Mind the Gender Gap: How One Female Founder Tackled Investment Inequality (And Won)

Mind the Gender Gap: How One Female Founder Tackled Investment Inequality (And Won)

‌In the hyper-competitive world of e-commerce, brands must do more than just keep up; they must leap ahead. The secret to doing exactly that? Investment.

For modern e-commerce retailers, securing external investment in their business has become more than just an advantage, it’s a necessity. Investors can bring valuable experience and support, but most importantly they bring cash, which can be used to overcome obstacles to growth.

However, there’s growing concern about a gender gap when it comes to investment. Studies show that female-founded startups receive less VC funding compared to their male-founded counterparts – and anecdotal evidence backs this up in spades.

In our recent webinar on how to navigate e-commerce funding, we heard the first-hand experience of Emily Bendell, founder of Bluebella – a disruptive lingerie brand designed to empower women (and not to simply pleasure men).

She made some insightful comments about the issues female founders face and shared her own inspiring story of using crowdfunding as a successful way to bypass gender bias and raise the funds needed to launch and scale her business.

Here are the highlights:

On securing early funding…

  • “As a consumer business, especially in lingerie with 40 sizes per bra, even if you’re doing well, you need working capital to fund your growth. However, as a female founded business selling products for women, we’ve always struggled to secure institutional investment.
  • “At the time we needed investment, about 95% of the UK angel community was male, predominantly white and middle-aged. They didn’t inherently understand our brand.
  • “I was struggling to find support and had a lot of rejection. So, I organised an event for high net worth women. I didn’t know any personally so I cold-invited people. Through this event, I connected with an all-female angel network. We became their first investment.
  • “Looking at the data, it’s clear that investors often get more returns from female-led businesses per pound of investment, despite lower valuations and less initial investment.”

On crowdfunding…

  • “I was having a meeting with someone in a bar and they said ‘They’ve got my beer here’. I asked what he meant and he said he’d invested in the beer brand they stocked. I was intrigued about the sense of ownership he felt from having put in a small amount of money. It was powerful. That’s when I had the idea to crowdfund for our launch and growth in 2016.
  • “Crowdfunding felt like it worked for us as an aesthetically pleasing, consumer-focused brand. I liked the idea of having all these brand ambassadors. It allowed us to raise more than a million, without an institutional investor.

On what needs to change…

  • “Whether it’s a predominantly male-run VC or angel investors, people tend to invest in what’s familiar and comfortable to them – shared backgrounds, schools, etc. This cycle needs conscious effort to break.
  • “It’s a complex issue. Even if a female founder secures investment from a female-led VC, she’ll likely face twice the challenge in raising her second round from a male-backed VC due to inherent bias.
  • “Encouraging women to enter the investment field is essential. Additionally, male VC partners, angel investors, and others need to be aware of and address unconscious bias. It’s a collective effort because we all do it – even women can harbor bias against women who’ve raised money from other women. It’s an issue that affects everyone.”

Download the full webinar now to hear more of what Emily – and the rest of our expert panel – had to say about securing investment for your e-commerce brand.