#SWAAYthenarrative

The Struggle Is Real: How I Raised $1M For Women's Shapewear In A Man's World

Business

Raising venture capital in today's business world is tough. Raising venture capital for women's consumer products is extra challenging. Here's why: Female entrepreneurs looking for investors are faced with an investor pool that is 97% men. Those might be great odds for dating, but for business? Not so much.


One, if not the biggest, challenge I have faced with Jewel Toned is being tasked with raising capital for women's products in a male-dominated environment.

It is logical that most investors tend to invest in things that they themselves are passionate about, would use themselves, or really understand. Since investing capital is risky business, investors have specific focus areas where they have a high confidence level for investing. This logic lends itself to the fact that most men typically do not understand women's shapewear, which makes my job even more challenging.

For example, if I am analyzing a potential investment opportunity as an investor, and I hear that the product is, let's say, a new experimental drug for cancer that is being pitched as much more beneficial for patients because of X, Y, and Z. I personally have no idea if that is usable, or if there are other products like that on the market, or if it would be too risky of a venture because in my line of business I just don't know about the medical market. That's most likely how a male investor feels when I talk about shapewear. I have to use visuals comparing Jewel Toned's Major Mini Dress to traditional ugly shapewear so male investors can visualize why my product is better than all of the other options out there.

Also, since most men would not usually be buyers or users of women's consumer products, they don't really see a need to invest in them. So, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. There aren't many of the 97% of male investor demographic investing in women's consumer products like shapewear. Those that do may only invest in 1 women's consumer product that year, so I have to convince them to choose my brand. Keep in mind that all of my competition wants their investment dollars just as much as I do.

"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. There aren't many of the 97% of male investor demographic investing in women's consumer products like shapewear."

As the first female business founder to independently raise $1M in 2015, I think the fact that I even raised $1M is unbelievable. I recently went to a women's networking dinner and there were ten women of above average level of accomplishment, and all of them had only raised money with the assistance of male backers – not on their own. One had used crowdsourcing, but that isn't the same thing because it does not require any proof of concept. I was able to overcome that challenge, which leads me to my next point: As a female entrepreneur, you must have persistence and determination, because this is a long and winding road, and it is going to be tough. My biggest piece of advice to women out there trying to raise capital is not to give up. There are going to be a lot of doors closing on you, but you have to be completely unwilling to take no for an answer. That doesn't mean you bang on all of the closed doors, it just means that when one door closes you go down the hall and find another door to knock on. Sometimes you might even have to build your own door in order to make your vision a reality. Become your own force of motivation. This might require you to really ramp up your efforts because you get out of things what you put into them. Don't expect to put part-time efforts into something like raising venture capital and get monumental results.

Rachael McCrary.

"There are going to be a lot of doors closing on you, but you have to be completely unwilling to take no for an answer."

Once you get the funding, it's all about execution. Your idea isn't worth anything. Execution is. If you don't have the tools to execute your idea and bring it to life you need co-founders who do. Hiring it won't work at first because you need people to be just as in it to win it as you are. And let's face it if it's your baby only you will be that completely involved, at least at first.

"Once you get the funding, it's all about execution. Your idea isn't worth anything. Execution is."

Another challenge I face in my business is the constant chicken-and-egg nature of the startup business. You need funding to get products, and you need products to get more funding, and you need staff to get orders, and you need orders to get funding. Starting a business is a very delicate balancing act. Getting all of this done means moving one domino ahead half an inch, and then moving another forward an inch, and then turtle stepping each domino. In addition to managing raising funds, you must also successfully weed out the needless opinions and well-intentioned advice that goes along with running a start-up business.

Lots of people will give you opinions and tell you what you can and cannot do, and rattle off about this and that. Listen to your higher self and follow your gut. We don't know Beyoncé. So many people I pitch to say, “Hey, why don't you just get Beyoncé to wear your stuff?" I don't have her cell phone number, and even if I did, she doesn't wear people's products for free. In the startup world, there is a constant string of advice that doesn't even really apply to this type of business. Tune it out. Learn how to analyze and evaluate what is important. Unless the advice-givers have done exactly what you are trying to do before, or are as invested in your business as you are, you might need to take a step back and not hear what they're saying.

Once you experience that first round of success and accomplishment, you have to keep going – don't slow it down, but be mindful of striking a balance in your life between work and play. Having the grit to keep going is very important, especially in the face of rejection (and there will be rejection) but you also need to practice self-care, and that will look different for everyone.

We are all so connected in this world that it is very easy to work 24/7, but in order to be your best self and accomplish as much as you can as successfully as possible, you need to take excellent care of yourself. My routine includes making time to practice yoga, being close to people who nourish my soul, and going outside in nature so that I can remain grounded and focused. Do whatever it is that rejuvenates your soul and makes you the most productive version of yourself to stay focused and able to keep your eyes on your ultimate end goals.

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.