Working increasingly with female founders and investors, I’m noticing some patterns in personal brand points to focus on, in order to contribute to success in business.
Key points for Female Founders
At my workshop on ‘Founder Personal Brand’ at this year’s Curtin University Ignition Program, I opened with some common founder challenges:
- Being influential during presentations/pitches (from the moment you walk on stage… right through to Q&A)
- Making networking time impactful
- Meeting and building relationships with the right people
- Leading conversations towards a purposeful outcome
- Thinking differently to be seen as a leader
- Positioning differently to be seen as a peer to leaders and decision-makers
While these challenges apply to most founders, the feedback I hear from female founders is that at times, the problem is compounded by uniquely female experiences. For example, many women feel that the traditional pitch format, and the audience it attracts, is not the most effective environment for their pitch. This can be due to both internal and external factors – some women feel highly uncomfortable ‘performing’ a pitch in front of a mostly-male audience of potential investors; at the same time, the research shows that cognitive bias affects the questions asked and the assumptions made about women pitching in these environments.
Key point: While learning the traditional ‘pitch’ format may be necessary, female founders should seek alternative opportunities to talk about the value of their business.
In the workshop for Curtin Ignition, I outlined the four components in my ‘Founder Personal Brand Framework’: Mindset, Positioning, Visibility and Network. In particular, we focused on developing a Confident Leader Mindset, Leadership Positioning, and how to communicate like a boss! For many inexperienced or young startup founders, these are the most important elements to master to be taken seriously by investors and other stakeholders.
Female founders (and women in general) often tackle confidence issues that again are uniquely female. Women and girls are taught by much of society, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that being female means being quiet, not asking for much, taking a following or supporting role rather than leading, and putting others’ needs before our own. This conditioning has complex and powerful implications for how we see ourselves as women and as leaders in business.
Positioning and communication follow from a confident leader mindset, and this is where sometimes female founders need an extra push or extra support. Women need to understand how to own their power, articulate the value they bring that is unique to them, and to hold their own in challenging, male-dominated situations.
Key point: Getting clear on your personal brand, or ‘value proposition’ as leader of the business, is essential to stand in a position of personal power in business conversations.
Discussing ‘networking’ with a female founder at Curtin’s Ignition Program 2021
Key points for Female Investors
A female investor is like a white tiger – rare, exotic, a little mysterious! In speaking with early-stage investors about their personal brands, my experience has been that not all of them want to shout their brand from the rooftops! Understandable to protect your privacy and space… but at the same time, Female Investors, we need to see you!
Female investors are not just (as the research shows) excellent business strategists, they are strong supporters of female founders and they are role models for all women in how to be the boss of your finances! Female investors are extremely passionate about those they help, and this – in my opinion – needs to be shouted from the rooftops, for all women to benefit.
Much of the research (some examples below) demonstrates that women need community, collaboration and education to flourish as investors – and in turn, to be visible when needed. Part of the education piece is how women see themselves and communicate the value they can bring – this is the area I’m working with women on when they are at this level of their business portfolio and careers.
Investors can benefit from shaping their personal brands to:
- position themselves as working with particular types of businesses and stakeholders
- highlight particular areas of expertise e.g. MedTech, FinTech
- demonstrate their areas of interest – what should they be contacted about
- clearly articulate how they add value to people and projects they work with
- become more visible in specific networks, as role models and collaborators.
Key point: When women investors highlight their personal brands, both sides benefit. Highlighting your investor brand may involve crafting a bio, shaping your personal story for public speaking or media, developing your LinkedIn profile or even creating a personal website or blog, to develop your point of view and share resources. Sometimes, it’s simply spending time thinking about how you talk about your work, in order to share it more powerfully with others.
Women Investors & Entrepreneurs Discussions, Perth, 2021
Statistics on women investors https://www.firstlinks.com.au/women-investor-numbers-grow-financial-education-lags
‘Where are the women investors?’ Joy Burnford for Forbes
Women’s strengths as investors
Online women’s investing trends
Other research on female investors