Women still struggle to access VC funds. What needs to change?

This confidence gap has spurred support networks and knowledge-sharing communities for women founders. Philips, of Sojo, says her fundraising strategy was shaped by a webinar by The Stack World, a community-led media platform developed by serial beauty tech entrepreneur Sharmadean Reid, one of less than 20 Black female entrepreneurs in the UK to access VC funding over the last decade.

Hurr’s Prew researched and contacted women founders two to four years ahead of her, who helped her draw up contract terms and guided her to tools such as Crunchbase Pro and Docsend. Her advisory board includes diverse names, such as Michelle Kennedy, founder of Peanut, a social media space for women.

Grace Beverley, who recently raised $5.7 million in seed funding for her UK activewear brand Tala, shared her pitch deck on YouTube to help other entrepreneurs. Her angel investors include Deciem CEO Nicola Kilner and Peanut’s Kennedy — women she met through conferences, social media connections and via Tala’s executive recruitment process.

Potential for change

Entrepreneurs interviewed by Vogue Business emphasise the importance of choosing the right investors — “a bigger decision than marriage”, as more than one of them put it. Investors with diverse partners appealed most. “It’s about their values and beliefs, and how open-minded they are,” says Mounaz Abdel Raouf, co-founder of Egyptian accessories label Okhtein. The brand is backed by Bidayat, an investment platform founded in late 2021 by Rachid Mohamed Rachid, CEO of Qatari investment fund Mayhoola (which owns Valentino and Balmain), to support emerging brands from the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Of the five people on Bidayat’s investment committee, two are women, including CEO Tugba Unkan.

Some firms are pursuing unconscious bias training for investors to try and standardise their treatment of entrepreneurs. There’s plenty more to do, says Unkan. “We need fashion education to include business mentoring and entrepreneurship. I would also like to see industry prizes that identify future talents offer more long-term support to winning designers. The chain from prize-winner to successful business is broken.”

Specialised funds have started to target underrepresented entrepreneurs, hoping to redress the balance of investment. “We need more diversity in all funds, not just those oriented to women founders,” says Anu Duggal, founding partner of Female Founders Fund, which is managing $100 million across family offices, strategic female founders and institutional investors. The fund publishes educational content on its website, including advice on fundraising, pitching and term sheets.

In the UK, Young Enterprise, a national charity, is working with school-aged children to develop entrepreneurial skills and start shaping future founders before gender biases kick into action. “As well as business experience, we provide access to networks and relatable role models,” explains CEO Sharon Davies. “Ideas about money and enterprise are set as young as seven, so you have to build that pipeline early.”

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