In our latest look at the 2022 entrepreneur ecosystem, we speak to Tamara Gillan, Founder and CEO of WealthiHer. Tamara shares her unique perspective on female entrepreneurship and offers tips and insights to ensure success.
“There’s simply no denying that Covid hit female-led organisations harder than those ran by men,” says Tamara Gillan, Founder and CEO of WealthiHer. “In fact, private equity-based businesses with female founders are today twice as likely to be in a severe or critical condition following the pandemic.
“This is extremely concerning for several reasons, one of which is that 89 per cent of women want to make investments that are socially responsible, therefore there is a higher likelihood that their businesses will also hold this sentiment. Women want to shape the world of tomorrow, but they don’t tend to get the support they need in order to do so.”
It is a well-documented fact that women did three times as much unpaid childcare as men during the pandemic1, which resulted in female founders feeling even more compromised and stretched than ever before.
“I was actually speaking to a highly successful female business owner recently about this, and we were saying that because of the disproportionate roles that women played during Covid and lockdown in particular, we – as women, as leaders, as entrepreneurs – have never before been pulled in so many directions.”
That is just one, albeit major, factor impacting female-led businesses today. Another is something extremely close to Tamara’s heart – women’s lack of access to funding. WealthiHer’s research supports this: women aged 25 to 44 show higher intent to start businesses than men of the same age, but 74 per cent of female founders are concerned about bias in the funding process2.
“The vast majority of businesses needed to pivot in some way to survive Covid, and they will have needed additional finances to navigate this. But female founders just weren’t as well backed to adapt and see themselves through, and, crucially, the funding often wasn’t available in the same way.”
Tamara goes on to explain that during the crisis, face-to-face pitches understandably weren’t taking place, and that this may have disproportionately impacted women. “Year on year, we’ve seen an increase in female founders getting start-up and equity backing, which is fantastic. But this dipped during the pandemic. And I think that was down to a lack of physical meetings. Women build connections and relationships via in-person interactions.
“At the same time, it’s vital to understand that the deal is never actually done in the room. So even today, as we’re hopefully edging towards a post-pandemic world, women need to think about different ways to meet people.
It’s very unlikely that a deal is secured because you’ve pitched to a set of investors and they’ve decided there and then that what you’re offering is exactly what they are looking for. It’s about networking – think about who you already know and who they could introduce you to. Believe it or not, I’ve actually met two or three brilliant investors via my personal trainer.”
Tamara also advises that women find ways to get to know investors outside of the formal pitch. “I had a couple of investors who came to us via WealthiHer events. We raised some substantial funds all because they were in the room and saw us in action. They believed in us and wanted to be part of what we are striving for.”
In 2019, HSBC Private Banking and Allbright conducted research into the entrepreneur ecosystem and concluded, as Tamara has stressed, that not enough is being done to bolster females in this field.
The study concluded that there are three areas where concerted action can be translated into tangible change. These are improving connections, which Tamara is clearly a big advocate of, reducing the perceptions of risk and tackling unconscious bias among investors.
Unconscious bias is something that Tamara is all too familiar with. “I’ve experienced a real difference when it comes to male and female investors. With other women, I’ve always felt that they have listened, that they get the WealthiHer proposition. But if I’m presenting to men, they don’t always understand the product or why it’s needed. And I know other women have had similar experiences.”
Consider the fact that just 12 per cent of decision makers at Venture Capitalist firms are women, and only 2.4 per cent have female founding partners, and we see how real this problem is3.
“This is why female entrepreneurs need to have a very robust mindset, and it’s why they mustn’t internalise the reactions they receive and start to think, ‘I don’t have a viable business.’ Instead, it’s about realising that you’ve got to find the right buyer for you. Do your research and look for people who have invested in a business that has similarities with yours.
“Women should also remember that today, there’re different ways of doing things; you don’t have to go down the traditional pitch route. The funding ecosystem is changing all the time – there’s more grants available than ever before, and crowdfunding is now an extremely popular and successful pathway, especially for women. In fact, my understanding is that today, crowdfunding accounts for three of the top five investors into female-powered companies.
“The bottom line is, when it comes to fundraising, never be afraid to be the one to buck the trend and look for different ways of doing things.”
It’s about networking – think about who you already know and who they could introduce you to. Believe it or not, I’ve actually met two or three brilliant investors via my personal trainer. - Tamara Gillan, Founder and CEO of WealthiHer.