How to Start a Business: Female Invest Founders Share their Top Learnings

“I would hope if we had known all these things when we were starting out, then maybe our experience would have been different.”

Maiken Reinholdt
March 15, 2024
(Image: Female Invest)
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More and more women all over the world are taking big strides into starting a business. But although women have innovative ideas, very few businesses stand the test of time. But Co-founders of Female Invest, Anna Hartvigsen and Camilla Falkenberg, are proof that you can turn an idea not only into a profitable business, but a global movement with tangible impact. Which is why they’re ready to share their learnings with the world, as more and more women demand accessible education around business that speaks directly to them. 

When they started Female Invest back in 2019, there were no tools available that could prepare them for what was to come. Camilla says: “When we were starting, there was no resource or book where we could go to learn all these things. I would hope if we had known all these things when we were starting out, then maybe our experience would have been different. So that’s our hope with enlightening people with this information.” 

So without further ado, let’s get straight into it the founder top-tips on starting a business. 

(Image: Female Invest)

Turning ideas into businesses

Before embarking on any business venture, the first thing you need to refine is your idea. So what constitutes a good idea exactly? According to Anna, there are three questions to consider: does it solve a real problem? Are people willing to pay? And are you the right person to do this? She says: “When we started Female Invest there was a problem, we knew women wanted to pay and we knew we were the right people to solve the problem because we had personally experienced the problem and we were the target group.”

Preparing your business finances

It’s no surprise that when running a business, finances are the focal point. In fact, it prevents many women from getting started in the first place. But by being disciplined with your personal finances, you can turn your business idea into a reality. “When you start a company, there will most likely be a period of time where you have very little in salary and you need to prepare yourself for that with an F You fund, which is a savings account that allows you to pay three to six months of fixed expenses.”

You also need to understand basic financial concepts, such as debt, stocks and interest rates. Anna holds that “If you don’t understand these basic financial concepts, you won’t be in financial shape to start the company.” Anna adds “you don’t need to be rich to start a business, but you do need to understand money.” By understanding money, it equips you with the scope and flexibility to turn a good idea into a profitable business. It’s no surprise, therefore, that learning about personal finance and investing is essential when starting a business. Thankfully we have an entire platform that provides exactly that.

"It’s really important you hire people who believe in what you’re doing"

Get the right business resources 

The best way to create a strategy in the early days, is by figuring out exactly where you wish to be one year from now and then calculate backwards to figure out how you’re going to get there. Anna suggests that there are two types of resources that will set you up for success: people and money. Let’s unpack each of those.

1. People

Once you’re in a financial position where you can hire employees, you’re going to want to consider hiring a team. Anna says “The first person you hire is extremely important. They need to have the skills that you are lacking. No one is perfect, and whether it’s the skill of selling, or the skill of programming or just something else you lack, get someone with that skill. If you have a very technical business, then you might need an expert. But if you have a broader business, then you might need a generalist who can help with many different things.” Then as things grow, you’re going to need to start building a fully functioning team that can take your business to the next level. “It’s really important you hire people who believe in what you’re doing, who like the way of working, who fits with the company culture and who has skills you don’t.”

But in addition to employees you also need a network. Anna says it provides “access to talent and great employees, access to money, and access to customers if you have corporate offerings. All of it is networking.” When starting a business from scratch, however, many people you want to connect with, may not necessarily find much benefit in networking with you as an early startup founder, or simply won’t have the time. Anna says you therefore need to “think carefully about your approach. My top tips are attending networking events with relevant people and getting referrals from a network you already have.” She adds: “it could also be that you offer something for free, whether it’s a service or device or access to something.”

2. Money

It comes as no surprise that money plays a huge role when starting a business. Anna says: “If you are the type of business that wants to scale, then you will most likely need money to get off the ground because you’ll need to invest in people to help develop your product.” But what’s more is that we’re living in a world where despite the fact that women are launching more businesses than ever before, women receive just 3% of funding. 

Anna says “When I heard this statistic the first time, I thought there had to be a hidden variable. Maybe women don’t start businesses that often, or maybe they don’t have the ambitions of men to scale.” She continues: “having raised funding, the glass ceiling in the funding game is unbelievably thick, it is wild. I am not surprised at all that women don’t raise more money – I’m actually surprised they even raise any just based on our own personal experiences.” Camilla Falkenberg adds “funding has been the craziest rollercoaster of this entire venture of building Female Invest. It keeps surprising us in unfortunately negative ways.”

But just because it’s difficult to raise business funding as a women, there are countless women who have defied the odds. You can raise money through many different sources. The main two are angel investors (rich individuals) and VCs (institutional investors).

(Photo: Tachina Lee)

1. Angel investors

Angel investors are essentially rich individuals with a lot of expertise and experience, who fund early startup companies. Anna says: “The pro of angels is that they have this experience and they often don’t set a lot of demands because they don’t want to control your company.” It’s also important to note that angel investors usually invest in the early rounds (often referred to as ‘pre-seed’), meaning they often won’t be able to contribute in Series A rounds and beyond.

2. VCs

That’s when VCs come in handy. Once your business starts to scale up, VCs are the key revenue stream that many startups rely on to elevate their business to new heights. VCs sit on billions of pounds and get this money from pension providers, from other institutions and rich individuals. They then invest this money into startups. 

Anna says: “The benefit of getting money from those is that they have deep pockets so can help you a very long way. They also have large teams who will help you once they invest. But the downside is that they are very demanding. They set super high demands for how much growth you need to have because they only invest in companies which they hope can grow at least one hundred times after they invest in it.” Camilla adds: “I would say the pressure on the other side of having raised VC funding is that they’re significantly higher than when you raise through friends and family and angels, so it can feel like a lot of pressure if you’re not living up to those expectations.”

3 things to remember when starting your own business 

Starting a business is not the hard part, keeping it alive is. So here’s 3 key things you should remember, according to Anna:

1. Launch your business before it’s ready

“You will never be one hundred percent ready to launch your product or service and if you are a hundred percent ready, then you’ve done it too late because you won’t know if there is a demand or if it even works before you launch it. Imagine that you spend years building the perfect cup and no one buys it then you might as well have launched the cup, get feedback and iterate.”

2. Build a support system

“Starting a business is rough. It’s long hours, it’s a lot of pressure, it’s a lot of people who won’t believe in what you’re doing. So it’s really important that you have friends, family, co-founders, people who will believe in you and cheer you on.”

3. Keep moving forward 

“What determines who becomes successful in my opinion is grit. It’s showing up, it’s not giving up and it’s the same when you start a company. There’s no reason we should have made it this far when you just look at the external circumstances because we didn’t have what it takes. But we did, because we worked hard and so can you.”

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