Home Grown celebrates women in business all year round. Our diverse community is proof positive that female entrepreneurs are capable of not just surviving but thriving in the business world.

Despite that, challenges persist. Beauhurst’s latest report The Deal, recently presented at Home Grown Club in partnership with Coutts, unveiled that just two pence of every pound invested went to an all-female founding team, versus 85p to all-male founding teams. The Rose Review Progress Report, the findings for which were also recently disclosed at Home Grown, further highlighted the additional support needed for female-led businesses to thrive, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are plenty of ladies moving building blocks in the business community (Home Grown is full of them!) but how can we pave the way for even more women to succeed in the business world? We have turned to the female entrepreneurs and investors within our community for insight.

Priya Guha - Venture Partner at Merian Ventures

Priya Guha, Venture Partner at Merian Ventures

First up is Priya Guha, Venture Partner at Merian Ventures, a San Francisco HQ-ed VC investing in female-led innovation.

“One of the most powerful tools women have is their network. I’d encourage female founders to leverage their network and make the ask. Even if you’ve never met someone, tools like LinkedIn enable you to get connected to someone who can make a transformational difference in your business’ trajectory. But nothing beats face-to-face events, and it’s great to see those restarting at Home Grown and elsewhere. However, if you’ve been introduced to someone, be proactive! Follow up and build relationships with the people you meet. There’s also an incredibly supportive community out there of fellow female founders (and allies), so build a peer group where you get answers to both mundane and key questions.”

As an investor for Alma Angels, Home Grown member Deborah Saunders has been engaged in helping more female-led businesses get the funding they need to flourish. She too has some words of wisdom for female CEOs seeking investment.

Deborah Saunders - Alma Angels

Deborah Saunders, Alma Angels

“There are some stellar examples of women-led businesses doing well at attracting investment. My personal view is that a lot of deals happen through the network. Men have traditionally been a bit better at building professional networks, and this helps them get in the door to speak with investors. Women are starting to pick up speed here, thanks in part to more networks and VC’s backing female founders (such as Alma Angels, Halogen VC Pact VC, Female Founders Collective, to name a few). A lot of deal flow comes through networking, so it’s important that entrepreneurs have a strategy for this.”

Next up is Yasmin Topia, the CEO and Founder of Sociate AI – the game-changing personal shopping assistant powered by generative AI. We wanted to hear her take on the biggest challenges facing women in the industry today.

Yasmin Topia - CEO and Founder of Sociate AI

Yasmin Topia, CEO and Founder of Sociate AI

“Someone told me an interesting statistic that men apply for roles if they can confidently perform just 40% of the job specification, whilst women want to be able to say they can do all of it. If that is true, I think this is one of the biggest factors in the lack of gender balance in the sector. Deep tech needs women, it needs our insights, our experience and our intuition. If you are interested in deep tech and you don’t have an AI, science, or academic background, believe me, it’s fine. My advice to women looking to succeed in the industry would be to find your people and allies. You can have all the money in the world but you can’t build alone.

“When people believe in you, they are so generous with their time, networks, advice and support. And make sure you give back too, keep paying it forward. Finally, don’t worry about the people who didn’t believe in you because of whichever pre-conceptions they came to the table with. After all, though we only get less than 2% of VC funding and 53% less capital, we are 63% more successful in delivering higher returns.” Let’s go!

To gloriously conclude our round of interviews with brilliant ladies of Home Grown, we spoke to Cassandra Harris, Founder and CEO of Litestream Ventures, who has been building a network of co-investors such as Buoyant Ventures, Burnt Island Ventures, Agfunder and Prelude Ventures. She is a venture partner in two other pre-existing funds, Una Terra Ventures and Vireo Ventures, and helped to build two more, including Shark Tank Ventures.

One of her latest achievements was assisting in bringing in Flypop’s seed funding round during the COVID-19 pandemic. While most start-ups were ceasing business during this time, the seed funding she helped to raise allowed Flypop to secure match funding from the UK Government’s Future Fund. Airlines are famously hard to get off the ground, never mind finding funding for, so hats off to her! More recently, Cassy has been focused on start-ups solving climate change, she talks about it on her very own The Unicorns Podcast.

Cassandra Harris - Founder and CEO of Litestream Ventures

Cassandra Harris, Founder and CEO of Litestream Ventures

We asked her about her experience as a female entrepreneur and her tips for other women who are just starting out in the world of business and finance.

“A while ago, I was invited to the World Economic Forum to speak on stage to a group of investors, but had to deal with a demeaning former partner who had very little faith in me it seemed. He policed my dress code despite not ever seeing me speak on stage before and told me I wouldn’t be able to close the investment round, and that investors would only invest in someone who didn’t look like me. I was completely anguished by this. But this experience was fuel for me to ensure that women are supported in this space.

“Despite only a very small percent of venture capital flowing to women it has become very trendy to be a female founder. It is so trendy that some companies front themselves with women, although the shareholders consist mostly of men. Yet, while women could employ the same approach and leverage the presence of men to help pitch their funding rounds, this isn’t a long-term solution, as it perpetuates the stereotype that women are less capable than men. Instead, we should be encouraging both men and women to lean on each others’ strengths and empower each other to create more diverse workplaces, which are statistically stronger after all.

“My advice for other women who are just starting out is to invest in building relationships with investors and mastering the art of fundraising for your business as early as possible. As we all know already, a massive challenge faced by female entrepreneurs is access to capital. Even though the percentage of female entrepreneurs is increasing year by year, the percentage of total VC funding they receive still is well below the halfway point. It’s not just getting better at doing due diligence and building financial models, but also forging relationships with the right people.

Whether you’re meeting people digitally or in person, the more opportunities you seek out, the faster you’ll see the effects compound. You might even find a mentor along the way.”

It turns out that Cassy is also involved in creating docu-series and TV shows that profile entrepreneurs making a positive impact. We wanted to know her thoughts about how media can be used to inspire and encourage more women to become entrepreneurs.

“Strategically produced media allows you to shine the spotlight on female or male entrepreneurs on a global scale, increasing their ability to access funding and other resources, allowing them to tell their founder stories, and acting as a huge driver of inspiration for the generations to come. Women need mentors and role models to show them that it’s more than possible to overcome the perceived roadblocks to entering the world of entrepreneurship and defying the status quo.

Well said! However, whatever the challenges faced by women in the industry, they continue to persevere and thrive. The insights and advice shared by our female members highlight the importance of building networks, finding allies, and believing in oneself, as well as the need for greater support and opportunities for female founders. Home Grown Club provides a platform for these women to connect, learn, and grow, and we can’t wait to see even more ladies breaking barriers and achieving success in the years to come.

The original article published by Business Leader can be found here.

Looking to scale up your network? To find out more call 020 3928 8088 or email: membership@homegrownlcub.co.uk.

If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.