Business 02 November 2017
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.
"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.
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!