#358: Bridging the Gap Between Women Entrepreneurs and Finance with Nicole Denholder

#358: Bridging the Gap Between Women Entrepreneurs and Finance with Nicole Denholder

Our Guest Mentor: 

NICOLE DENHOLDER is the Founder of Next Chapter Ventures, where they are redefining partnerships for Female Entrepreneurs, Investors and Partners. She is also an advisor to female entrepreneurs and a regular speaker on investing and crowdfunding. After successfully founding the Next Chapter Crowdfunding platform, she has recently launched Next Chapter Raise – a digital community connecting female founders and the investor community and financial institutions. 

Nicole is currently based out of Hong Kong. 

Key Quotes from the Episode: 

[On building a business] “So when I talk capital, I really talk about crowdfunding, grants, revenue-based financing, angel investment, as well as equity, because, building a business is a journey and you should be looking at, okay, what’s my business, what’s my revenue goals, your path to profitability, things like this. But you should also be thinking about what kind of sources of external capital could boost me along the way to increase my chances of success?” [04:17] 

[On career advice] “It really is, just do it. Don’t overthink, particularly if you’re starting businesses. Obviously, you have to go out and do a lot of research, but, definitely early advice was if you’ve got a great idea to do it. Time passes fast. And I think the other thing that suddenly another piece of advice I’ve had more recently is, reach out more for help. I think it’s very easy not to maybe leverage connections or interact with people that, when you ask for help. Have a good ask there. So that’s certainly something I’m trying to improve at.”  [15:04] 

[On crowdfunding] “Crowdfunding is not just a funding exercise. It’s also a marketing exercise. And through that, what you’re learning is because many businesses, when they crowdfund, what they’re doing is it’s effectively pre-sales. They’re predominantly product-based and they’re looking at fundraising so that they can go out and produce the product in larger quantities. And then you ship them to, whoever’s signed up through the campaign.” [17:29] 

[On innovation] “And for companies looking to innovate, I’ve talked about this on a panel recently and in some conversations, is that, often it’s looking into smaller companies and seeing what they’re doing, looking for opportunities. I think there’s huge growth in female entrepreneurship coming ahead of us and, looking at where they’re driving their product development, the way that they’re selling. Selling to female consumers, there’s a whole art around that.” [19:26] 

[On partnerships] “I would say to that, for startups, they’re always looking for partnerships. When you’re a small business, the quickest way to grow is through partnerships. So there’s always that ability to exchange of information, knowledge, customer base on one side. There’s a lot there that could be done. That’s a win-win for both sides.” [21:12] 

Key Points from the Episode: 

  • Women and Entrepreneurship, some baby steps to take to improve the chances of success & where Finance professionals can particularly help 
  • How to adjust our lenses to try and help balance the diversity in investment and business 
  • Challenges and Opportunities for women entrepreneurs & finance professionals 
  • What is FemTech and the current innovations emerging from it. 

Stamped Show Notes 

[02:48] Nicole gives a quick introduction to her career journey 

[05:35] Nicole answers how the audience can readjust their lenses to try and help balance the diversity in investment and business 

[07:33] Nicole discusses some of the best baby steps women can take to improve their chances of success 

[9:48] Nicole details some information about what FemTech does 

[11:07] Nicole share innovations she has seen in FemTech 

[12:09] Nicole expounds more on her statement about literacy on finance and investment 

[15:04] Nicole mentions the best advice she has ever received 

[16:18] Resources that Nicole recommends 

[18:49] Nicole mentions where to connect with her 

[19:10] Nicole gives her parting thoughts for the audience 

Resources Mentioned: 

Website:  http://www.nextchapterraise.com/  

FemTech: https://femtechcollective.com/  

Connect with today’s guest: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-denholder-9ab117aa/  

Full Transcript: 

[00:00:00]  

[00:00:30] Andrew: Hi everyone. And welcome to this week’s Strength in the numbers, really excited to share with you. Today’s guest mentor, Nicole Denholder, and Nicole is founder of next chapter ventures. And the fantastic thing about having Nicole on the show is she was really at the intersection connecting female founders and entrepreneurs. 

[00:00:48] Finance, the investor, community, financial institutions, finance professionals, and so on. Now a lot of us are becoming more familiar about the diversity agenda and the impact. It can have positively on the bottom line performance of our organizations. So we have an interesting conversation where we go in. 

[00:01:05] Women in entrepreneurship, some baby steps that can be taken to improve the chances of success there and also where finance professionals can particularly help in that matter and improving the chances of success. We also discuss how. More of us can adjust our lenses to try and help balance the diversity we see in the investments being made as well as business in general, we also list out the challenges and opportunities for females. 

[00:01:34] Both entrepreneurs, but also female finance professionals as well. And go into what I think is a fascinating area that’s growing at the moment is Femtech . Nicole helps describe for us what it is, the current innovations coming out of it and how we can perhaps get involved. So look really interesting, fascinating topics. 

[00:01:54] Today’s conversation really want to thank Nicole again for making her time available. She’s based over in Hong Kong. So I know it was a 

[00:02:01] very late conversation to have in the day, so really appreciate it doing it. And if you do want to find out more about Nicole, how best to connect with her detailed times, I’m show notes and more you can find out at sitnshow.com 

[00:02:14] we also really appreciate it. When you recommend the show to your friends and colleagues, you can subscribe in all the major platforms, iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon music. And I think that’s enough for me for now. So without further ado, over to Nicole and the show.  

[00:02:29] Nicole. Welcome to the show.  

[00:02:36] Nicole: Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be on today. 

[00:02:39] Andrew: It was great to catch up again, have a conversation and share you with our audience.  

[00:02:43] Some of our audience might not be as familiar with your background. So would you mind maybe sharing a quick introduction to your career journey to where you got where you are now?  

[00:02:52] Nicole: Sure. So I’m Nicole Denholder. I’m the founder of Next Chapter Ventures and I actually have a career back with PricewaterhouseCoopers where I worked in the IPO space in the management consulting area. And just based on that, I did that in London, although I’m originally from Australia, did that in London. And Hong Kong where I’m now based.  

[00:03:12] And after that, for a variety of reasons, I decided I wanted to really look at entrepreneurship around female founders, particularly supporting women to access capital. And so what I did is I started with a rewards-based crowdfunding platform. And from that, I’ve now built a second business, which is called Next Chapter Raise, which is all membership and programs on helping women learn about capital, access to capital, and network with different people. 

[00:03:41] Andrew: There’s a good part in there, Nicole. Why did you feel the need to go into this space? Was something not being done, or was there something that could be done better? 

[00:03:49] Nicole: Yeah. Well, there’s lots. Unfortunately statistics haven’t changed that much over the past years where less than 3% of venture capital goes to women. And around 7% of investment partners at VC firms are female. And you’re seeing that women start with 50% less capital. They raise slower, they raise less money. So you have some dire statistics there. And then also when you look at some of the lending statistics, it’s not as great news for women as well. So when I talk capital, I really talk about crowdfunding, grants, revenue-based financing, angel investment, as well as equity, because, building a business is a journey and you should be looking at, okay, what’s my business, what’s my revenue goals, your path to profitability, things like this. But you should also be thinking about what kind of sources of external capital could boost me along the way to increase my chances of success? 

[00:04:47] Andrew: That’s like the pinnacle where finance is trying to get to at the moment, Nicole. There’s a lot of accountants and finance professionals listing in a leader. So you’ve got great governance processes, so they know what’s going on, what has to happen, what has happened. But it’s about that sort of guidance of helping people position themselves for success into the future. 

[00:05:05] I’m still scratching my head as to those statistics because I remember when we started doing the podcast, a really good friend of mine, we were talking about diversity and what we wanted to see in our finance team. They were a bit more representative of our customer base. And when you throw out those numbers, they are so low. There’s no way the level of investment is flowing to proportionate elements of our global population, male, female, and so on. What’s stemming the flow there, Nicole? What’s perhaps holding it back? Where could our audience start to maybe readjust their lenses to try and help it get a bit more balanced?  

[00:05:38] Nicole: Yeah. If you just look from an institutional perspective, if you take America as one example, under the Small Businesses Act, up until 1988, women could not get a loan to a certain amount, I think it was 50,000 US dollars, without a male guarantee. So you actually have some that’s institutional 

[00:05:53] Andrew: Institutional. 

[00:05:54] Nicole: Bias that’s there. So what you’re seeing is that women are playing catch up to a degree. So the timeframe they’re moving in is shorter. There’s a lot of research around networks, and that men have more established networks and women just don’t seem to have those networks. And if you look at two of the main ways that deals are sourced, one is through warm referrals, which means you’ve got an active network and you’re being put in front of money effectively. And if women aren’t getting into those warm referrals cycles, then they’re not in front of VCs. The way you sometimes hear this term. We don’t need a lot of women to invest in. It’s a fair point. And I think that there’s some. Often isn’t discrimination. It’s definitely what someone feels and that’s fine. Reality. Sometimes it’s the cycle around getting women in front of investors isn’t working. And that’s one of the things that we’re trying to look at. It’s how do we provide alternative ways for women to be seen building amazing companies and having the knowledge around what they need to do to look at their revenue, to look at the capital opportunities, to build fantastic businesses that have growth potential. 

[00:06:56] Andrew: You just reminded me of a story. I remember I had a lady on my team and I remember helping her launch her business. It was a chutney business. She made the most amazing chutney and she made us loads of jars, and I said, you really should set up a business around this. And so she did. 

[00:07:10] I just found though that she wasn’t thinking big enough for it. Maybe lack of confidence or something. I don’t know. Great product. Or maybe it was just that knowledge. Great companies are never dawn on one person on their own. It’s a network. It’s people around you helping you be successful. And being pointed in the right direction and so on and helped along the way. 

[00:07:28] But if someone’s got a great idea in finance or any part of the business, what’s the sort of the best baby steps they can take, Nicole, to improve their chances of success?  

[00:07:37] Nicole: Yeah. What we often hear, if you look at certainly from an investment angle, and I think this really applies generally, when you’re starting a business, it’s looking at product market fit. That is fundamental. Do you understand the problem enough? Do you have the right solution that there is growth opportunities because yes, he might get 50 sales or a hundred sales or a small amounts of sales, but is there the opportunity to grow that to a point that, actually for a business, whether you want external equity or not, you don’t always want to live as a startup. What you want to do is build a thriving business that pays bills, gives you a nice lifestyle, has staff.  

[00:08:10] Andrew: Yeah.  

[00:08:11] Nicole: That’s a great goal. And then obviously there’s opportunities for some companies to go further, be bigger and have that scale. And so part of whatever of those two goals you’re targeting, part of it’s the product market fit from day one. 

[00:08:25] And are you doing the right research and testing of your products or your services and pivoting fast enough to see that they work and that there really is an opportunity here for the business. Versus, oh, I’m really interested in this and I love it and let me try it. Actually you really need to do some testing. 

[00:08:42] I heard a great concept. There’s a lady out here in Hong Kong. Diana David and she was chatting to me how she used to do decision trees, where, you’re doing your decision tree making and it’s, if I can get X customers by Y, then this is a go, if not then, you know. And I think some of that needs to be done in the early stages. 

[00:08:59] It’s tough, particularly if you’re really interested in what you’re doing and obviously making some cold, hard decisions is not fun. 

[00:09:07] Andrew: Yeah. That’s a really good concept that actually a lot of our audience can relate to. And that’s where I think they can offer a lot of help to female entrepreneurs and any entrepreneurs. As well as that decision trees, the testing of assumptions. But regardless, if the business is there to go in and scale, or if it’s just a more of a lifestyle business. Product market fit, as you said, is key. It’s testing those assumptions.  

[00:09:28] I was going to read an article at the weekend about this as well. A lot of people skim over it and if it’s done, that’s where you see a lot more businesses, female-run businesses as well, be successful. And actually I really enjoyed what’d you mentioned earlier about off-air about the FemTech. 

[00:09:43] That really excites me because the potential there and the opportunities that might come at you on a FemTech panel today, you were saying, and what sort of things are you guys covering there? 

[00:09:51] Nicole: Yes, we’ve done a few things on FemTech and there’s an organization called the FemTech Collective that are jointly run out of Australia and the U S. I was invited today to talk more around on a panel that was touching the whole weeks around fundraising. So one of the panelists was touching around crowdfunding and angel investment and VC. And it’s great because actually I think tech is a huge industry that covers obviously health, but it covers, financial instances around women. It covers the family. It covers technology on products that serves that market. When we think FemTech, I think we think very streamlined on a couple of areas, but it’s a huge industry and we were chatting today how it’s really untapped and there’s a lot of women looking into this, but the money’s not there yet. The investment money hasn’t moved there yet. I’m hopeful it will because some of the businesses coming out are creating phenomenal products.  

[00:10:39] Andrew: Yeah, some of those businesses that you see coming out with the move to more flexible working practices, I just don’t think the male mindset is that tuned in on how to adapt to some of the social changes that have been happening. We’re probably too focused on business, in our roles. Astute CFOs, finance leaders should be scanning the market because it could be the next big digital model or it could be the next level of investment to compliment existing products, traditional products into newer, digital worlds, and the FemTech. What sort of cool innovations are you seeing?  

[00:11:10] Nicole: Yeah. There’s one out of Australia, that’s in the AI space all around related to female specific cancers and building solutions around that. And, they’ve already taken quite a lot of investment. They’re on a big growth trajectory. Seeing that, I talked to other organizations and actually there’s three fantastic organizations across Asia that are all in the FemTech space, looking at the unbanked area looking a lot, particularly at servicing women in terms of lending or cards or other types of needs. And you’re seeing a lot of women taking the challenge out there. And in that space, they are getting investment because there is an opportunity there. 

[00:11:49] Andrew: Great points. I’m curious to see how they develop, Nicole. It sounds like some really cool innovations. And another thing that I feel, from our conversations previously, that we’re perhaps overlooking a bit in the finance world is I think it comes back to assumptions. Just because someone’s may be financially literate doesn’t necessarily mean they’re investment literate. 

[00:12:08] I think you make a great point when you say but would you mind maybe expanding down a bit more for our audience?  

[00:12:12] Nicole: Yeah it’s a really important topic. Next Chapter is a program where looking at fundraising support. And so the business models are in place and it’s really just an education platform there in terms of chatting about what’s involved in due diligence and, what would you be talking to lawyers about. Really building up the knowledge so that those female founders can go out and have an equal seat at the table and be driving discussions. They’re part of that. And storytelling is very important when you’re looking for money. 

[00:12:39] When we look at talking around the financial information sessions that we run, part of that there’s I think a good understanding of business literacy, financial literacy around business that might not be in the right format or, you might have some questions around that, but ultimately there’s an understanding of that. It is often just maybe comes down to presentation. 

[00:12:58] Okay, but how do I transition them from that financial literacy into investment literacy? So what’s the information investors are looking for in terms of assessing my business outside of some of probably, the main indicators, what else are they looking for? What’s the best way to present this, looking at use of funds, your investment ask, the way you’re going to manage the cash, different scenarios, all of this understanding multiples and valuation models and all of these that fall out of more in that investment literacy space, I would say. But obviously, if you’re an investor, this is what you do regularly. You understand those concepts and you understand probably some of the tangents that are linked to that. 

[00:13:38] But if you’re new to a lot of terminology, you read them and go, is that what it means? You don’t realize that maybe, but also it reflects this, there’s a lot of missing in either like terminology dictionaries, which we provide. So we talked through a lot of this, so we’ve got that confidence. 

[00:13:51] I don’t want to say confidence. It’s knowledge, that’s pinpointed into a point in time, which is around, you’ve got your how to run your business, run your financials. Now, how do we reflect that into talking to investors and what are some of the things you might need after investment? 

[00:14:05] Because obviously there’s a lot of financial management that has to happen after that. 

[00:14:10] Andrew: Hundred percent. It was one of the biggest eye-opening experience in my own career in finance, working in private equity. And then getting a phone call being asked, did I want to repay a 1.8 billion Sterling loan? And it’s just like, what? Repay? Of course, I didn’t realize it was on a revolving facility. Of course. Like I, you understand all this terminology, but that application of that knowledge, maybe we call it wisdom. I didn’t have that wisdom at the time. And so what you’re doing is obviously amazing is short-cutting that path to wisdom because it’s all about applied knowledge and can really help move the agenda. So I’m just saying there’s a great opportunity there for folks access your services. But also as finance professionals sometimes we don’t know it all. We might have come across it in our studies, but that application of the knowledge, sometimes you need a bit of help ourselves.  

[00:14:56] So again, Nicole, thanks for pointing out some areas of opportunity there. Now look, you’ve been giving us great advice throughout this conversation. I’m curious though, what’s been the best bit of advice you’ve ever received? 

[00:15:08] Nicole: It really is, just do it. Don’t overthink, particularly if you’re starting businesses. Obviously you have to go out and do a lot of research, but, definitely early advice was if you’ve got a great idea to do it. Time passes fast. And I think the other thing that suddenly another piece of advice I’ve had more recently is, reach out more for help. 

[00:15:26] I think it’s very easy not to maybe leverage connections or interact with people that, when you ask for help. Have a good ask there. So that’s certainly something I’m trying to improve at.  

[00:15:36] Andrew: Yeah. I’m actually trying to improve at both of those, Nicole. So you do it better than me, but I would say it’s it’s funny doing the podcasting. I find it very easy to ask for help on behalf of other people. So when I reach out to guest mentors like yourself and so on, asking on behalf of an audience, to share your insights. Not for mine, oh, I’m gaining like vicariously or just by having a chat, I’m gaining so much personally myself. And then I’m going to stereotype or generalize a bit. I know we’re not all like this as finance professionals, but we can be a bit analytical.  

[00:16:07] So your advice, just do it. Even if that helps us move something a bit faster, that’s going to be so impactful for people. So thank you. Thank you for sharing that.  

[00:16:16] And then I suppose, are there any sort of resources, books, documentary things you find useful, you might want to share with our audience?  

[00:16:21] Nicole: At the moment, I’m reading a lot of books on this venture capital, understanding different strategies, different insights from different types of investors. It was interesting today, I mentioned I was at this FemTech collective panel and, there were different investors on it. 

[00:16:34] And actually they had very different views. That they either needed to deploy money or the way that they were researching and contacting founders. There was some differences there. And I think that’s really useful because, when you talk about looking for funding, you need to understand the type of investors that would be right for your business, whether that’s industry market-driven type of business, B2B, B2C. 

[00:16:56] So I’m deep in those books at the moment. I think next will be probably sales and marketing. You can never, ever learn enough about that. I think everyone needs to find this sweet spot on what works for them. That takes time. 

[00:17:08] Andrew: Yeah. 

[00:17:08] Finance and sales and marketing. This initial like sucked in a breath, but it’s actually a really key area. It doesn’t necessarily mean we need to be doing it ourselves per se. Just understanding it. So we know how we like to buy and how we like to be sold, and vice versa for other people. 

[00:17:22] We’re not all cut off the same cloth. 

[00:17:23] Nicole: Yeah, what I found interesting is working with the crowdfunding. Crowdfunding the platform, working with a large number of women running campaigns there. Crowdfunding is not just a funding exercise. It’s also a marketing exercise. And through that, what you’re learning is because many businesses, when they crowdfund, what they’re doing is it’s effectively pre-sales. They’re predominantly product-based and they’re looking at fundraising so that they can go out and produce the product in larger quantities. And then you ship them to, whoever’s signed up through the campaign. And what you find through that is it’s often that their first business. The first product they’ve developed. And the first time they’ve had to market something and make a sale on it. 

[00:18:03] And what you quickly work out is have I defined my customers very clearly. Where do they live online? Because particularly crowdfunding is a digital sales exercise. You don’t want to be in the print. You want them to be able to do as few clicks as possible. And so what you’re going through that is, businesses have slightly, you do need to really think about where your customer is and what they’re thinking about. And that’s something that I’ve definitely taken away. Crowdfunding is very different to a membership model and the way you market those is very different again. 

[00:18:31] And so it is so nuanced in terms of thinking through your audience and the delivery of the product to the timing of the product and all of that comes across the business, right? Because it’s intertwined. 

[00:18:43] Andrew: Yeah, I c ouldn’t agree more. So look, we’ll put some of the links that you mentioned to those books into the show notes. Nicole, if our audience wish to continue the conversation, where’s the best place to connect with you at?  

[00:18:52] Nicole: So if you go on to NextChapterRaise.com is where all the information about our programs are, and you can easily contact us through them. It’s got links to all of our social media as well. 

[00:19:04] Andrew: Fantastic. And Nicole, obviously you’ve been a great guest, really thank you for sharing fantastic insights. But before we let you go, are there any parting thoughts you’d like to give to our audience?  

[00:19:14] Nicole: I think knowing that it’s more of a CFOs and in the finance space, I think, for businesses, I know you might be sitting within the businesses, but there are a lot of untapped fantastic  

[00:19:25] Andrew: Yeah.  

[00:19:26] Nicole: female-led businesses out there. There are big growth markets. And for companies looking to innovate, I’ve talked about this on a panel recently and in some conversations, is that, often it’s looking into smaller companies and seeing what they’re doing, looking for opportunities.  

[00:19:40] I think there’s huge growth in female entrepreneurship coming ahead of us and, looking at where they’re driving their product development, the way that they’re selling. Selling to female consumers, there’s a whole art around that. We had a masterclass with an expert from Singapore on that recently sharing with all our members. Okay, how do you market to female consumers? And I do think that there’s a lot of untapped opportunities. So depending where you sit within your business, you might be talking to the people in innovation or looking at strategy or, brainstorming ideas. And I think tap into female-led entrepreneur communities, you could find some really interesting panels, events, and companies that will be up and coming. 

[00:20:17] Andrew: I love that advice. And you just reminded me again of something. I remember taking an excursion with other finance leaders. As a smaller business, we were a multinational. I took them to a smaller business to just ask that business questions about how they operated their markets and you just see the light bulbs going off in the finance leaders minds. 

[00:20:36] It’s oh my God, like this really opened up their ideas. Innovation. There was a local business here. So it was good for the local business because they grew their network. More people knew about their brand. It could open up to new customers. And then these finance leaders learned about new ways of doing things. What the latest thinking was. We’re able to bring some of their ideas back in, and I’m just trying to think now, given that this is more virtual, Nicole. As long as people can arrange a Zoom or a Teams call or something like that, it’s much more easier to do and facilitate. 

[00:21:04] You’re not relying onpeople coming down to a specific location anymore. So I think our audience really could follow up on that device quite easily and it’d be very powerful for them. So thanks for recommending it. 

[00:21:16] Nicole: I would say to that, for startups, they’re always looking for partnerships. When you’re a small business, the quickest way to grow is through partnerships. So there’s always that ability to exchange of information, knowledge, customer base on one side. There’s a lot there that could be done. 

[00:21:30] That’s a win-win for both sides. 

[00:21:32] Andrew: I love that. What a great way to end the show, on a win-win. Nicole, thank you so much for coming at Strength In The Numbers today. 

[00:21:38] Yeah.  

[00:21:38] Nicole: Thank you very much for having me. It was a huge pleasure to be invited and to be here. Thank you. 

[00:21:44]  

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