Since deciding to embark on this journey together, we’ve both experienced different forms of sexism (implicit or otherwise). We are both women of color navigating an investor world that is predominantly male-dominated. While there is nothing wrong with that, there is definitely a double standard.
As co-founders, we rely heavily on our years of beauty industry experience. One deeply entrenched in the fragrance world and the other in color cosmetics and skincare. Combined, the two of us have over 30+ years of experience touching all things beauty. We also both received our master's degree in a program designed exclusively for executives in the beauty industry. Our knowledge of the industry, the trends, and the consumers are deep. We know what we know, and we know what consumers need.
One of our investor meetings ended up being a prospectus meeting for asking one of us out on a date. Another ended up where the offender told us that our concept was not going to raise significant capital or traction. He then sent a follow-up email to link us to some ugly pitch decks for us to mimic, telling us that this was industry standard. All the while, he’s never touched beauty or researched the industry, and thus had no benchmarks to make those statements. We’ve both had to go to these meetings and endure these conversations that were both uninformed and unprofessional.
We hypothetically joked about a situation where we thought we should (for fun, of course) hire a white man to pose as the founder of our brand and walk into these meetings with VCs and investors to see their reactions. We both agreed that without a doubt our actor would walk out of the meeting with the promise of a check rather than being asked out on a dinner date. The inherent respect that is bestowed upon men in the VC world when they initially walk into a meeting is not a privilege that women of color are given.
After these instances, we decided collectively that we would only go after funds and people who deeply aligned with our values and understand us as entrepreneurs and women of color. The people who signed checks needed to pass our chemistry test as well and be supportive, not just from a financial standpoint. Yes, it means it is harder for us to find those individuals but it also means that our brand’s DNA will never become diluted.
Gena & Marlene