Do you want to be the Queen of England or the Bank of England? In other words, as a business owner, do you prefer to control or cash flow? This is the question that every entrepreneur must eventually address. Running a business is a series of small and large decisions, each with a unique impact. Therefore, being an entrepreneur entails a fantastic set of decisions.
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Additionally, being a female entrepreneur complicates your choices, as your decisions are typically scrutinised more closely. I am currently launching my third business. My journey has been similar to that of others; my first start was a disaster. Although the product was intriguing, I lacked credibility due to my lack of relevant experience. As a result, I spent every penny, learned a great deal about what not to do, and vowed never to start another business.
The second time around, I founded a company with a mission that fit me perfectly. Be Bold Now is a non-profit organisation dedicated to gender parity by presenting women’s stories and hosting an International Women’s Day event. We were a smashing success this time, with rapid growth in attendance and revenue.
However, five years into this endeavour, and just four days before our annual event, the first COVID-19 death was reported in Washington, our home state. Without a doubt, our business came to a grinding halt. By spring 2020, it was clear that a pivot was necessary.
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I began reading the news about the pandemic’s devastating effect on women and the immediate economic loss. This, combined with the growth of online shopping, inspired me to found my next venture, the marketplace. TheWMarketplace is an e-commerce marketplace for women-owned businesses with the mission of serving as a women’s economic engine. I enrolled in classes. I took what I learned from previous ventures and my passion for gender parity and founded a mission-driven for-profit business.
Are you a queen or a bank?
In September 2020, my cofounder and I launched TheWMarketplace to shoppers, and we now have over 500 brands offering over 3,000 products and services. It became clear that we would need to raise funds to sustain the growth we were experiencing. So five months after launch, we launched a pre-seed round of funding and closed it in three days with one investor. The Queen (s) and the Bank of England were overjoyed!
We invested the funds to grow our business on Shopify, hire a few similarly mission-driven employees at significantly reduced rates, and spread the word about a viable shopping alternative to the leading online retailer. In addition, we created a space for people to show their support for women-owned businesses and the communities in which they live.
Our revenue has grown by more than 580 per cent, and we have big plans for the future. So now we return to the initial question: Queen or Bank?
The Queen indicates that we control the lion’s share of the business. We make decisions independently of others and can grow at the rate our revenue allows—presumably slowly and steadily. As founders, we have frequently advised you to bootstrap the business for as long as possible to retain control. And, as is well known, “early money is costly.”
The bank refers to acquiring additional equity partners in exchange for capital to accelerate our growth. We may need to share decision-making regarding the business’s growth, but we would also benefit from the cash infusion necessary to accelerate our growth and capitalise on market opportunities. Being a mission-driven business may complicate the process of delegating decision-making to a larger group. What if our investors disagree with our mission or wish to dilute it in pursuit of revenue?
With all of these factors in mind, the question is this: Do we own a sizable portion of a small business? Or do we own a small piece of a much larger enterprise?
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You cannot change the world if you are satisfied with slow growth.
Most of the approximately 14 million women-owned businesses in the United States are classified as small. They typically employ fewer than three people and are classified as “lifestyle” businesses. They are either self-sufficient or rely on small loans or grants to operate. They typically grow slowly and remain classified as small businesses.
On the other end of the scale, in 2021, a record-breaking 1,057 US-based businesses raised capital through Initial Public Offerings (IPO). Women founded four companies (Bumble, NextDoor, 23andMe, and Rent the Runway) out of those 1,057. Furthermore, out of the thousands of companies that have gone public over the years, only 31 were founded by women.
My company’s mission is to serve as an economic engine for women. You cannot change the world and fuel women’s growth by planning to be small or content with slow growth. Thus, my response to the question of the Queen or bank is unambiguous: bank. Capital is critical for growing this business and the more than 500 women-owned businesses that use our platform.
That is our mission. However, we also prioritise finding the right equity partner in selecting a bank. Anyone who participates in our decision-making process must also be wholly committed to our vision and mission.
We are confident that by aligning our vision with partners who can help fuel the economic engine for women, we will become the 32nd women-owned business to go public. We will be Queen for a day when we ring the NYSE bell, but we would rather be the Bank for life.
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