How One Woman Got Past the No's and Landed VC Funding
It's slim pickings if you're a female entrepreneur hoping to raise money. A recent study from Babson College found that venture capital firms with female partners are more than three times as likely to invest in companies with female CEOs than firms led by all-male teams, but the percentage of women in the VC industry has dropped from 10% to 6% since 1999—and only 2.7% of VC-backed companies have a female CEO.
So what's a female founder to do?
If you're Emily Weiss, you shrug off rejection. The 29-year-old founder of beauty blog Into The Gloss recently raised $8.4 million in funding; she plans to use the capital to scale her new skincare line Glossier. "I'm not afraid of being told "no'," she says of her journey to millions. "It was an important exercise in understanding different funds and learning which would be the best fit for me."
Rather than just licking her wounds when an investor turned her down, Weiss pushed for feedback so she could continue iterating her business plan. "So much of venture capital is pattern recognition," she says. "I sat across the table from many men who might not have necessarily understood the difference between foundation and tinted moisturizer." Weiss handled male VCs beauty illiteracy by tweaking her pitch to emphasize her success—her blog's 8.5 million monthly pageviews—and discuss the market needs her company addresses in the $454 billion beauty market. "The onus is on you to make your idea compelling," says Weiss.
Before her most recent fundraising round, Weiss found a trusted investor in Forerunner Ventures' Kirsten Green. Green's firm, which is known for helping to launch wildly successful e-commerce companies like Warby Parker and Birchbox, provided seed funding for Into the Gloss. "Kirsten dove deep, asking the most questions because she is also a consumer of these products," Weiss says. "I could feel her conviction and I knew that when we said yes to working together it meant as much to her as it meant to me." Green was also Weiss' connection to Thrive Capital, which led Into the Gloss' most recent fundraising round.
Hadley Mullin, a partner at private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners, says the gender imbalance in the investment community does not make sense—especially at firms that invest in consumer brands, as women drive household spending. "For male and female entrepreneurs alike, having a woman investor can bring credibility when discussing product positioning and expansion opportunities," she says. Mullin adds that while some male investors have a track record of working well with women entrepreneurs, female investors tend connect more easily with products created by or for women.
But, for the time, the investment world's poor gender dynamics remain unchanged. Weiss says that women entrepreneurs need to take matters into their own hands and work hard to articulate what makes their businesses valuable and distinct. It's an uphill battle, but she says it is well worth the fight: Finding strong funding partners, she explains, can allow female entrepreneurs to create brands that matter.
"I approached fundraising as an opportunity to align myself with partners who have more varied experience and diverse backgrounds than I do, to help bring Glossier to life," she says. "I'm so fortunate to have aligned myself with Kirsten; it was like finding a needle in a haystack."
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