In support of International Women’s Day and to help break the bias for women in business, throughout March we’re sharing stories from some of our inspirational female entrepreneur and founder clients, who each share their successes and the challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them. These stories are coupled with insights from female solicitors at Harper James, who discuss the necessary changes that will allow women’s voices to be heard in business.
Hawaa Budraa and her business co-founder Gina Dorodvand appeared on Dragons' Den last year looking for funding for their dental app uunn. The co-founders of the new plaque-tracking product ended up walking away from an offer of investment because it wasn’t right for their business.
Jas Bhogal is a corporate partner at Harper James. Her experience and talent lies primarily in investment matters with high growth potential SMEs. Spending two years seconded to the venture capital firm Midven Limited, Jas has first-hand experience with investors.
Women and female founded start-ups received much less VC funding than males in similar fields in a recent report by the Harvard Business Review. In this interview, Hawaa and Jas offer tips on how women can succeed at securing investment and #breakthebias.
Female-led start-ups received just 2.3% of VC funding in 2020, according to reports. How can businesses owned by women achieve a stronger and fairer share in the future?
Hawaa: ‘A lot of this comes down to who you are familiar with investing in and seeing succeed. Most VCs are familiar with a certain demographic and gender of business owners that have resulted in returns, therefore they are most likely to keep being attracted to the same 'criteria' of entrepreneurs. This means, for some, it doesn't come natural to venture into female led businesses. To overcome this, we need to expose VCs to more women-led businesses and their successes.’
Jas: ‘Believe in your business and yourself and do not compromise or agree to settle for a deal which is not right for you just because you are a woman.’
As a female entrepreneur / successful woman in your field what do you believe the biggest challenges are that you face on a day-to-day basis?
Hawaa: ‘Being a female means you can have less contacts and access to contacts as male counterparts. Often women are not in as many circles or networks, so that adds to the challenge of being a female business owner.’
Jas: ‘There are more female corporate lawyers now than there were when I qualified so the position has shifted somewhat. When I first qualified and even now in some meetings, if I am presenting with a male colleague, my opinion is somewhat dismissed or overshadowed and the opinion of my male colleague is considered higher than mine. That said, I work with hundreds of clients who appreciate and value my support and advice. I focus my energy on the positive comments and gratitude I receive from my clients rather than the negatives, as the positives far outweigh the negatives. I remain focussed and driven to provide the best possible service for every client and on each matter I work on. As long as I know I have done the best possible job I can, then that is enough for me and I know there is nothing more I could have done.’
Can you share three tips that might help women accelerate their entrepreneurial growth?
Hawaa: ‘Try not to focus too much on the fact that the entrepreneurial space isn't always geared towards backing female entrepreneurs. Instead, focus on building your business and creating the proof points of a healthy business that is either breaking even or in positive cash flow. Keep an eye out for individuals (either angels or small business owners) that understand you are looking for SEIS investments. Try and be SEIS assured, so that when you are looking for funds you can access these types of investors and capital. Build off this capital and you'll either be ready for more from the same investors and their network to keep supporting your growth or be an investable option for VCs down the line.’
Jas: ‘Stay focussed and confident. Accept that you will find yourself in a position where you may feel undervalued but grow from this, this is not a reflection on you and is not personal, some people find it difficult to change their views but this is their issue not yours. Believe in yourself – you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. Make your business investable by preparing very clear and detailed business plans based on reasonable growth and projections and include rationale for your projections. Network with other women who are in similar positions as they may be able to offer further guidance on how they have overcome obstacles. I have a number of companies I work for now which have female founders and they are securing investment which is a positive sign.’
What might the Government do to better support female entrepreneurs?
Hawaa: ‘Change the narrative and promote more stories of female businesses so it is less unknown in the VC space. This will help give more confidence on placing money in these businesses.’
Jas: ‘There are a number of banks who support female led businesses and focus on investing in these. The government could introduce additional tax incentives for investors investing in female led businesses.’
What advice would you give to a young woman planning to set up her own business and/or looking to enter a career in law?
Jas: ‘The legal profession is very competitive for anyone irrespective of gender. Stay focused on achieving your goal and do not be put off by rejections. Keep applying for positions in the legal profession. Law firms are becoming more diverse and flexible when hiring people and this could actually be an advantage point for you.
When starting in business make sure you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Prepare a detailed and clear business plan with projections of where you see the business going over a period of time. There are a lot of groups and organisations out there that support women in business so take advantage of these.’
IWD 2022 #BreakTheBias – Enabling and inspiring female entrepreneurs
Join us for the rest of our series of interviews with some of our remarkable female clients and solicitors who share their stories to help enable and inspire female entrepreneurial businesses.
Up next, you’ll hear from:
- Sarah Bridget Dees (CEO of My EU Pay Ltd) & Lillian Tsang (Senior Data Protection and Privacy Solicitor) - on mistaken identity
- Jennifer Young (Founder of Jennifer Young Limited) & Sally Gwilliam (Senior Employment Solicitor) – on confidence
- Mariani Robinson (Founder of Naturally Lady) & Sarah Gunton (Commercial Partner) - on work/life balance
- Whitney Bromberg Hawkins (Founder of FLOWERBX) & Kate Wright (Head of Client Services) – on female mentoring
- Rebecca Sloan (Founder of Piddle Patch) & Abby Watson (Senior Corporate Solicitor) – on family