7 Surefire Tips for Getting Your Business Funded — From Successful Female Entrepreneurs

Over the past year, numerous gains have been made in regard to gender parity within the corporate world. However, experts speaking on a panel at the NRF Show in New York on Tuesday emphasized that true equity is still elusive. In particular, they pointed to the fact that founders of female-led businesses still struggle to obtain the financial support needed to fund their goals.

Amy Shecter, CEO of Glamsquad, explained: “Statistically, 90 percent of the people making decisions [in venture capital] are white men, and they have preferences to attractive white men. If you’re not in the boys’ club, it’s far more difficult to get funding.”

The most effective solution is to change the status quo, said Sutian Dong, a partner with the Female Founders Fund, which invests solely in women-owned and -run businesses. “There needs to be more women in positions of power, so more women starting funds and more women becoming angel investors,” she said. “I think women have historically had this sense that [they] need to be in a certain place before they can become an angel investor or a mentor. But everyone in this room has something to offer.”

Aside from leadership changes, the panelists offered seven pieces of advice for female founders to help ensure their ventures will prosper.

1. Change Your Approach

“Look at this as a sales process,” said Dong. “You are selling your business and the opportunity to invest. You’re not going to people and saying, ‘Please give me money.’ You’re giving people the opportunity to invest in an amazing founder, an amazing company. So don’t undercut yourself.”

2. Do the Research

“Scour your leads before you spend a ton of time on investors,” added Dong. “Make sure that they invest at the stage at which you’re raising capital or that they invest in your industry. Do they invest in women? It’s much easier for someone to do more of the same investments than for you to be the first. As a founder, your time is super-limited, so go for the highest ROI opportunities from a pitching perspective.”

3. Tailor Your Pitch

“If you’re a woman [speaking to a VC made up of all men], put your value propositions into words that they can understand,” said Rebecca Minkoff, co-founder and creative director of her eponymous fashion label. “If a man talked to me about testosterone and how that would increase my muscle size, I might be like, ‘I have to ask my husband or brother.’ Because I don’t have that experience. Pitch it so that they can really understand what you’re doing, even if they weren’t born into a female body.”

4. Turn a No Into a Positive

“You’re going to be told no all the time,” said Minkoff. “So then ask for feedback: Why did you say no? Was it something in my pitch deck? Was it how I pitched? Take that feedback to heart so that when you go into your next pitch session, you’re that much stronger. And don’t take it personally. These people see hundreds if not thousands of deals come their way, so know your value proposition.”

5. Revise, Revise, Revise

“We revised our pitch deck I don’t even want to say how many times — it was a learning process,” said Shecter. “Meet with people who are decision makers and talk to them about what your thoughts are and your pitches, and then refine them. And don’t be afraid to scrap it all and start over again. A lot of us did.”

6. Listen to Everything

“The advice that you get from every single person is valuable. What you do with it is what matters,” said Cheryl Kaplan, president and co-founder of the M.Gemi shoe label. “We’ve all been given feedback, and it may not be what we went with, but it does guide you and helps you [understand] how people think about what you’re doing, and do you need to shift the story or focus more, whatever that is. There’s no bad advice.”

7. Don’t Give Away the Farm

“Try and bootstrap it as long as you can — max out your credit cards, get a mortgage,” said Minkoff. “Get some heat around what you’re doing. So when you’re ready and you have a product that’s moving, then go talk to VCs because you’ll sell a lot less [of your company] and you’ll maintain more control.”

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