As if it were not enough of a challenge being an entrepreneur, the segment I have chosen to be in brings along its own set of challenges. But, then I guess, it’s about how you manage and portray yourself that makes people take you seriously.
In the formal world of Investments and VCs, I have never faced challenges because of the stigma surrounding the product category I have chosen – lingerie. Although, in some cases it has been tough to explain my business, when a potential investor has found it hard to even say the ‘b’ word; that’s right, bra! Brassieres are my core business, and when a potential fund provider shies away from the term in itself, it’s a bit of a struggle carrying forward with the same enthusiasm that is there at the start.
As I am very candid about what I do and not ashamed of my business (I was termed “Bra queen of India” and still claim the title, and proudly so), my biggest personal challenge is dealing with the number of friend/connect requests I get from a lot of random men, who think it would be cool to write me silly jokes/ crass lines because of the business I am in! This has led me to lead a very private life on social media, where I have accounts that are accessible to only a select few and that is what I have come to prefer with time. If this is just yet another challenge common to women entrepreneurs, I’m not sure; however, it’s quite unsettling and disappointing.
The other challenge, of course has been funding. Considering the fact that most VCs are men, explaining essential and main points that are relatable hasn’t always been easy. Consequently, they either turn down the business plan or are too shy to be associated with a lingerie brand to begin with. This has been a deterrent for investors who may have liked the plan, but did not fund it because “what would people say”. Which is quite ludicrous if you ask me; – I’d think a business would be judged objectively on factors such as the feasibility of a plan, pros & cons of the business model, and the vision & skills of the aspiring businessman (or woman!).
Based on the pros & cons of the business model, the vision & skills of the aspiring businessman (or woman!), so on and so forth. Unfortunately, as my experiences in the recent past testify, this is not the case. The number of lost opportunities for obtaining funds owing to the attitudes of VCs in the industry is simply disheartening. I remember an incident where an investor sat through the presentation, said he loved the plan, but then said he would be too appalled and embarrassed to tell anyone he had invested in a lingerie company!
The challenges are lesser when you are professional about your business, no matter how taboo the subject. Of course, the fact that lingerie is not something to be embarrassed or awkward about, especially in today’s day and age, is an entirely different debate altogether. Further, the overall economic and business interests of women are at stake here!