Anna Sofat was the founder and CEO of Addidi, a financial services boutique for women offering advice on financial planning, investment and wealth management.
Addidi set up the first business angel club for women to invest in small businesses (Addidi Angels) and local social projects (Addidi Pioneers). The business was unique as it offered a club-like hub, where women could collectively invest their money, sharing the risk, and being part of a team who all support each other.
- When did you start your business?
I set up the business, under a different name, in 2006. In 2007, I received private equity funding, and then launched as Addidi in March 2008.
- How did you go about turning your idea into a business?
I decided to focus on women because in 2008 there were more women millionaires under the age of 44 than men. And it’s a fact that women will own more than 50% of the wealth by 2025.
So there was (and is) a huge market, but it wasn’t being serviced by traditional financial services companies, banks, and investment companies. And to a large extent that’s still the case.
The second driver was what women actually want and need from their money, which made me consider how we could deliver a service beyond the average wealth management or advisory firm.
Working in the space for five years prior, I understood that although women want financial returns, they are not solely focused on that. They want to feel good about their money. Often they invest more sustainably than men. And there is lots of research to back that up.
There is also personal return, as well as the opportunity to deploy skills and experience for the benefit of others.
- Please can you tell us – in a nutshell – what your company did?
The core business provided financial planning and investment management. We also offered a financial concierge service, which pulled together a financial calendar and diary, so clients had all their documents in one place. The service offered support across a range of areas from selecting bank accounts to help with tax returns. It was basically a one stop shop for anything to do with money.
- What have been your biggest challenges?
In the early days, I spread myself too thinly. I have a rounded skill set and was turning my hand to lots of different areas. So the lesson was about letting go of things.
Fours years into running the business, I realised we weren’t growing as quickly as I had thought we would. We were ok, but not brilliant. I realised that I needed to step back and focus only on the core business. And that’s what I did. It was tough but for a year I lived and breathed the core business; I didn’t even go out networking!
The other challenge has been remaining faithful to my instincts. Business consultants have been instrumental in many ways, and very helpful, but on one occasion we let someone go upon their advice. I’m not sure it was the right decision. There’s a balance between following guidance and listening to that little voice inside of you!
- What have been the highlights?
Working with amazing clients from all walks of life, who really contributed to Addidi’s success. It’s been incredible to be their trusted advisor. Some of those relationships have become friendships and that’s been wonderful.
Also, as a small business owner, we had the amazing capacity to run with ideas. This is how the Addidi Inspiration Awards came about, which recognised five female entrepreneurs from history, championed by modern day female entrepreneurs. This delivered brilliant results and PR for us. I had the freedom to make it happen. It would have been a lot harder in a big corporate business.
- What one piece of advice would you give other female entrepreneurs?
Be clear about what you want your company to do, and establish what you want to get from it. My first business was in the 90s when my girls were young and I wanted to be flexible. With my second business I was more focused on growth. Each approach has merit, and no matter what size you are, you are contributing! Ignore societal expectations and pursue what is right for you.
- Have you received funding and, if so, how have you found the process?
Yes, I raised private equity funding back in 2007. I was introduced to two people whose business ended up becoming partners. Their business invested a lump sum and took a share of the business in return. The process was relatively easy, but I do think I was lucky. At the time it was great, as I received the money and some infrastructure. I bought them out at a later date.
- Regarding The Gender Index, why do you feel it’s important to get access to this information and how might it help female business leaders in general?
The data is really important because it shines a light on the situation. Without it it’s difficult to know what the issues are. I started Addidi Angels in response to statistics I read about women’s wealth, which revealed that very few women were investing in small businesses. Less than five % of female angel investors were female.
Without data you can’t solve problems! You can’t impact policy and you can’t measure progress. It’s important not just for women, but for men and politicians to be able to make informed decisions. And for women, I hope it acts as encouragement and incentive to start and grow companies.
- Has mentoring and/or access to support networks helped you? And if so, how?
Networks have been fantastic for Addidi in lots of ways. Certainly for name awareness among women. I’ve worked mostly with business consultants and in hindsight think I could have benefited from a mentor. I would recommend that all female entrepreneurs get themselves a mentor. I’ve also had coaching, which plays a different, but equally valuable, role. They are often needed at different points. Coaches can help through a transition and mentors have often been there and done it!
I think we all need a little black book of people that we can help, and that can help us. If nothing else, we can meet for a drink and off load.
- What more, if anything, would you like to see done to encourage and support more women in business?
I would like the Government to mandate that a percentage of all their procurement is from female majority led businesses. In the US, this was a game changer. The knock-on effect was positive as it encouraged companies to bring in more women as shareholders and gave certain female-owned businesses a competitive advantage .
We need to lobby our Government to do the same! It should be part of their diversity programme.