By Melissa Snover
Founder & CEO of personalised gummy vitamin brand, Nourished.
The UK has an issue with equal access to finance. Female-led companies (where more than half the directors are female) make up just 16.8% of all UK companies. That in itself is a shocking statistic, but it becomes worse when coupled with the fact that those 16.8% of companies attracted less than 12% of the 1.3 million investments made in UK firms in 2021.
In 2019, I broke the UK record for the highest seed round raised by a female founder for my personalised gummy nutrient brand, Nourished. But before that moment, I had never had to secure external capital from venture capitalists, and I didn’t even know where to start. A steep learning curve! So… what have I learnt?
Your peers are your strength
Amongst the many other challenges you may come up against when attempting to secure investment is just how time consuming it is. Most early stage entrepreneurs are extremely time poor, so adding in the new dimension of wrapping your head around the venture capital, investment world can be extremely overwhelming.
That is where having a proactive and passionate team surrounding you is so important. Delegation is a key skill of any business owner, but it’s one that has particular pertinence when securing funding.
When I was going for my first funding round, I did a huge amount of research and reading into the venture capital world, which I couldn’t really delegate as a sole founder. It was time-consuming, but that education proved invaluable to securing such a successful round and will be instrumental in my future fundraising.
I found that responding to investor queries took a lot of my time too. I wanted to reply to everything as thoroughly and clearly as I could in a timely manner, but this could be tricky when pitching to investors on an international level and having to consider different time zones and commitments.
Therefore it was some of the more day-to-day tasks that I had to become comfortable delegating to my adept and agile team. Trust is imperative in this process, so focus on building a team you know you can rely on to help steer the ship.
Pitching to investors can be the most daunting aspect. But the truth is there are things you can do to make that process easier. Just remember, the perfect pitch comes with time.
It’s important that you sell your investors a story. Obviously, if your numbers don’t make sense, or are poor, then it’s not going to work out. But equally, if your story is no good, no one will be listening by the time you get to the numbers. To a certain extent, investing is an emotional decision; you have to bring them with you on a journey and make them trust you, and you do that by making a connection through your story.
Saying that, keep it concise. If you can’t convey the main takeaways of your idea in five slides or less, you don’t understand your business. When I was pitching one of my first businesses to a large retail chain, I gave a presentation with 29 slides to a poor man who told me afterwards that the industry standard was 3-4 slides. Despite winning the deal, I was so embarrassed! I just wanted to get everything on the page so he would be impressed! But your goal is to get them to ask you questions – they’ll be more comfortable with the knowledge if they’ve asked, rather than being told.
Remember, just like any other skill you have to keep practising, revising and updating your content. When you’re selling or raising capital, a bit of bullishness is expected – and lacking it can be a bit of a red flag. So do ensure to build that in.
Make use of all available resources
You’re going to come across a lot of jargon which can be extremely challenging to someone new to the industry. After all, you can’t negotiate if you don’t understand the terminology!
Getting yourself a mentor can be the perfect antidote to that. Every major city has a programme in place for networking, financing and funding, where you can learn from the experts and meet other business owners. Hearing stories from those who have been where you are now means you get the information you need, straight from the horse’s mouth.
This is something I’m very passionate about. I am so proud to be part of the BUY WOMEN BUILT mentoring programme where I hope to help inspire the next generation of female founders and ultimately help to close the gender entrepreneurship gap to positively affect the UK economy.
These are just a few of the tips that I’ve picked up on during my journey, but I wouldn’t have learnt them if I hadn’t taken the initial plunge and done the preparation myself. The UK is currently tracking 30% behind the USA, Canada and the Netherlands when it comes to the number of businesses founded by women. If we were to reach the same levels as these countries, then we would be adding an additional £200bn to the UK economy.
This is a huge opportunity and one that should inspire us to do more to encourage and help more young women into becoming entrepreneurs. If you have an idea that you believe in, then believe in yourself to convince others. Build a fantastic team, nail your pitch down and go for it!