Ladies Who Launch: Entrepreneurs Offer Pitch-Perfect Advice

By Maghan McDowell
San Francisco Chronicle.

From stationery to hair color to throw pillows, female-focused brands might seem like the hot new investment.

But the market is no bubble; it’s here to stay, and it’s growing.

Although the startup scenario is still often a female entrepreneur pitching a male investor, the power of the purse strings is increasingly attracting attention because, as it turns out, there is major money to be made.

And as more women pitch their ideas, more investors — regardless of gender — are willing to say yes.

That was a major talking point at a recent panel discussion organized by Palo Alto’s Norwest Venture Partners, “Building a Women-Focused Brand Online,” at the Battery in San Francisco.

Women account for up to 72 percent of household discretionary budgets in the United States, according to Michael J. Silverstein, co-author of “Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market.”

Since the book’s publication in 2009, what Silverstein calls “the female economy” has only grown. “It is recognized widely as a source of brand development and regard,” Silverstein said in an e-mail. “Women are the CFO at home … and they will continue to grow as a buying force as income disparities between men and women narrow.”

But when you’re shilling shapewear (see local startup Ruby Ribbon), it’s not always easy to convey the value to the dude across the table. How to get the job done?

Here’s advice from a few local women leading the charge.

A former venture capitalist, Errett has been on both sides of the table.

When considering whether to invest in a company, she looked at market, product and people — especially the last one. “Almost every company has failed or succeeded based on people,” says Errett, who launched her at-home hair color startup in 2013.

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