BAE organizes two workshops on access to finance for women entrepreneurs
On 11 June, Business Angels Europe organized two inspiring sessions on "Access to Finance for Women Entrepreneurs", as part of the WEGate Academy, a programme funded by the European Commission. Leading women from all corners of Europe were brought together to discuss this important topic.
For the first hour, a fantastic panel of leading women shared their insights around this topic. Sasha Bezuhenova (MOVE.BG, Bulgaria), Silvia Almeida (Women Win Win, Portugal) and Rixt Herklots (The Next Women) spoke with moderator Claire Munck (BeAngels, Scalefund) how to create initiatives that boost access to finance for women entrepreneurs. In a second hour, Francesca Natali (META Ventures, Angels 4 Women) took a deep dive into what constitutes “Being Investor Ready” for the audience of more than 40 women. Read some of its key highlights below.
With her corporate background and experience as a university lecturer and angel investor, Silvia was perfectly placed to reflect on how bias still endemic to business and society in general. In Portugal therefore, there is a real need to connect women in business, something which is catered to with WomenWinWin, of which she is part.
Sasha saw this moment, with the world on the cusp of a post pandemic world, as the moment to leverage the talent of everybody, saying:
We are birthing a new world with new opportunities, and who else better to lead them than women: a more feminine attitude is needed in business and leadership.
Rixt spoke about how The Next Women has grown steadily over the last 6 years, growing from an “enabler” to a “system” player. Not only are they training and connecting women investors and entrepreneurs, they are actively engaging with key institutions in The Netherlands. Rixt says: “we must not change the women; we must change the system”.
Because despite what image of The Netherlands may exist outside of its borders, it is still very much a biased society, wherein only 5% of entrepreneurs receiving venture finance are women.
Soon the discussion turned to what barriers the panelists saw a being significant barriers for women in order to get access to finance. Silvia spoke about the importance of financial literacy, as well as the emotional distance between women and the financial world. She also underscored the importance of digital and legal literacy. All components which are crucial to build a successful business. She has been integrating all these elements in the Entrepreneurship & Innovation course she teaches at the Catholic University of Lisboa, as well as in the new women entrepreneurship accelerator programme WomenWinWin is preparing for the Fall.
Rixt added that Women indeed face significant barriers when it comes to being ambitious, as this is also due to how our society has raised women to be care-takers rather than individuals. Rixt also made the point that we need to hold society accountable for this bias, but not in a confrontational way. Sasha reiterated the importance to create a safe space for women to exchange, to get energy encouragement and ideas.
Next, the panellist shared practical tips how to get their women entrepreneurship programmes going. Sasha spoke about the successful young women “Entrepregirl Award” in Bulgaria, wherein men play a key role as champions. Silvia agreed, involving men is crucial for the sustainability and impact of these initiatives. She also highlighted the importance of working with media partners and to connect with other movements. Rixt gave an example of how to garner visibility and awareness: creating a top 100 list of women in business, and a big annual event. The panelists agreed that your women entrepreneurship programme should charge fees to the participants, and that corporate and government partners are crucial.
Finally, Francesca took the stage to explore what investor readiness really implies. As the responsible person for deal flow at the newly created Angels 4 Women (the first women angel investor network in Italy), she reflected that in fact she strongly feels women are better at communicating the value of their solutions.
In her presentation, Francesca focused on the importance of conveying your path to an investment exit. If an angel or VC invests in your company, how will they get their money back? Making sure you communicate this early and clearly is doing an enormous favor to the early-stage investor. Specifically, the entrepreneurs should consider that 90%% of exits are trade sales. So how does your solution complement to incumbent companies in the market?