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Why Am I Paranoid That My Company Is Getting Stereotyped Out Of Growth?

3min read
Business

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.

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Business

How I Turned my Fine Art Drawings into a Temporary Tattoo Empire

I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.

During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.


The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.

Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.

I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.

Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.

My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:

  1. Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
  2. Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
  3. Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
  4. Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!