Karen Holden is a self-confessed entrepreneur and disruptor with one aim: to help female entrepreneurs accelerate their business and/or secure investment. We caught up with Karen, a leading solicitor and founder of A City Law Firm to hear how she’s creating change through her Female Founders Growth programme.
What is your growth programme and why is roadmap to investment essential, why do female founders need it?
I set up my law firm 15 years ago which is now a listed legal 500 award winning practice. At the time there was no one I could go to who could explain how to set up a business, or the roadmap to follow. Over the last 5 years I’ve had a lot of women asking me so many questions about this: from what to do first through to business valuation and structure. They are not undertaking the investment rounds in the same way as men or asking for the same sums. I decided to create a roadmap to starting, scaling & securing investment that covers everything from pitch decks to investment and branding to tax advice and legals.
Is it an accelerator?
No! The programme isn't just about coaching or mentoring and it’s not an accelerator although the support is there. Instead, you'll have access to someone to help you action the many things you have to do to scale your business, the order you should be doing it in to get investment and make it work. We hold workshops on what that looks like in reality and what female founders should be thinking about along with 1-2-1 consultations. Every single part of your business journey is covered.
What are the main barriers for female founders?
As a business person, I've never considered my gender a ‘thing’. But from the women I’ve worked with, there can be a real lack of confidence and they are very uncomfortable speaking publicly and pitching. When I ask for speakers at my events it’s always the men who put their hand up. When I ask women to pitch, they don’t want to. At my last event we had 96 women and only seven put their hands up to pitch to our panel. How are we ever going to change the world if we don’t get up and do it? Women have created barriers unnecessarily and I want to help remove them but I’m going to look at doing things differently too so that their confidence can be built.
What about the gender gap in investment?
From my experience women don’t want to take on debt and they don’t know how to approach investors. The Gender Index findings show the lack of investment into female founders. And we know that in the UK, male founders received 6.2 x more investment than female founders.
But I come at it from a very different angle. Obviously there’s a disparity but I don’t necessarily think it’s men sitting there saying they don’t want to invest in women. There are a lot of people actively telling me they want to put money into female-led companies. And I believe if you have a good business plan, follow the roadmap, pitch well and have a scalable business you’ll succeed. There is a disconnect and I want to create the bridge across. I have already seen successes with many of my founders approaching it differently
What happens at your events, like the roadmap to investment coming up ?
We have over 50 partners: some take part in talks or workshops, others offer 1-to-1 sessions or host networking events. There’s, I believe, a lack of understanding about all the options available from debt financing to grants and the differences between angels and VCs, family offices and funders. To cover this, we have a proactive investment panel explaining the difference. Plus, what each of them are looking for, how you can secure funding and their feedback on founders decks. There’s also pitch opportunities to investors, including feedback how to best present yourself. It’s all practical advice: for example, unless you’ve hired a lawyer before you don’t know what to ask them, or what the fees should be. We cover all that and so much more.
Who should sign up?
Ideally you’ll already have some kind of grant or seed funding so there is money available to scale. You’ll also need to be able to dedicate the time and plan to be up and seeking growth or investment within 12 months. This isn’t something you dip in and out of. The programme is about doing it all in the right way with a clear end game
We’ve run events already and had a great reaction to the roadmap. To have everything outlined by someone who has no agenda is very enlightening for a lot of people. If you’re looking to rapidly grow and are seeking investment then apply.
Find out more about the Female Founders Growth Roadmap to Investment, taking place on 19 September 2023, here.