When Kate Shillo Beardsley is listening to pitches, she wants to hear passion. We all know mamas entrepreneurs have that in spades. But beyond passion, Kate knows that mamas have a huge amount of power as consumers. That’s why she believes now is the best time for moms to enter the market and solve needs that male investors haven’t ever fully considered.
What do you look for in the founders you choose to fund?
Tenacity is essential in anyone starting in new business. You have to be driven by something more than money to stick with your idea for years during all the ups and downs.
What should every pitch deck include?
There are dozens of pitch deck samples online for formatting ideas. I appreciate a founder who has illustrated detailed research on their competitive landscape (including market leaders, challengers, and also-ran businesses). I'll likely have access to the same competitor information, so I want to be sure that the founder is realistic about their opportunities to win in that space. I also like to see a detailed tech stack outline if they're building their own software platform.
What stage company are you currently investing in?
The earliest stage, Pre-Seed through Series A on the initial investment. Follow-on rounds can surpass Series A.
How much do you typically invest?
In pre-seed (pre-revenue, pre-traction, and pre-launch) $100K or so, depending on the terms of the round and stage of the business. It goes up from there.
Is there one common thread among all the successful businesses you've nurtured?
Market timing is the largest factor that cannot be manufactured. Businesses I've invested in, such as Warby Parker, Casper, and Buzzfeed, have become rocket ships overnight largely due to timing. Successful leadership teams utilized their business relationships, advisor and investor networks to the fullest potential. Investors by nature want to help; founders who keep all the information close to the vest limit their chances of success.
What are your top three tips for creating a pitch that stands out?
Be direct, be honest, be passionate. Professional investors review thousands of businesses a year — if your pitch lags on too long and doesn't get to the point, or isn't honest in your team's abilities/financials, those can be immediate non starters. Passion has to be in your DNA. I want to work with founders who will stop at nothing to create their dream, with and especially without my help.
What mistakes do you find mama founders are most apt to make while fundraising?
Mama founders tend to be realistic to a fault. Pragmatism is a fantastic quality to operate a business, run a household and be a terrific mother; however, when pitching investors, realism can be misconstrued as "thinking too small." Traditional large investment firms like to see massive industry disruptor concepts in billion dollar markets that can help return their funds. Mamas can sometimes be too honest about what they can do in the immediate future, which may make revenue projections appear meager. Dads/men often overstate their goals and financial projections. Since men are 90% of entrepreneurs pitching investors, overstated big ideas are what they are used to seeing. I'm not suggesting mamas should pitch like men, rather mamas should understand an investor's lens and how their ideas can be framed to meet a more positive reception. Mamas need to dream about how truly large their idea could be if they had all the money and opportunities at their fingertips.
How do women-owned businesses impact economic development within the larger community?
Women-owned businesses are exposing incredible opportunities in categories that haven't received much attention or disruption in the past. I'm thinking specifically of Lola, Rockets of Awesome (Rachel is a HeyMama Member) and Billie (Georgina is a new mother/female founder, full disclosure I'm an investor). Dads/men don’t directly experience the "problems" these companies aim to solve, and in turn aren’t as focused on solving these issues for consumers. This is where women and mamas can clean up!
Why is right now a great time to be a mama in business?
Mamas make the world go round. As of late, more and more businesses are waking up to the power that mamas have as consumers, business owners, and community builders. Technology has enabled anyone to work from home, on their own schedules, from remote parts of the globe and still have a viral impact. There are more resources now to support being a mama and a business owner than ever before. Networks like HeyMama are key to providing the ongoing support mothers need to grow all aspects of their lives.