How female entrepreneurs can deal with this super tough question during an investor pitch

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There are some very strong numbers out there for female entrepreneurs. According to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express, women started an average of 1,821 new businesses a day in the US between 2017 and 2018. And these businesses are bringing in the money as 1.7% of women-owned firms produced sales of over $1 million last year. Plus, out of the women-founded companies, which make up 42% of 13 million businesses in the US, women of color make up the biggest part of this segment, according to the annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. These are what we call great numbers.

But there are also some not so great numbers. Venture capitalists are four times more likely to fund an all-male startup than one run by a woman, even if she is a co-founder on a team with men, which means female founders receive only about 2% of funding. Of course, there are many conferences and programs led by successful female business owners to try to help up and coming entrepreneurs take their business to the next level, but there aren’t too many that actually equip them with the tools to go and really succeed. It’s that whole teach a (wo)man to fish versus actually give them a business plan, a network of connections and key takeaways so they can launch a successful fishing business. That is why Rebecca Minkoff launched the Female Founders Collective in 2018. It not only provides women with the skills and launch pad they need for their business but also helps investors identify and track women-founded businesses (the collective has more than 3,000 female business owners as members.) It is essentially a director of women business owners.

Real skills

Panels are wonderful but real learning take place with someone teaching hard-won knowledge. Founder to founder. We have immersive 1.5 workshops from subjects like funding to leadership to give this hard-won knowledge to other founders,” Rebecca Minkoff told Ladders.  The Female Founder Collective held its first conference last year in New York last March and just held their second event in LA in September with speakers and presenters including Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute, Jacey Duprie, the CEO of Damsel Inc., Jesse Draper, founding partner of Halogen Ventures, Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group and entrepreneur and actress Molly Sims. 

The FFC partnered with Visa’s She’s Next global campaign that supports female entrepreneurs as they build and advance their own businesses. Mary Ann Reilly, Senior Vice President-North America marketing at Visa, told Ladders, “We are creating a space that not only connects women who are working through the same obstacles with each other but also gives them one-on-one access to experts who can help them on their journey…We want attendees to go home with a game plan or knowledge to complete a loan application so they are on their way to grow their business now.”

“The Children Question”

And one of those skills they equip women with include what to do when they are asked a very common question that sadly only female founders tend to be asked. “The children question” is usually asked to women of child-bearing age or if they already have young children. However, this question is usually not asked to fathers or young men, just women. Minkoff’s advice? “I would point-blank ask if they asked a male company owner that. Until we push back and don’t take the BS thrown at us for being women, it won’t change. That’s why small things, pumping in a board meeting, being open about children I think is a good idea.” Minkoff centered her latest fashion collection around powerful working women.

Melissa Duren Conner, the cofounder of Jennifer Bett Communication who also spoke at the LA conference, added, “We lean into narratives around our Founders who are Moms. It’s important we tell these stories frequently in media to champion women running businesses successfully while having families – this is how we know we can contribute in our way to change the paradigm around this bias.”