Numerous studies tell us that women are struggling to get funding for their business ventures. But why is that?
The researchers suggest many different ideas – from not taking enough risks to not asking for money, or asking for money in the wrong places. We caught up with one female entrepreneur to find out more about her struggles to get funding for her business
Martha Silcott launched Loopeeze in the UK in November 2015, getting her Fab Little Bag sanitary disposal product into Waitrose and Ocado almost immediately. “We did all that on a complete shoestring, we had a couple of founder-shareholders but no real investment,” she says. “We started looking for funding with a vengeance January 2016 because we know what we want to do and how we’ll get there, we’ve got a full-on business plan but we need the injection of cash.”
But it’s not been easy. Despite preferring to have one or two investors who really believed in their product, Silcott and her team decided to go down the crowdfunding route to get their funding. “We didn’t really want to go into crowdfunding originally but we were tempted into it as a good place to go,” she explains.
“We pitched to a number of organisations and a number wanted to give us money – but not enough so we ended up going to a new crowdfunding company. But it didn’t work out. We ended up wasting a few months of time looking at that and it didn’t work. It’s hard to say exactly why but it could be because our product is in a slightly taboo area, it’s not a sexy alcoholic beverage, it’s not a new coffee that people get instantly excited about. I think particularly with crowdfunding that’s linked into private equity, you’re basically talking to middle aged men and that doesn’t hit buttons straight away.”
Although in meetings Silcott found that she built a good rapport with potential investors, when they were looking at her product on the page she thinks that it was hard for them to get excited about it. As a result, they decided to end the crowdfunding campaign and set out to do things themselves.
“We decided to use our own network and put together a really great pitch and got lots of really helpful advice from people who gave us feedback on the presentation and the pitch,” she explains. “We’re still in that process. Our timing was rather unfortunately really. We got all that feedback together and then pitched to some people in June and July and then everyone’s taken the summer off so we’re waiting to hear what happens next now. People have said that they want to invest but we’re just waiting to hear how much.”
Silcott says that she spent a long time before they launched doing a lot of research into what kind of grants or other forms of funding were available for someone launching a product like hers and she found that there was nothing available. “There was nothing manufacturing or consumer products based,” she says. “There were grants if you lived in Wales, there were grants if you were designing something hi-tech or wanted to do something with space, quite techy, scientific things. But in terms of getting grants for manufacturing or retail products there just wasn’t anything available for us.”
The only grant that Silcott was able to receive was a £5,000 grant for IP protection from Innovation UK, but she says that in the scheme of things that doesn’t go that far.
However, this scenario may not be unique to female entrepreneurs, Silcott says. “I would very much like to think that this is not a sexist scenario,” she says. “But I think it’s hard for me to say that, especially because my product is primarily female orientated.”
Silcott does note that for a large percentage of investors, “you’re talking to a group of white middle-aged men”, which can lead to issues if they don’t connect with the product you’re pitching.
But will these struggles for funding that women entrepreneurs are reporting put others off starting businesses? Possibly, Silcott admits. But, she says “when I have made it I really do want to look at how to help those right at the beginning of their journey”.
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