Are you gonna go my way?
Probably not. The odds are stacked against female founders so we’ve compiled some of the common obstacles and how we can navigate past them...
"It's time to turn it over to women! Men have had their chance to run the world and look where we are ... "Lenny Kravitz
Well said Lenny, well said. However, UK founders who identify as women are not getting the financial backing they need. There’s a huge amount of credible evidence out there. One such report by Extend Ventures in November 2020 found that a large majority 68.33% of the capital raised across the seed, early and late VC funding stages went to all-male teams; 28.80% to mixed gender teams; and just 2.87% to all-female teams, with female teams also raising lower sums of money than their male counterparts at each funding stage.
We caught up with Hatty Fawcett, founder of Focused For Business who has been raising investment for businesses since she was eight. Following a successful career in marketing, and a MBA from Imperial College, London, she re-discovered her inner entrepreneur and worked in two startups before starting her own startup. She raised an impressive two rounds of investment for this business and then went on to look after some of the investments Kelly Hoppen made when she was a Dragon on the TV hit “Dragons Den”. Having seen investment from both sides of the fence, Hatty has a unique perspective on raising startup investment. We picked her brains about some of the pain points and how to out fox them.
"Startup founders often find it hard to raise investment because they lack clarity on the information investors need to know to back their business. What's more, many founders don't know where to look to find investors, and they can lack confidence when it comes to speaking to them. This lack of clarity, connections and confidence impacts on their ability to attract investment which is why I developed Funding Accelerator, to make it quicker and easier for founders to raise investment."
Hatty is on a mission to make it quicker and easier for founders to raise equity investment and offers a range of engaging coaching and training programmes. Last year she raised over 2 million of your English pounds for her clients, check out all the details about her Funding Accelerator here.
So what are the blockers beyond cash that are stopping more female founders reaching their potential? Melissa Fretwell set up White Camino to show clients a new way to achieve growth through marketing that is erudite and affordable. She has chewed over some of the obstacles that we subconsciously create in our minds with female founders Jen Topping and Jennifer Corcoran, to understand why we set these limitations. Jen Topping is a business coach and shares some of her experience:
“With many of the women I work with, especially if they are more established in their careers, the problem that comes up repeatedly is what has been dubbed the mental load of running their careers as well as all the other aspects of their lives – family, children, caring, personal finances etc. While obviously this isn’t always borne by women, it is more often than not women who take the lion’s share of this responsibility and the associated anxiety and guilt that can come along with this mental weight.
What often happens is female business leaders are trying to develop their companies at the same time family life is at its hardest – kids are younger, the mortgage is bigger, and their partner’s career is also important too. If they are a single parent, or dealing with financial worries, illness or disability this becomes increasingly challenging.
Together this creates a huge mental burden to try to stay across all the tactical and logistical challenges both within the business and also at home. It also makes finding the brain space for strategic thinking really hard; that moment to lift your eyes to the horizon and make sure you are aiming for where you want to be.” So what can we do about this?
Be organised: Aside from trying to more equitably balance the mental load, a big thing is being organised. It isn’t exactly thrilling, but organisational issues (and bluntly, often disorganisation) are often getting in the way of many of the leadership and managerial challenges faced by the people I work with. There are tonnes of digital tools (I use note-taking tool Bear and Roam Research) as well as many paid for services like Virtual PAs. Try Getting Things Done by Dave Allen – even if you don’t go the whole hog, stick with the weekly review to keep on top of things. Work out what works for you, and then stick to it religiously.” Sound advice, thanks Jen.
Reframe failure: What if there was no such thing as failure, only feedback? What if we flipped every challenge from ‘we can’t because’ to ‘we can if’. Perhaps we could chunk everything down and ask ourselves honestly, what stops you and what do you want instead? Then some genuinely brilliant things could happen.
Define your brand: Before we tumble down an NLP rabbit hole, as fun as that may be, let’s take a step back and look at your own personal brand. Have you figured out your why? What’s your purpose? More on that here. Have you ever written your values down? What do you stand for and importantly, what do you stand against? How does your founder story relate to your business story? Whether you offer a product or service there should be a match between the principles you hold dear and the work you do.
To answer this barrage of questions, let’s unpack what we we mean by brand. One of our favourite articulations is from Anthony Tasgal (aka Tas):
‘A brand is a tribe of shared meaning’
A collection of ideas a certain group of people share and feel, that unites them.
Next up is the positioning, what makes you distinctive compared to your competitors; ‘we put the x into y’ inspires a succinct articulation of this. Then the values; distilling what you stand for. Take White Camino as an example, we are all about the following:
‘We put growth into small businesses with big ambitions to make the world a better place’
And our values go something like this…
Uplifting - tonally in how we present ourselves, lifting our compadres and clients up, unlocking exciting possibilities. We focus on the positive end goal without glossing over the complexity of the marketing problem.
Trailblazing - there is literally, always a way. We find the fix, the shortcut as we navigate clients through the woods taking them on a compelling journey.
Experimental - we try stuff in a controlled way. Reframing projects as experiments with a number of outcomes sets expectations, super charges creativity and alleviates the stress of success v. failure. Always testing, learning and iterating.
Wonderful - we spend a lot of time thinking, mulling and dreaming before coming up with solutions. Part of that process means that we are forever curious and looking for the magic. We are effective and efficient too, unearthing new resources and using them wisely.
Caring - we have a belief in the human potential for good, purposeful work which doesn’t cost the earth, exploit people or mislead. If we can’t help we’ll always pass on the opportunity to someone who can. We mentor too which means that we are genuinely inspired by sharing our learnings and advice.
Now if Melissa were to ask her esteemed compadres if these descriptors were reflective of her personality they would nod sagely and of course add a few more, but you get the idea. Alignment between your personal brand and the offer and culture of your business is essential for satisfaction, peace of mind and reputation. BrewDog’s crown has been slipping recently as their external persona, actively communicated by the founder James Watt doesn't align with their alleged culture of fear and toxicity. Oh dear...
So have your brand down, what’s next? Jennifer Corcoran of My Super Connector knows a thing or two about building visibility on one of the most valuable free marketing platforms out there. So when you have your brands in order, here are some essentials for standing out and building your tribe on LinkedIn.
Your LinkedIn Blueprint to success is pretty simple:
One clear goal
One clear message and ideal client
One core offer you are selling fixing one main pain point
It’s all about the C’s - Clarity, Credibility, Consistency, Connection, Community = Visibility
When you achieve credibility AND visibility on LinkedIn you are on to a winning mix.
Niching will ensure that you are top of mind highly referable.
On the marketing side of things you need a 50/50 split between brand marketing and demand marketing. There is no point in creating brand awareness if you never have a clear call to action or offer / product. Likewise there is no point in constantly singing or shouting about your offer / product / service when you’ve not built any credibility with brand marketing.
Your brand marketing should be a consistent ‘hum’, you will occasionally ‘sing’ or ‘shout’ about your various offers when you have established your credibility with your tribe.
Jennifer can you add a few female founder observations, what’s holding women back and how to overcome these? A lot of my female clients suffer from imposter syndrome. They are hiding in the sidelines on LinkedIn and are not sure how to position themselves or connect authentically.
Astonishingly 90% of all LinkedIn users (circa 756 million members) are lurking. There is massive opportunity for female entrepreneurs if they are prepared to lean in to their network and area of expertise / zone of genius.
A lot of it pertains to the fact that they haven’t created a solid foundation for their business brand and not fully in alignment with their mission, vision and values. They have a myriad of avatars and a spray and pray approach to content and strategy. Nothing feels in flow or authentic. This then blocks them when it comes to networking and personal branding.
Once they dig deep and build solid foundations they start to feel confident and empowered to take the next steps.
My community building formula on LinkedIn is:
Deep dive on personal brand / business brand
Optimise your LinkedIn profile and company page
Be strategic - find the best networking avenue for you (home feed, DMs or groups)
Be a giver - ask how can you give value to your target audience at all times
“In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.” Brené Brown
If you want to get the most out of any networking, you have to be a giver versus going in with an extraction ‘what’s in it for me’ type of mentality. Relationship and referral marketing is built on the law of reciprocity.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”. Dale Carnegie
Advance - Women's Expert Network - US based / paid membership
Allbright - London / LA – paid membership
Fem Foundry - Free, mainly US/UK,business & lifestyle
Sistr - all digital and UK based / free to join
Successful Women in Business - UK based / paid membership
Lady Val Network - London based & paid events vs membership
WeAreTheCity - London based / events for ‘entrepreneurial executives’
Have a gander at Jennifer’s 'LinkedIn Thrive Academy' an 8 week online programme for ambitious female entrepreneurs who want to work smarter on LinkedIn. All here.
Watch out for part 2, there's SO much to talk about.