Growing women’s entrepreneurship is dependent on one thing: capacity. Capacity is built through capital. Accessing capital is an issue for many entrepreneurs starting out; it poses a particular challenge for women though. Typically, women’s networks don’t include venture capitalists or impact investors. This is more than just financing your businesses future, but about expanding your market too.
Many female-led businesses tend to have a niche-market: women. While this makes sense from a market research point of view, it can limit growth. Women need to look beyond women to expand their business opportunities. In the UK the gender pay gap hovers around 17% while women in the UK typically retire with at least £30,000 less than men. Those disappointing figures aren’t ideal, but can create opportunities for women entrepreneurs who want to master their own finances and help guide a path for other women.
Searching for significant investors can take time, especially in a start-up stage. If your idea and plan is of a high-quality the more people you meet the greater the interest you’ll have, this is about expanding your networks and the opportunities for customers not just finding people to supply you with cash. Above all else, finding capital is about marketing your business and yourself as the pre-eminent voice for that industry or product. You’re marketing the belief that you can lead and be successful.
Often entrepreneurs forget about this crucial part of branding, that investors aren’t so much buying into the business but they’re buying into you. It is about branding yourself and then your brand as the opportunity for the investor. If you’re going to get the best out of this investor-relationship, then you need to be clear about what you need and what you’re going to do with that money – it is beyond a simple business plan, but about marketing the belief that you’re someone who can be successful.
Where’s the opportunity when dealing with a limited market? While a niche is important, businesses need to be able to adapt and change to what clients need.
Top venture capitalists are looking for something they can buy, when you look at leading VC firms they’re led by men. This demographic shows its limited face (white and male) in Forbes’ Midas List of top tech investors and the people getting start ups off the ground a whole three out of 100 women make it into the list.
Diversifying your customer base
This isn’t about patriarchy or appeasing men, it is about getting the best for your business. Having a sustainable revenue source takes time to create, it is about playing the game in the beginning to create a base for your growth. When I asked women entrepreneurs about their experience in finding capital they kept saying the same things “I’m being told my business has a limited life”, “I need to diversify my customer base” and “your idea is good, but it needs something else” – investors are looking for ways to see themselves engage and your business and become customers.
We don’t see gay men only market to gay men, Asian’s to the Asian community or adults to adults – women need to move beyond creating businesses that target women. The opportunity is there, it is for women too see where they can further market their businesses.
Entrepreneurs need to engage more with the branding of their business and themselves as the stewards of that process. Investors want to see you as the CEO and leader of ideas, they’re investing in you. For women this presents an exciting challenge: overcoming traditional gender financial barriers to create opportunity for yourself and other women. If you can diversify and create a brand that more than just women can buy into, then your options will widen.
If you take the risk to move beyond what you know, you can change what your success is and your businesses trajectory – with the right financial opportunities.