn't let me play small.
Today, some of the most exquisite pleasure I feel comes simply from my partner witnessing me. Having a cohort who really appreciates my struggles, helps me integrate work and life, and enjoys the wins together can be mind-blowing. Likewise, when the shit hits the fan (again, not sorry!), it's really important to have a partner that can hold space for you and help you remember those wins.
It's a constant battle. Our culture still perpetuates the myth by pitting love and career against each other (ever see Fatal Attraction?). Men don't always get this message, but then we don't need to wait for them to get it. All we have to do it start living right now in the way we truly deserve and bring others along with us. When my friends see me and my partner together separately killing it in the career department and fiercely loving each other they say, "Your relationship gives me hope."