Noelly Michoux, founder of 4.5.6. Skin
On 8 February, WEGate and Business Angels Europe organized their third “Access to Finance” webinar. Jenny Tooth (CEO UKBAA) and Claire Munck (CEO BeAngels) had a fireside chat with the founder of 4.5.6. Skin: Noelly Michoux. In an honest and open conversation, Noelly was able to reflect on the challenges of successfully starting a startup as a woman of color. Read on for a few highlights.
The art of fundraising
As this was a webinar in the WEGate “Access to Finance” stream, a good portion of the conversation was dedicated to the fundraising story of Noelly and 4.5.6 Skin. Noelly reflected on the importance of finding the right investor – because at the start she was pitching to the wrong ones! After many attempts, she had realized that Venture Capital firms are rarely interested in companies at a very early stage. Furthermore, she had limited herself to France only, as she and the company were based there.
She gave it a try, across the border in Belgium, pitching to a group of business angels. However, at first sight, she wasn’t confident that it would be a success: “I did not take this very seriously; I took it as a training. Because I looked at the audience, at the crowd, and said this is a crowd mainly consisting of white men - how am I going to make a connection?”
The Angel Factor
Instead, she found that her background was an asset: she intimately knew the problem she was trying to solve. It resulted in that after the pitching there was a lot of interest, excitement even. Noelly recounts how she could not believe it, and how at one point, she even had to stop taking money. She had been looking for funding for the whole year of 2019. When she got in the fundraising process with BeAngels, she closed within 3 months.
Looking back, she states that what made her successful was her preparation: she knew the problem her product was solving, the market and the competitors. Still, when she would do it again, she would try to be less of a perfectionist: “Men just do it. If I had to do it [raising funding] again I would improve it as I go.”
So how did business angels help grow her business? Noelly explains that she was nervous about working with them at first. What she found, however, was that business angels not only provide financing, expertise and enthusiasm for the product, they also have provided her understanding.
Claire Munck, Noelly Michoux and Jenny Tooth during the webinar.
Of COVID & Brexit
Of the two dramatic challenges, Noelly says that Brexit has affected her business more than COVID: the shipping costs to and from the UK have rocketed. This has a big impact on a business which believes its first growth market to be the UK.
On the other hand, it seems that COVID has been a blessing in disguise, as it forced Noelly and her colleagues to rethink some of the investments and business decisions she had made. For example, it forced them to pivot to lower cost packaging.
The worst thing that can happen?
At the end of the webinar, Claire and Jenny asked if Noelly had one recommendation for the many (future) women entrepreneurs in the audience. She responded by saying:
“This one is hard for me because I am still figuring it out as I go […] what I learnt that, it is never a good idea to look for the proof you can do something from your past. Because your brain will always come up with 1000 things why you shouldn’t do it because you never done it. And that is a very limiting belief. I learnt to connect more with my own desires and aspirations, back to my own power, to create a vision.”
And that belief in herself, she recounts, allowed her to say that “I will figure it out. I learnt that: what can happen? The worst that can happen is that you can fail – and so what? The price for not trying is worse than failing.”