Women are sidestepping the glass ceiling and no longer aiming for the corner office. Instead, they’re choosing to strike out on their own. While more women-owned businesses are surpassing the $1 million revenue mark, they are still much less likely to do so than those owned by men. In fact, women are one-third as likely as their male counterparts to grow their businesses past $1 million.
The reason? Women entrepreneurs raise only half as much capital as men do. Undercapitalized companies have lower sales and lower profits and generate fewer jobs.
Julia Pimsleur wants to change that. She wants to do more than simply inspire women to go for the brass ring. She wants to provide a roadmap. And she does so with her new book, Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big. Pimsleur has the street cred to do this. Her company, Little Pim, introduces young children to foreign languages through multimedia programs.
It’s also one of very few women-run venture-backed businesses. She has raised $3.5 million from friends, family and angels, and $2.1 million in venture capital. She’s grown a multi-million dollar company and developed a bootcamp—where she teaches—to help female founders learn how to raise capital, all while parenting her young children.
I’ve written about the dramatic rise in the number of female founders raising money from angels and the change that I see coming in the venture capital industry. One reason I’m so optimistic for the future is that women who have succeeded, like Pimsleur, are taking time to show the next generation how they did it. Pimsleur’s book is chock full of practical and actionable tips for raising money, and I’ve highlighted the four ideas from her basic checklist here.
1. Adopt the Right Mindset
Pimsleur addresses how she overcame her own self-limiting beliefs, including fear of failure, of not being perfect, of not having a business degree and of not having a personal life. Identifying your own self-limiting beliefs is the first step. You can pack them up and ship them off, then replace them with non-limiting beliefs. The right attitude includes showing your passion for your business, speaking knowledgeably about “the business of your business” and talking up the big vision for your business.
2. Acquire the Skills
Attend workshops, seminars and talks on business leadership. These can address general topics, or focus on specific skills you want to improve, such as public speaking. Pay for coaches who can help you address your specific areas of weakness. You might want to work on pitching; a critical skill for raising money or attracting clients.
Put yourself in situations where you build that skill, like opting to present at demo days and accepting invitations to speak at conferences. It’s not just about winning money in the moment. It’s about impressing others in the audience who may not be a direct fit for your company, but who can otherwise open doors for you. Finally, read books. You can start with some of Pimsleur’s favorites.
3. Find Your Flying Buttresses
Role models play a critical part in inspiring women to go for the brass ring. Pimsleur doesn’t tell just her story. She tells the stories of other women who are just like you and me and how they “went big.”
Surround yourself with people who are more successful than you are, especially other entrepreneurs. To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, you want people in the arena (i.e. those doing big and bold things), not people in the bleachers (i.e. who tend to be unjustifiably hypercritical). Move into a shared workspace so you meet these people regularly.
You also need people who are hands-on. Ask someone you respect to be a mentor or an advisor. Apply to an accelerator or incubator program. Join a peer advisory group like EO or the Women Presidents’ Organization. Create your own accountability group with other entrepreneurs. Find other women entrepreneurs at Women’s Business Centers. Form a board with people who are willing to roll up their sleeves. These people are most likely to be your investors.
Pimsleur has both a board and an advisory council. The council includes former CEOs with industry experience in building online platforms, overseeing video distribution, managing retail sales and running tech startups.
4. Get Ready to Kiss a Lot of Frogs
Like finding the right mate, finding the right investor is to some degree a numbers game. You may be lucky enough to know or be introduced to your perfect match early on. However, chances are, you’ll need to talk to a lot of people to find the needle in the haystack.
Spend 80% of your time out the office, but don’t network in a willy-nilly way. Network with intent. The more clearly you can articulate the characteristics of the person you want to meet, the better other people can help you find that person. To win at networking, be genuine and authentic, provide excellent and timely follow-ups and keep people engaged over time, advises Pimsleur. Make it easy for people to help you. Pimsleur does this by sending anyone from whom she requests an introduction a draft email and blurb about her and her company.
Pimsleur is on a mission to help one million women get to $1 million in revenues by 2020. I have no doubt that through her book, public appearances and bootcamp she will make this happen. I support Pimsleur in her mission, and offer a few additional resources. Read on to know whether raising equity financing is a fit for your business. In addition to money, determine what else you want from an investor and perfect your pitch. Also avoid these common mistakes when seeking financing.
And, by applying Pimsleur’s advice, you may become one of the million.