Crowdfunding, however, is a way of raising money from a large number of smaller investors – and, according to many women entrepreneurs, it can overcome the disadvantages they usually face in accessing funding.
Emma Bianco, founder of Little Earth Baby, a manufacturer of sustainable baby products, spent much of 2019 trying to raise investment from private backers.
“I was told at a pitching event that only a small percentage of investor money goes to female entrepreneurs – and the advice was that if you’re raising money as a woman, you shouldn’t smile and never wear your hair down,” she says. “I thought: ‘This is ridiculous.” It made me really cross.”
In some meetings with private investors, Bianco adds, she was asked about her children – how she would be able to run a business while looking after them, as well as whether she was intending to have any more. “I thought: ‘I wonder if this was my husband raising this money, would he be asked the same questions?’”
At the end of 2019, Bianco decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube to raise £110,000 – a target she has since exceeded by almost £40,000. “I think crowdfunding is great for early-stage businesses, whether or not they are female-run,” she says. “A lot of the private investors were put off because we didn’t have traction and couldn’t prove our business model.
“And, yes, in my crowdfunding video I smiled and wore my hair down.”