Take 5: Why Lifting Up Female Entrepreneurs Will Be a Win for Us All

Women-owned businesses tend to do better financially on average compared to male-owned startups, yet they receive less funding from angel investors and VCs. As The Female Quotient CEO Shelley Zalis says, “When you advance women, you advance equality. We are great for the bottom line.” Female entrepreneurs in our lounge @ NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show share insider advice on perfecting your pitch, accepting funding and more.

Panelists in the Girls' Lounge at NRF Big Show 2019, including Shelley Zalis and Rebecca Minkoff

Over the roughly past 10 years, women-owned businesses grew by 58%.

Use rejection to adjust your pitch. When Glamsquad CEO Amy Shecter was seeking funding, like many entrepreneurs, she heard a lot of ‘nos.’ “It was a shift in the pitch. [Taking in to account] who you are talking to and how you angle your pitch is critical. It’s also, ‘Who are we going to? Who is going to get us?’” she says.
Seek out VCs who fund women. Rather than thinking of raising capital as a daunting process, think of it as a sales process, says Sutian Dong, Partner at Female Founders Fund. “You’re giving people the opportunity to invest in an amazing company with an amazing founder, and that’s a privilege,” she says. “Look at your leads, make sure your investor invests in women, women of color, in your industry, etc. It’s easier for people to do more of the same than for you to be the first. So go for the highest ROI opportunity from a lead sales perspective.”
Maintain control as long as you can. Think about ways you might be able to get around asking for funding in order to remain accountable to yourself rather than investors. “When you sell off a large chunk of your company, you lose a lot of rights and control because investors have metrics they want to see,” says Rebecca Minkoff, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Rebecca Minkoff.  “My advice is to bootstrap as long as you can to maintain control. If we sold early on, I wouldn’t be here today.”
 Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, so tap into your networks for support, and keep in mind that you may need different mentors for different stages of your journey. “My mentors throughout my career have changed a lot. My first mentor was a man, and he pushed me out of the nest very early and said, ‘Go get ‘em!’ And I did…” says Cheryl Kaplan, Co-Founder & President at M.Gemi. “Finding the people who support your passion and your dream and staying connected to them can help you every step of the way.”
Don’t lose who you are. Don’t be afraid to stand up and stand out with your feminine strengths. “When I was selling my company, I was told by all my owners to create this linear pitch deck, but it wasn’t who I was,” says Shelley. “My company had a wow factor, and the deck looked vanilla. I needed chocolate chips and sprinkles! I recreated it with heart and love, and ending up selling my company for $80 million.”
We need female entrepreneurs who are writing their own rules of work and bringing products and services that will help fill the wants and needs of other women, who influence more than 85% of all purchasing decisions. For more advice on female entrepreneurship, watch the full panel discussion here or check out:
8 Lessons From TheSkimm Founders on Building Your Dream Business (and Creating Change)
Money Talks: How Female Entrepreneurs Can Get Funding
Lead With Impact: How to Speak Up and Be Heard