‘It’s not just the investor choosing the company, it's also the company choosing the right investor'
Says Marie Joy Balmaceda-Dela Cruz, V.P of Partner Engagement & Co-founder of Sustansiya as she talks about her fundraising journey and shares some key insights for founders looking for investors. Read on.
NN: Tell us about your fundraising journey. How did you approach the process?
Joy: When we started the company, the idea was to improve the efficiency of poultry production in the Philippines. We started with our own funds and then pitched the concept to friends and family and we were able to raise an additional USD 75,000. And that's what started Sustansiya.
The first thing that we did was invest most of the funds we raised into putting in all the necessary documentation, taxes, and compliances so the legal framework was taken care of.
We started pitching to Manila Angels, and there was a lot of interest because we were first in the market. We raised USD 500,000 and further strengthened our processes and operations. That’s when the Dutch Good Growth Fund came into the picture, and the funding process took about three or four months because we had our books diligently done by our internal accountant, external accountants, and external auditors as well. So, when they were asking for all of our documentation, we were able to show proof of trade histories. We were able to show proof easily of all of our accounting practice, who our clients were etc.
NN: As a woman entrepreneur, what has been your experience with investors?
Joy: Actually, that is actually one of our strengths. When we raised the USD 500,000 fund, we were just a concept. We were not even operating yet. The investors believed in me and one of the conditions for them to give the fund was that I move to the Philippines and really manage the operation. The Dutch Good Growth Fund also considered the fact that ours was a woman-led business. I am the only one here in the Philippines, my business partner is in Ireland. I handle the operations, and the business development, and he does the finances. We basically work off each other's strengths.
NN: What would be your advice to other entrepreneurs who are starting their fundraising journey?
Joy: Well, the first thing is really understand what you want to do and where you want to be at a certain point in time for your business. I know it's easy to be led in a different direction but as a new business, you really have to stick to the direction you want to go into. And you always have to listen to yourself because you have to believe in your business and in your product more than anyone else.
Be confident about what you're trying to do and focus on it. And I just think that sometimes finding the right investor can be both ways. Are they the right investors for you?
Remember that the investor has to be someone who can bring you funds, but also more importantly can bring you the right network and the right people that can really contribute to the success of your business. Sometimes business owners get depressed when they don't get approved for funding. Don't be because not all investors are the right investors for your business.
Don't be shy in approaching investors. The worst thing they can say is no. And no means you did not lose anything at all because it doesn't change the fact that you're already an existing business. So just keep on trying. The people who say no to you sometimes tell you why they are saying no. So, focus on that and change and improve your business so that they can come back and say yes.
Make sure that your business has credibility, such as all the right documentation, and complies with all the regulations that are needed so that you’re your business can pass the due diligence that needs to be done during the investment process.
NN: What would you like to see as the future of fundraising for women entrepreneurs?
Joy: There’s a lot of interest in women-led businesses. And I think if we keep on this track, then definitely we will see more successes in the coming years. So, raising more awareness and I think continuously doing this will allow women to have better chances. I remember earlier whenever my business partner and I would go for meetings, because my business partner is Irish and white, and I'm of Filipino descent, people wouldn’t usually talk to me. They would always address my business partner and then talk to him first until they realized that my business partner didn't have any experience in operation or knowledge of the sector, in terms of strategy, it was all me. So, when they asked technical questions, and I would answer they realized that, okay, wait, they're co-founders and she's also, you know, she also leads the company. As a woman, in business, you have to be loud in letting everyone know that this is a woman-led business.
So, my only advice to women is: be loud about letting everyone know that, hey, I'm leading this business and I am as capable as any male counterparts. I think there's a lot of positive noise about women founders and if we continuously move forward in this direction, then it would help woman-led businesses a lot. Investors are becoming more sensitive and they now understand that woman-led businesses can actually be more successful if they're given the right help, given the right chance.
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