“We need a more inclusive mindset when it comes to making investments as a limited world view inevitably result in missed opportunities”
Farah Kabir, Co-Founder at HANX
Farah Kabir is Co-Founder of sexual wellness challenger brand, HANX. A former Goldman Sachs investment banking professional, Farah leads on fundraising and sales within the business. She is passionate about smashing taboos around sex, pleasure and intimate health, and challenging bias against female founders in the fundraising landscape. In February 2022, she was invited to take part in a 10 Downing Street roundtable on disparities in women’s healthcare in ethnic minorities.
How have you found the fundraising journey?
We’re currently at Seed stage, however, we don’t like putting labels on funding stages. The definitions are so different for everyone and it encourages unhealthy comparison. Our fundraising journey was never going to be the norm, as a female-founded and led DTC focused brand in a taboo sector: sexual wellness. We’ve encountered outdated attitudes from VCs who weren’t willing to take a chance on two ‘little girls’ who had no background in the condom industry whatsoever. I’ve been told I don’t understand how valuation works, despite my background in investment banking, and even was sexually propositioned in a pitch. It all just makes us more determined to find our people who get us and the opportunity for HANX – and we’ve built a passionate community of Angel investors, male and female, some of whom were actually among our first customers.
Why do you think the fundraising gap is so wide?
Currently, female founders and especially so women of colour, are coming up against a specific idea of what a ‘successful founder’ looks like: white, male, innovating in SAAS or B2B tech. This is a real problem, especially in a post-COVID world. We’re seeing unprecedented creativity and ingenuity emerging here in the UK, with more new all-women-led companies starting in the last 12 months than ever before. I find it especially encouraging that the biggest leap was among 16-25 year olds - the next generation of entrepreneurs are already making moves! However, unless you are innovating in a trendy, tech-focused sector, fit that established stereotype of a bankable founder and have warm connections to VCs, most firms will not give you the time of day. When VC investments are led by predominantly white, middle aged men with a very specific life experience, it’s unlikely that they’ll see a huge opportunity and value in businesses and entrepreneurs who deviate from that. I’ve been told in pitches that ‘women don’t buy condoms’, when our own data, and experiences dating, prove the exact opposite.
What do you think needs to happen to close the female fundraising gap?
I’d love to see more women, especially women of colour, in decision-making roles in VC. We need a more inclusive mindset when it comes to making investments as a limited world view inevitably results in missed opportunities, especially if they aren’t personally relevant to decision makers. I’d also like to see less reports and more tangible action and accountability from investment firms. It’s easy to highlight dire statistics on the lack of funding for female founders, but harder to make the commitment to create tangible change within institutions.
What advice would you offer to other female founders in the beauty investment space?
Know the opportunity inside out. Beauty and wellness is a crowded space, so you need to be able to prove the value of your idea and its uniqueness versus competitors – and if there are no competitors, why your offering is a solid contender for hotly contested space in consumers’ beauty bags. Research the market, understand if there are many other players doing this already and build your own data bank. When we had the idea for HANX, we surveyed over 2000 women about what they really wanted from condoms, and used their responses to prove the case for a new female-focused brand in the market. Those 2000 women went on to become our early adopters when we launched the product, and some even came on board as Angel investors.
The Lip Gloss Gap is a series by The Red Tree shining a light on the role that the beauty industry plays in closing the female fundraising gap. The series will feature interviews with founders and fundraisers which will be released monthly. We invite you to share your experiences as we continue the conversation.
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