3min readBusiness 10 October 2019
My company, Vastari, is growing. We are a women-led online service that acts as a conduit for various exhibition collaborators to connect more efficiently. Our organization has been facilitating more transactions than ever before: more museums log in every month and more collectors are trusting us with information about their collections. We even facilitated exhibitions at shopping malls, casinos, and a cinema in 2018.
And despite all of that success, I am still constantly worried about our growth and whether it will be sustainable. There is a healthy amount of anxiety with running any burgeoning company. Every move seems important and every decision is critical; it's almost always make-or-break. Above and beyond the average responsibilities of running a company, we are also incredibly passionate about delivering a return for our clients, our partners and our investors… It is already a lot to deliver.
But there is something else coming over me the last few months, and I am wondering if this is just me being paranoid or if there may be an element of truth to it. Just writing this down feels like giving into paranoia, rather than soldiering on. I just feel this immense need to speak up.
What I am paranoid about, at the moment, is whether our growing company is getting stereotyped out of further growth. I started writing this article in late 2018, after a particular meeting made me think that we were being kept out of the loop of critical conversations within our industry.
I have decided to finish writing this piece and publish it officially, because of a recent article about the British VC scene that confirmed my suspicions. This article revealed that for every pound invested in venture capital last year only a single pence went to entirely women-led startups. 10 pence went to mixed gender groups, while the remaining 89 pence went to all-male startups. Not only are women given less money, but they are also afforded fewer opportunities; 61% of funds did not consider any all-female teams at investment committee meetings.
With women-led VCs being so few and far between, it's no wonder we are all getting put into a box. The box of businesses unlikely to scale, that will likely remain a certain size forever, or that will never reach unicorn status. None of us are being pushed to achieve the full potential of our businesses, and it is simply because there was no precedent for VCs (although it's starting to change).
Vastari is preparing for a big investment round later this year to drive growth in our current work with contracts, data science and third-party referrals. It is a really exciting proposition, and I can see what a valuable resource we have been building for years to come. But I constantly feel like I might need some men in the meeting room for people to take us seriously. Should we be inviting our male advisory-board member for things to progress more effectively? I often wonder if people would think differently about a proposal I put forward if we were two male co-founders.
And yet all of this only makes me more determined to succeed. I am not paranoid; the numbers prove that the odds are, in fact, stacked against us. There are definitely greater barriers to growth we face compared to a team of male co-founders. But I am truly confident that our data will guide the way.
We have the numbers to prove how big our addressable market is and how our growth methodology (ethical, moral and democratic) has been effective. We have an incredibly supportive group of (male and female) investors who are there to help us battle our way to success. Female-led businesses may be fighting an uphill battle, but being a part of the 1% that has attracted investment does feel pretty damn special.
5 Min Read
She walks into a room ready for her presentation. She wants to land this new client and has worked weeks on it. She heads to the 35th floor of the tallest building on the block knowing she has documentation that is sure to impress. The conference room has a 20-foot long table surrounded by executives in blue suits, button-down shirts, pencil skirts, and blazers.
At this point, she realizes she didn't take into consideration the other important component of her presentation... she is not dressed appropriately.
Is it true that there is power in clothing? Can an incredible outfit increase your confidence and add validity to your brand? Will you perform your job better or feel more empowered? Will first impressions of you be more positive?
For me, the answer is a resounding yes. I believe that clothing can greatly impact first impressions and make a lasting impact on anyone you interact with. Like it or not, people will judge you on how you look and they will make both conscious and subconscious decisions about you based on what you're wearing… Is she trustworthy? Is she the expert we need? Will she fit in our corporate culture?
Can an incredible outfit increase your confidence and add validity to your brand? Will you perform your job better or feel more empowered? Will first impressions of you be more positive? For me, the answer is a resounding yes.
After all, if you were hiring a financial advisor, and one walked in with a pair of jeans and the other in a pair of trousers and blazer, who would you trust with your money? Even if you don't realize what you're doing when you interact with people, there may be more going on beneath the surface. It's something to think about for sure.
Here's another example, let's say you want to hire a party planner for an event. You meet with the first candidate, and she is wearing a wrinkled shirt and her fingernails are chipping and half-painted. Whereas candidate number two walks in and has on a pencil skirt, pumps, and silk blouse. Who do you think would pay more attention to the details associated with your party?
In 2019, WWD wrote about the psychological effects clothing has on a person:
It is said that clothing is what makes and defines a person. What you wear tells others what you are and makes a statement about your taste, character and individuality. It gives an insight into your nature, whether you are casual or formal, playful or serious, cool or just composed. Whether you are attending a job interview, out on a date or just strutting by the beach, your apparel tells us so much about you at a simple glance.
We know that it takes 5-7 seconds for a person to subconsciously form an opinion about you. Our eyes take in how you look; after all, what you're wearing will influence how you are perceived. How do you want to be perceived to your audience, your clients, and in your working industry?
How do you want to be perceived to your audience, your clients, and in your working industry?
And it goes way beyond the external. There is scientific data that shows how an individual feels differently when dressed in a variety of styles. In an article from Research Gate, they found that, "Fashion choices can affect both self-image, the impression that you convey to others and in turn, the way in which people behave towards you."
Have you ever heard of the term "enclothed cognition"? It refers to the phenomenon in which people tend to adopt the traits and properties they associate with the clothes they wear. In a study on the psychology of clothing, that same article as above reports that, "Participants judged women to be more forceful in job interviews and were more likely to recommend them for hiring when they were dressed in a more masculine style compared with a more feminine style," and that "Both men and women are attracted to stylish clothing that fits them well, makes them feel well-dressed and looks current."
On some level, we may all agree with that statement.
Naturally, as a personal stylist, I am a true believer in the power of clothes. I have seen my clients' exhilaration as they take in their transformation, brought about by an outfit, a new style, and clothes that look incredible on them. I have also witnessed physical changes like their facial expressions, huge smiles, laughter, sparkling eyes, and even a change in the way they walk. It's almost like there has been a shift in attitude toward their inner beauty, which has increased because they feel and look amazing and confident.
Although most of us are no longer strutting our way to the boardroom, the psycholigcal power of clothing is still necessary and relevant, especially now that we're confined to our home offices. Most of us are on virtual calls or live streaming from our computer, and it's easy to not prep as much for your "waist-up" meetings. But, like it or not, you should look on-brand, and put together clothes that are relevant for your industry. Not only will your peers perceieve you as more professional and more put-together, but I am sure you will also feel better, be more alert, and have more energy.
Most of us are on virtual calls or live streaming from our computer, and it's easy to not prep as much for your "waist-up" meetings. But, like it or not, you should look on-brand, and put together clothes that are relevant for your industry.
I'm not saying you need to look like a superstar every second of every day. However, I want you to think about the positive impact well-fitting, stylish clothes can have on both others' perceptions of you as well as your inner-confidence and intrinsic behavior.