Posted Tuesday 11th April 2023
I am very fortunate that the work I do to assist female founders, who are raising capital or selling their businesses, gives me a glimpse into their world. My enthusiasm for this insight reached new levels at an event called Building a Female-Led Sustainable Brand, hosted by Joanna Dai, an ex-investment banker and founder of innovative womenswear brand Dai. In an industry which is notoriously bad for the planet, Joanna has built a company where sustainability is not a bolt-on strategy – it is built-in. In October 2020 the company became a Certified B Corporation – with an incredible Overall B Impact Score of 97.4. Jessica Warchiwker, a co-founder of Kimaï which produces jewellery using recycled gold and lab grown diamonds, also spoke at the event. It was fantastic to learn about their experience of running their businesses – including the highs of The Duchess of Sussex wearing Kimaï earrings and a broadsheet journalist writing about how she had found ‘the perfect’ trousers from Dai. My share certificate issued by Joanna Dai Limited is now a prized possession – eagerly waiting to be joined by a piece of Kimaï jewellery (once I can make a decision about which piece I’d like the most).
It occurred to me recently that women are side-stepping the glass-ceiling by starting their own businesses. Vivien Wong, co-founder of Little Moons, spoke at one of Joelson’s Founder’s Fireside events about the flexibility that running your own business can offer women.
I was on the team that advised Little Moons on the significant minority investment by L Catterton, the largest global consumer-focused private equity firm. I had direct contact with both Co-Founders (also siblings), Vivien and Howard, throughout. It was a pleasure working with both and it was so interesting to experience the considered way in which they worked together as a team. I was also able to witness the style in which Vivien approached decision-making, how she communicated and the way she showed her appreciation. The Little Moons transaction opened my eyes to a new way of doing business. Vivien also spoke at the event about how she thinks all women should run their own businesses because they are such fantastic problem solvers and that is what running a business involves. These words replay in my mind each time I see women in any environment exercising what I previously overlooked as ‘being helpful’ and now instead recognise to be powerful problem-solving skills.
The Wall Street Journal’s podcast interview with the co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, Jennifer Y. Hyman, is an unbelievable account of problem-solving. In response to Covid-19, customers started cancelling subscriptions and Jennifer responded by changing the company’s business model and successfully renegotiating contract terms with most of the company’s 800 partners. In the face of adversity, Rent the Runway became the first company with an all-female leadership team to list on a public market. Possibly my favourite part about this story was that Jennifer’s daughter, who was four at the time, watched her mother ring the bell at the NASDAQ and then told her that “it’s not fair that only girls get to run companies. Why shouldn’t boys do it too?”.
Clearly, representation is important – but so is language. I once asked a female work experience student to look up section 157(1) of the Companies Act 2006. If for some peculiar reason you don’t know this provision by heart, it reads: ‘A person may not be appointed a director of a company unless he has attained the age of 16 years.’ She was 16. My aim was to amuse her by showing her that she could legally be the director of a company. Instead, she read the words out loud and then said: “so only boys can be directors?”. I tried to control my panic as I explained that in the Companies Act, unless the contrary intention appears, words importing the masculine gender include the feminine. How could she have possibly not have realised that? Joking aside – looking back, I wish I had had the experience I now have to show her the cultural revolution that female founders are driving.
I was up a ladder one Saturday, cutting in along the ceiling just like my mother taught me, when I first heard Angela Scott mention “a woman’s movement” on a podcast episode of the Female Startup Club. Angela Scott is the Founder, CEO and Designer of the luxury footwear brand: The Office of Angela Scott. She echoed my thoughts when she said “I do believe that there is a renaissance upon us. That there is this movement happening and I am really excited for it”. She spoke of women supporting women, rather than competing with each other, of the flexibility required to allow women to be CEO’s and mothers and of communities investing more in women. It all sounded like such a different way of doing business – and I felt that difference when I was acting on the sale of the Mallow & Marsh.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of this blog.
This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.