WTM London has recently shut its doors for 2017, and Women in Travel can count this as one of the most successful gatherings since our inception in 2014!
Having Entrepreneurship as a key focus clearly hit the nerves with attendees, females and men alike. This is not surprising as entrepreneurship has been the focus of much action, pushed by governments, supported by column inches and indeed ‘encouraged’ by a rather stagnant economy and, on the positive side, more widespread access to technology.
Even more so, access to funding appeared to be of interest to many. But what with gender and funds? In fact, we had two female founders and two male funders on the panel. This partly represents the state of things, in that investors are more often than not males (and not just within travel) – according to research out there. However, our female entrepreneurs had both gained access to funding in the past and one of them is currently going through a second round. As our male investors were quick to add, if the project is interesting and has substance, your background and gender bear absolutely no relevance. I can only hope this is the case!
The debate highlighted some important points to entrepreneurs:
- Confidence is key – you cannot persuade others to invest in your business if you do not believe in yourself as, especially at the beginning, much of the business rests on you!
- Investors need to understand the numbers and most of all be reassured that there is substance behind them. An all-singing-all-dancing financial plan you cannot back up or justify simply means nothing!
- Story telling is a critical part of your persuasion strategy. Investors want to hear your story and feel the passion. So do what you love and you cannot go wrong (almost)!
- As in most things, preparation is everything and you need to bring people with you. It is a lot easier to convince somebody who has already spoken to you, might have even said no to you at first, but knows you are serious, dedicated and committed. Go back to them, seek more feedback, and find a different angle. You may then get your breakthrough!
The inspiration continued throughout the afternoon with mentoring and networking. Thirty people had applied to be mentees but possibly sixty or more found themselves sitting around tables asking questions, seeking practical advice and getting up, close and personal with our ever so generous mentors!
As one of the mentors commented later on, it‘s both extremely rewarding and amazing to watch the level of energy and enthusiasm being displayed by up and coming entrepreneurs of all ages, gender and backgrounds.