Female-Founded Brands: How to Put Your Best Foot Forward
One refreshing thing I’ve found in my work with female-led startups -- through Berlin Cameron’s Girl Brands Do It Better initiative -- is that women truly want to support other women in the purchasing decisions they make.
There’s data to back it up, too: Berlin Cameron recently led a proprietary study with Ripple Street Research, and found that 53 percent of women are more likely to buy a product from a company that is female-founded because of a “desire to support other women.” According to research from Ellevate Network, that number jumps to 83 percent for senior and executive female professionals. This speaks to the fact that consumers are more aware than ever, and expect companies to be transparent about who is behind the brand and what they stand for.
Despite the fact that there’s so much goodwill and intention to buy from female-founded brands, there’s still a challenge in the marketplace. Quite simply, 62 percent of consumers don’t purchase from female-founded companies because they can’t identify which ones are female-founded. To add to the confusion, while 85 percent of purchasing power comes from women, only 3 percent of marketing decision-makers are women. This leads to marketing and product decisions being made by individuals who might not understand women’s needs. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a rise in highly-thoughtful products made for women by women -- but perhaps their messaging isn’t getting out there clearly enough.
How would I advise female-founded brands to put their best foot forward? I've learned from some of the best in my work at Berlin Cameron, whether it’s through working directly with a client or the incredible founders with whom I’ve collaborated, interviewed and spoken at industry events. Here’s what they had to say.
Don’t be the lone shero.
“I never wanted to be the lone shero, the designer who does everything by herself. I didn’t get here by myself. We’re better together; we’re greater when we’re all helping each other,” said fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff.
In other words, lean on your team! You never know where the next great idea is going to come from. If your team feels empowered, they’ll be more engaged and excited to contribute.
Be accessible to your fans.
“I do recognize the importance of being accessible and offering the Chromat community a personal connection to the work through me. I know I represent the brand, but I don’t use the brand as a platform to gain personal clout or a following. The brand at its core is still a creative endeavor,” said Becca McCharen-Tran of Chromat, a body-positive swim and athletic line.
Founders shouldn’t use their brand as a power grab, but should instead utilize their social media and other communication outlets as ways to connect.
Customer-centric, not you-centric.
According to Minkoff, “At a certain point, you have to keep the brand integrity and separate yourself from it. It can’t only be about you and what you want. It doesn't mean that if a customer wants something, you can't do it in your own voice or aesthetic. You have to start separating yourself from only yourself and think about how you can give the customer what she wants.”
The challenge of building a successful, beloved brand is making sure it stays true to itself, while still appealing to what the customer wants. It’s a fine line that founders have to walk, but giving everything a check to make sure it’s still on-brand, even if it’s not your own personal preference, is key.
Focus on your product and service first.
“If people fall in love with the product, then they actually want to know what the backstory is,” said Kara Goldin, founder of Hint Water.
For most female founders, branding should be a case of work-life integration. It’s most authentic when the founder’s story is intertwined with the consumer issue she’s solving with her product, because it presents them as both relatable and likable.
Promote your female founderness.
“I think owning and celebrating your personal identity is powerful! Walk in your truth!” said McCharen-Tran. Authenticity is key for founders. Consumers can sniff out when someone is acting instead of being their true self, and they don’t like the idea that they’re being misled. Letting your real self shine is a way to build trust with your customers -- and you’ll feel better about it, too.
We as marketers and consumers need to start a movement around promoting women-founded businesses. Since they aren’t getting the funding they deserve, we should rally behind them and point out companies with amazing products and brands to boost awareness, sales and ultimately funding. I’ve already seen that entrepreneurs themselves are getting behind one another. The level of empathy and thoughtfulness that women entrepreneurs bring to the table is truly inspirational. Founders’ eagerness to help other founders is also something special that I’ve witnessed.
But most importantly, the network of female-run businesses has to build even tighter bonds. Since we’re in a minority, we’ll be more prominent and more powerful if we’re in it to win together.
(By Jennifer DaSilva. DaSilva is a seasoned integrated marketer with nearly twenty years of experience working on Fortune 500 brands. She has recently championed a new division of Berlin Cameron, Girl Brands Do It Better, empowering female founders through creativity and connection.)