by Krystal Covington
For startups, gaining the capital to scale through hiring great talent, investing in marketing, and revving up development efforts can be the difference between a 3-year stint or becoming the next Uber.
Equity funding has been instrumental in helping many great companies succeed in their growth efforts because it offers owners an influx of cash to invest in the business in exchange for ownership rather than a debt + interest relationship. This means the investors financing the business get paid only if the company does well, so they have an interest in the company's success and often play a supportive role in helping that company success.
Today, men receive about 9 times more equity funding than women do, which means they are more likely to get the cash they need to scale a business and reach a high level of financial success.
In honor of our upcoming Denver Startup Week Panel event we asked our panelists to share what they think was their #1 key to there success. Here's what they shared.
Jaclyn Fu, Co-Founder and CEO of Pepper (Currently closing her pre-seed round) - Being passionate and infectious with our mission.
Amy Baglan, CEO & Founder of MeetMindful ($8mm) - My commitment to authentic communication, no matter who I’m talking to.
Jennifer McMillen, Co-Founder of Tripcents ($550k) - Honesty - in all aspects - being honest with myself when something's not working, being honest with celebrating both the small and big wins even when others have doubts, and most of all, being honest with my co-founders and team by making transparency a priority
Investors on our panel also shared their insights on how women can start earning a greater share of the capital.
Emily Winslow, CEO of Peak Impact Consulting (Investor) - Female-founded and led companies are more capital efficient and in the long term have more success with less capital. Women tend to be more conservative than men in their “ask," seeking only as much financing as they currently need. Such restraint has pros and cons for both individual female-run businesses and for the investment ecosystem. As women continue to build good businesses for their customers and employees while achieving high returns on investment, more capital will be attracted to their ventures. Moreover, when over $30 trillion is conveyed during coming years to women and millennials in “the great wealth transfer,” our current economic system will experience a dramatic shake-up, resulting in women investors gaining the capacity to direct more capital towards female entrepreneurs.
Heather Mackenzie, SheEO U.S. Launch Team (Investor) - I think one way is networking - strategically, not just a shotgun blast approach, or throwing noodles at the wall and seeing what sticks - but truly learning about the networks they wish to enter, finding allies in them and strategically building alliances. I firmly believe we need good men in the mix to help build those bridges to the men who just don't get it - so finding male allies with strong connections into investor networks is one way, and of course I believe in the power of women too, so start looking at all the female VC networks popping up
To hear from these women in person, visit our upcoming Denver Startup Week Panel on Thursday, September 27 from 4-5 p.m. at Capital One Cafe (1550 Wewatta Street) Register online here.
By Shauna Armitage
I knew what I wanted to do from a young age. I wanted to be a teacher. I went to college right out of high school because that’s “how things were done.” And then two years into my education, I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. So I got another degree … but no job interviews.
I wanted to work for a paycheck and have someone else worry about how that money would get into my pocket. However, when I graduated from college in 2008 and then again in 2011, the economy was down and those fancy pieces of paper I had worked so hard for—and will still be paying off 20 years from today—weren’t worth anything.
I had no job, no prospects, and a considerable amount of debt.
I became a freelancer … then a business owner
Until that point, I had never considered being a freelancer. But I felt frustrated and stuck, so I did what I could to get some experience and income. Turns out, I was really good at it.
I started out doing assistant work, keeping the execs organized. I wrote copy for blogs, landing pages, and lead magnets. I managed social media accounts and envisioned new campaigns. Over time I discovered that I was a marketer. Finding the right fit for my personal brand, however, was a square peg/round hole situation.
And that’s when I realized…. I didn’t want to be a freelancer. I wanted to handle business the way that felt most authentic and effective for me. I wanted to be a business owner.
3 things I learned as I built my business
As a high schooler, I thought everyone had 9-5s. People didn’t own businesses, corporations did! When being dumped unceremoniously into the job market after graduation, I discovered that wasn’t true. More and more people are taking this path into entrepreneurship today as they are discovering that the road they thought they had to travel is blocked—or not a desirable road to go down.
While it’s common in our culture for more and more professionals to turn to entrepreneurship, it’s not an easy thing to do. And these are the three essential lessons I took from this crazy experience:
1. Owning a business means that YOU are responsible for finding your next source of revenue, building the brand, and creating positive outcomes. Responsibility can be scary, and you will fail. Learn from it. Each failure—no matter how big or small—will shape you into the the kind of leader and business woman you want to be.
2. Regardless of whether you work for that paycheck or you work for yourself, you still need to have a deep understanding of your personal values. No matter what your business is, you’ll have to interact with other people, so communication and flexibility are important. However, there should be some things you will never compromise on. Identify what those things are, and they will become the north star that guides you in growing your company.
3. There are a lot of things you don’t know that you don’t know. How can you find solutions to problems you don’t know exist? You can’t. You’re going to make some mistakes, and that’s ok, but the best things you can give yourself as a new business owner are the gifts of knowledge, mentorship, and community.
There’s always someone who has already been where you are, and there’s always someone who is willing to support you. Find those people and learn everything you can from them! Build a community around yourself and your business that will be the foundation upon which you can build real success.
Shauna Armitage is a freelance marketing strategist, as well as founder of the Making Moxie podcast and challenges.
This article was originally published in Women of Denver magazine.
Contributed by Kristen Giovinazzo, a freelancer from California with a Masters in Public Accounting
Less than 10 years ago, there was a new area of business everyone was curious about -- cryptocurrency. It all started with Bitcoin and quickly grew into a multi-billion dollar industry.
To many of us, cryptocurrencies can appear confusing and mysterious. We hear many stories about individuals who first invested a few dollars to discover years later, they are millionaires.
But who are the individuals behind the numbers and expanding this ever-growing business? We quickly discovered, a lot of them are women!
Today, highly educated women are forming businesses and assisting others to understand more about cryptocurrencies. Who are these women? We have compiled a list of 5 incredible women making their mark in this exciting new area of business.
Monika Proffitt, Co-founder and CEO of Rise Housing
Monika Proffitt is an entrepreneur, writer and speaker with 20 years experience in community design and real estate investment. She is the founder of Rise Housing, a real estate company using blockchain technology to the address issues of equity access for tenants and liquidity for investors. She regularly speaks at conferences and universities throughout the the Americas and Europe, and has been featured in Vogue Italia and New Mexico True TV. In her spare time, she writes poetry, creates art installations, and goes on long, meandering walks through New York City, where she lives.
TIP: Make sure the company that you invest in is playing the long game by making sure their token is backed by a real asset - not just a possible idea.
Elena Shkarubo, CEO of MeetnGreetMe
Elena Shkarubo – MBA from Kingston University, member of SPARK initiative to promote entrepreneurship globally and Co-Founder and CEO of MeetnGreetMe – a marketplace where international travelers can find personal assistants/concierges among local people. In September 2017 Elena decided to apply Blockchain Technology to the platform. Adapting the blockchain technology allows MeetnGreetMe to have its own means - MeetnGreetMe crypto-token - to incentivize contributors and reward the activities connected with the platform growth and development and fuel the MeetnGreetMe ecosystem.
The blockchain enabled payment system will allow them to exclude a costly middleman from the money transfer process in the future, and make it transparent and convenient for the parties regardless their geographical location. MeetnGreetMe has already successfully completed the Pre-ICO. The ICO will start on March 27 and last till May 21.
TIP: Don’t invest more than you are ready to lose.
Maria Eagleton, Co-founder of ChargaCard
Maria Eagleton is the co-founder of ChargaCard, a Boulder, Colorado startup that has created a cryptocurrency payments app that allows people to pay for goods and services with cryptocurrency. ChargaCard has a deeper mission related to social equity: tens of millions of Americans are mired in massive credit card debt or poor credit, and ChargaCard is the first B2C platform that taps into the informal credit markets to connect customers with legal and medical services—a true win-win for companies and the consumer.
Under Maria’s leadership, ChargaCard has embraced a policy of complete salary parity between women and men in the same positions, and ensuring that at least half of its employees are women (the current industry standard in tech companies now is closer to 20% female and 80% male). And there’s a practical rationale too: men and women think about the same things differently and have different approaches to development, and Maria wants this commitment to diversity and inclusion as a core element of the company’s DNA.
TIP: Do your homework! Each day, there are dozens of new cryptocurrencies coming online. The best resource is to read each company’s white paper, and get a sense for whether a company has the infrastructure and product in place that they claim to. If a white paper feels generic or doesn’t give a clear picture of what they’re trying to do, that should raise a red flag.
Kim Jackson, SingularDTV co-founder and President of Entertainment
As the co-founder and President of Entertainment at SingularDTV, a blockchain entertainment technology company, Kim Jackson brings about change by offering artists tools to empower themselves from funding all the way to distributing to their audiences.
She is responsible for all strategy and implementation of entertainment partnerships, including original and acquired content. An accomplished film producer, Kim has been a driving force behind Sundance winner BLUE CAPRICE and more than a dozen other award-winning films.
TIP: Before you make a decision on becoming involved in any ecosystem, it’s important to investigate the promises they make about products. You need to check that there’s an engine in the car that you’re buying - that there is something going on under the hood and that they have engineers backing their products. Doing your research and homework is very important.
Grace (Rebecca) Rachmany, Founder of IwriteICOwhitepapers.com & DAOleadership.com
Grace (Rebecca) Rachmany is the founder of IwriteICOwhitepapers.com, and also of DAOleadership.com. In addition to helping companies get to ICO (Initial Coin Offering), she works with growing decentralized organizations to instill the company culture and management skills needed for success in a decentralized world.
TIP: Cryptocurrency is not an investment. It's a currency. If you didn't invest in forex before, this isn't a vehicle you should be considering as an investment today either.
Contributed by Haylee Powers
Steve Forbes editor-in-Chief of Forbes said:
“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business”.
The biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs and startups making is that they do not know how
important branding and strategy is for the success in their business. I see a lot of confusion
about what branding is. Branding is not a logo or a marketing plan, a brand is a gut feeling,
experience and the ONE thing that makes you different from competitors. Your difference (we
call this a Unique Selling Proposition) needs to be compelling, concise and motivating.
Great brands create a quality experience and evoke an emotion in the customer. The way that
you can control the perception of your brand or product through the way you design and
strategize is mesmerizing. Brand strategist have studied neuroscience and psychology to create
a deeper understanding of how our brain works as it relates to brands we love and choose over
and over again. Design is used as a tool to create something beautiful but taken a step further
design is a tool combined with strategy to make real impact on customers and on the world.
Branding is meant to turn chaos into order and complexity into simplicity. Branding is SO
SIMPLE and that is what makes it so complex. It involves chiseling away at all the
miscellaneous information so that the exact message is you are trying to convey is obvious.
Branding yourself or your product is definitely an investment, but you know you are going to get
a return on it because your message is clear and concise.
Here a few things a brand strategy will do for your business:
1. Branding will differentiate your business from your competitors.
2. Branding will manage the perception your customers have about you.
3. Branding will build equity, brand awareness and loyalty.
4. Branding will form emotional attachment and trust.
5. Branding will highlight your unique attributes.
After you have created a solid strategy for your brand, you can then develop the Brand Identity.
Your Brand Identity will include things like your logo design, color palette, font choices,
photography, product packaging and more. The order in which you develop your brand is
important, the strategy always comes first when creating a strong brand.
Having a strong Brand will allow you to take a commodity and turn it into a brand.
Coffee, shoes and cars are all commodities. Starbucks, Nike and Mercedes Benz are brands that bring in millions. If you are serious about bringing in money, you need to be serious about your brand strategy. The truth is, customers will pay more for a brand they believe delivers outstanding service or benefits.
You are already branded… which could be detrimental.
Your design, in store experience, the copy on your website, the photos you use and more are creating a gut feeling in your customer and clients. Your customers are walking away with a gut feeling about how you present yourself, your touch points and the mission that fuels your company. Don’t lose money by letting your customer have a negative or uninspired experience with your brand. Control the perception people have of you and develop your unique selling proposition so that your business can bring in a higher income.
Haylee Powers is a Denver based designer and brand strategist working with companies as large as CBS and as small as the solopreneur next door. She founded Bad Bitch Branding in 2016 to empower women through brand strategy and design. She spends her time coaching female entrepreneurs and startups on their brand strategy as well as designing brand identities.
It was 2005 and I had about $300 in my bank account. I was in college, working a couple of part time jobs to pay the bills and I believed with all my heart that there had to be other ways to make money besides selling my time for a paycheck.
Ebay had really grown in popularity and the name was popping up all over the place. In my city there were several Ebay stores dedicated to selling and shipping goods on the platform, so people were really starting to catch on to the value of auction-based selling. I knew if there were stores popping up that there must be lots of opportunity out there to make money in a unique way.
Written by Krystal Covington
I think I was around 19 years old when my mom gave me the most valuable advice she could give me about navigating the job market. Her advice to me was to print copies of my resume on quality cotton paper, walk into businesses who'd posted job listings in the newspaper and request to speak with the hiring manager about the opening.
The goal of that plan was to bypass the competition by letting them get to know me in person and making a professional first impression. The only problem with that plan was that by the time she shared it everything about the job market had changed.
Written by Krystal Covington
There's a lot of information out there about the concept of personal branding, so for many people it can still be tough to know exactly what to do to build an effective brand.
The most important thing to understand is that your brand is the combination of everything people know about you and it leads them to an assumption about your value. Your value is a representation of what you can do or provide to others. It's what they come to you for help with.
by Valerie Morris
Social media is a great tool to help your business grow. However, it can feel challenging and changes constantly.
Many business owners don’t know how to harness the power of social media to actually make a difference for their brand.
Today, I’d like to propose a few mental shifts that can help you use social media to grow your business and your brand’s online presence.
1. Treat Social Media Like Face-To-Face Interactions. Many business owners forget that there are real people behind those profile pictures. The same principles that apply to in-person networking apply to social media as well. Social media is simply a tool to allow you to continue the conversation once you leave a live event.
Social media can also be a tool to start a conversation that you then continue live through coffee, video chat, or phone call. The screen between you and your audience is not an excuse to be rude, lazy, or unprofessional. These media options are actually a great opportunity to connect more frequently with people in your sphere who you might not normally see in person.
2. Become An Authority.
Social media is a great place to showcase your expertise! Publishing articles, sharing articles and resources, and commenting on others’ content are great ways to showcase the depth of your knowledge in a particular field.
First, when you post and interact regularly from this position of authority in your industry, the social media platforms start noticing and publicize your posts more. Also, your network starts noticing and you make impressions on them. Perhaps this doesn’t translate to closed business immediately, but you will get people noticing and knowing what you do, and how well you do it.
I personally have had many friends from former seasons of life reach out to me on LinkedIn to help with social media consulting or help with their website’s presence because they have seen me posting regularly about client projects, blog articles, and other industry articles of relevance over the years. They see me as an authority of some level because I have been trying to convey that message by the types of posts I publish.
3. Follow The 80/20 Rule.
Anyone in business has heard the 80/20 rule: be a value to your audience 80% of the time, and sell to them 20% of the time. No one likes a business or personal profile that is only posting promotional posts on social media. No one. However, you will find long-term relationships with followers and friends by being a value to them with the large majority of your posts. Then, when you slip in some promotional or sales-focused material, they are okay with it. It doesn’t bother them.
I work with a number of folks in professional services industries, such as mortgage brokers, accountants, and financial advisors. You may already be falling asleep just from that list. While these industries may not be as sexy as a local brewery or band on social media, they still can have a successful presence.
For example, our financial services folks can share resources for college savings, budgeting, tax organization tips, etc. When you post content like this, your audience can get relevant tips brought straight to their news feeds and then, later when they are ready to use a CPA or financial advisor, they already know who to call. They already know you, your values, and your expertise because they have found value in following your brand on social media.
I’m a big evangelist for the concept of consistency. I would much rather see a business or professional post once a week, than post 10 times in one day and then sit silent on social media for the rest of the month. Consistency allows your audience to form habits about your brand.
By posting regularly, you tell the public that you are still in business. Brands and icons that sit empty for months are assumed to be closed and obsolete by today’s culture. Consistency also tells the world that you are passionate about your business because it’s something you are willing to share about on a regular basis. Consistency on social media also helps your posts reach your audience in a more comprehensive way. The whole world does not use social media at the same time. We don’t all log into Facebook and check statuses at the same moment.
By being consistent with posts and blogs, you can target people in your audience that may use social media at different times of the day, or days of the week. Finally, your audience is more likely to interact with one of your posts, rather than ten. By dripping your posts at strategic times on a consistent schedule, you will capture your audience’s attention multiple times in a given time period.
5. Don’t Build Your House On Rented Land.
Social media is rented space. We have no control over what Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn decide to do. They could change their algorithm once again to completely change how our audience and followers see our content. Oh wait, these social media powerhouses have already started doing that! Therefore, I encourage my clients to view social media as a funnel and a tool to get your audience on something regular that YOU have control over.
Email newsletter lists are the most common destination for small business owners. When you can use social media to point people to sign up for your newsletter, YOU have control over that list. You can send emails out to your entire list of contacts, not 10% of your list like some social media posts send to. When you change your mindset to view social media as the funnel and not the final destination, you can approach social media in an entirely different way.
Social media is always changing, and while that is frustrating for business owners who want to use it as a tool, it can be a great opportunity to capture the attention of an interactive audience. Social media is not going anywhere, and can be a great asset to your marketing tools if you choose to embrace it.
Valerie Morris is a social media maven using digital tools to help businesses and non-profits share their message with the world. She has seen social media evolve and change from its birth and understands the power behind social media. Valerie founded and manages Tintero Creative, which provides custom social media solutions for organizations all over the country. You can find her regularly blogging at her website (www.tinterocreative.com) and connect with her on LinkedIn.