Dedicated to supporting women and providing opportunities to connect with each other, TuesdayNights kicked off 2018 with the Networking & Female Founder Panel at Bloomingdale’s in Santa Monica on February 20th, 2018. The panel featured five outstanding women entrepreneurs and investors, including Eva Ho, General Partner at Fika Ventures; Katie Warner Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder at Carbon38; Lauren Gropper, CEO and Founder at Repurpose, Inc.; Bree McKeen, CEO and Founder at Evelyn & Bobbie; and Ashely Crowder, CEO and Co-Founder at VNTANA. Elaine Low from Investor’s Business Daily moderated the panel.
Here are the highlights from the Female Founder Panel:
How do you build the confidence as entrepreneurs to know that you are taking the right steps?
Ashley: You fake it until you make it. In the beginning, my business partner and I had different business cards such as Head of Production, or I was CTO, depending on who I was talking to. And I had different emails, to make us look bigger than we were.
Katie: When I first came to LA, I was invited to an acting class. Acting is actually very similar to being an entrepreneur. You receive a lot of rejections, and you have to pump yourself up. The acting class instructor said that when you ask yourself questions such as “Why things aren’t going go in the right way?”, these questions manifest negative results. So I would ask myself questions that lead to positive results. When Carbon38 started, I would write to myself “Why would every venture capitalists on the East and West Coast invest in Carbon38?” I still do that. It really helps.
Lauren: I think for me, it’s all those little things such as getting the first investment that add to my confidence.
Bree: Confidence is hard, because there are so many problems you need to solve every day. I think looking at those things that motivate you, pushes you through this lack of confidence.
How do you find mentors and develop the mentorship?
Lauren: I use LinkedIn. I just look people up on LinkedIn that had successful experiences in my space. I would just write a little note, and 85% of them wrote back, and out of these 85%, I probably have four or five mentors. So, LinkedIn does work.
Ashley: I use LinkedIn, too. I followed Microsoft people, and if they were having an event I would go. They ended up becoming one of our biggest partners. One person on the Microsoft team is an amazing mentor for me now. I’ve also joined a lot of groups, like this one (TuesdayNights), where you meet amazing women. It’s really just about forming friendships, with people you can trust and receive honest advice from.
Bree: I second that, friendships. I have five members on our advisory board. One of the advisers was a good friend of mine from business school, who has always been in the women’s consumer products world, so he was an obvious choice. I met another woman at a conference, the relationship started as a friendship and then turned into a business relationship. Those two anchor mentors introduced me to other advisers and mentors in their networks that ended up being my family of advisers.
When it comes to raising, funding and seeking out investors, what are some challenges that you faced? And what of them are specific to you as women?
Ashley: We are an Enterprise SaaS software company, but we also sell hardware. We had to be both because no one else could do what we did. We don’t fit into a box, but traditional investors want you to fit into a box. They would say, “You are a software / SaaS company, and you fit into this box, why do you have hardware?” The unconscious gender bias also exists. With a male co-founder, people assume that he is in charge of technology, while I am the one who has an engineering degree.
Bree: The secret is anticipating the unconscious bias. It’s there. It’s real. For me, the first few meetings I had with male investors, I needed to convince them that underwire bras are amazing. What I did was give perspective investors homework. I asked them to ask at least 5 women questions like, “How much do you love bra shopping?”, “How many bras do you have?”, “How do feel about your bras at 6pm on a Thursday?” And when you are pitching, put your numbers everywhere. Quantify it especially if the male investors don’t understand your industry.
Eva: Two percent of all capital go to female-only founders. Only 2% of all the venture funding. The fact that there are only 6% female VCs female is an issue, because not a lot of male VCs would resonate with a bra company. There’s still a lot of efforts need to be done to fill the gap between female founders and VCs. I think helping each other out is key, sharing contacts, sharing information, and supporting each other, because it is a very tough road.
As a woman founder, when you walk into these meetings, is there any knowledge you feel like you need to be equipped with?
Ashley: It doesn’t matter if you are a male or female founder, you need to know the numbers. You need to know everything about your market. You don’t want to hesitate in the meetings.
Bree: Don’t underestimate the power of taking physical space, like physical status, and power pauses.
Lauren: You do get questions that men don’t get. Be prepared.
Each TuesdayNights event features a different nonprofit that has taken great strides in improving the community. This time, we had the pleasure of petting cute puppies saved by Paw Works, and meeting co-founder, Chad Atkins and Assistant Operations Manager Brittany Vizcarra.
Paw Works is the largest animal non-profit 501c3 in Ventura County, California.The organization has already placed 3,000 abandoned shelter dogs and cats in permanent homes. In 2014, they successfully helped change Ventura County to a “No Kill” county. The host of the event, Bloomingdale’s, generously donated 10% of tracked sales from the evening’s TuesdayNights event to Paw Works.
Special Thanks to the following partners and sponsors for the incredible event!
Host: Bloomingdale’s Santa Monica
Wine by Landmark Vineyards
Drinks by DRY Sparkling