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Business

The Common Mistakes Every Founder Makes

We unpack the common mistakes women make during investment pitches - and how to avoid them

By Alia Coster

6 May 2023
W

omen have so much to offer in the world of business. Women-owned businesses already contribute £105 billion to the UK. And, if we started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men, we could be contributing an additional £250 billion.

We are fantastic business owners and visionaries, but there’s something standing in our way – pitches. A pitch can make or break a business. And that’s a huge part of what makes them so daunting. Mistakes come all too easily, especially when you’re so new to the game. Here I speak to amazing businesswomen to dive into the mistakes women make, why we make them, and how we can get around them.

Rachael Twumasi-Corson, is the MD of Afrocentrix, Camilla Falkenberg, is the founder of Female Invest, and Kathryn Ireland, is an experienced investor and adviser, shared their insights in our webinar. There’s a way to play the game and ensure you give it your best. But first, you need to get in the room.

Let’s talk about confidence. Confidence – or the lack of it – is one of our biggest hindrances as women. Especially when it comes to pitches. First of all, we tend to be more realistic with our businesses. Founder's that raise, tend to be showboats. They stretch the truth, they exaggerate, and it makes our realistic perspective look poor by comparison. Stood next to these overly optimistic founders, we seem pessimistic or as if we don’t believe in our vision. It’s a difficult obstacle to overcome, but to have a chance and show our passion for our business, it’s something we need to get around.

‘Women are fantastic business owners and visionaries, but there’s something standing in our way - pitches. A pitch can make or break a business. And that’s a huge part of what makes them so daunting’

One way to give yourself a confidence boost is to prepare. Get your deck sorted. Keep it on your phone to check over and over, looking for mistakes. And a mistake isn’t just something grammatical like a typo – it’s making sure everything is user friendly.

Your deck should flow easily, be simple to understand and read, and just be visually pleasing. So make sure it isn’t too cramped, that there isn’t too much text, and that it reads well no matter what the medium. And of course, practise your pitch. The phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ exists for a reason. Ideally, do a full run-through, record it, and keep doing that over and over until you physically can’t make any mistakes.

Another common problem is that women think they need to know everything before they ask for money. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

To overcome this, reach out to founders or investors you look up to, big or small, to ask for guidance or advice. It helps with confidence and gets you valuable feedback too. Camilla did exactly this. She went to LinkedIn, found similar companies, and wrote to their CEOs telling them how much she admired them and their businesses and invited them for a coffee, so she could pick their brains. She asked around 20 people and every single one of them got back to her.

People want to help, especially if you’re polite and have an interest or admiration for their work too. Just bring a concrete idea and know exactly what you want to get out of the meeting.

Pitching to the wrong investors is another common mistake. People assume all of them are the same – they have money and they’re looking to make more. It’s not a million miles away, but you’ll find many work in specific industries. That knowledge of a sector will let them know when they’re on to a winner. They also might invest in higher-level businesses than yours, choosing to avoid fresh start-ups. They might not even want to invest right now. In short: know who you’re pitching to.

Check if the investor is in the right industry; check what level they like to invest in; and see what their motivations are. If they want to take your business and move it in a completely different direction from where you want it to go, they’re not the right fit. Researching investors is so important, otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

And that’s the secret to a great pitch. Believe in yourself, practise until you can recite it backwards; don’t be afraid to ask for help; and get yourself in front of the right people. Too many women think it’s an art form only men can master, but we’re here to tell you it isn’t.

The Short Stack

Pitches can be stressful, but there’s no reason they have to be. Remember that you’re a confident woman with an amazing business plan, and you’ll be giving effortless pitches in no time.

By Alia Coster

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