This week hosts Susan and Will chat with guest Andrea Henry, a business lawyer who is passionate about helping women entrepreneurs get to that 7-figure goal.
What do they discuss?
✔️The barriers facing women business owners when it comes to getting funding for growth
✔️The lack of value funders put on intellectual property here in Canada
✔️How women can be better structuring their business to be more attractive to potential funders
Here’s an interesting stat:
Only 2% of women owned businesses reach the 1 million mark in annual revenue; whereas businesses owned by men are 3.5 times more likely to do so.
Andrea wants to change that.
Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:
Will: We do know that the Canadian government, the federal government launched a program last year, a hundred million dollar program funding for small businesses owned by females. It’s called the Woman Entrepreneurship Fund. So to me that sounds fantastic. They realized there’s a need for this. They’re investing 100 million set up this fund. They have the goal of doubling the number of women owned businesses by 2025 which would add 10% to the national GDP. So this all sounds great, but Andrea, we were talking earlier and you were telling us from your experience with your clients, this program just isn’t enough.
Andrea: Well, I think it’s a wonderful idea and I’m thrilled that the government understands that in supporting women owned business, there are certainly just going to help the whole country. You mentioned the 10% of the national GDP. When you empower women and allow them to have access to economic activity, you do better for the whole country. But in speaking to clients who’ve been trying to access funding, whether it’s government funding or other funding, there seems to be a disconnect between the funding that’s available and the types of businesses that people want to run. And so I have a client who is over a million dollars a year in revenue, has been for several years, has very good financials, but can’t get funded because the assets are all intellectual property, right? Is her brand and is her reputation. And so the funding to me seems to be a lot more, you know, traditional, right? So if you’ve got assets that they can hold on to, then you’re going to find it easier to get funded. Or if you only need a very little bit of funding, right? If you’re a micro-business, you need a couple thousand dollars to get started. What I’m concerned about are the ambitious women who want to be industry leaders who want to breach that Mark and go further. There seems to be a gap in the marketplace or that,
Susan: This is certainly something that keeps me up at night as well, Andrea. It’s a perception versus reality problem. Almost like, you know, we talked briefly about how we see those little ADs for like, Oh, women entrepreneurs apply here and then you go in there and it’s like $5,000 I’m like, that’s one 10th of my monthly burn rate to girlfriend. You know? So there’s just that sort of belief that women entrepreneurs are only in the starter stage of the business, which is not at all true. The real gap like you pointed out is in the middle, maybe those two 50 and up type entrepreneurs who are like on that serious growth path. And like you said, investing in the intellectual property, right? Like I’ve suddenly faced this problem as part of my journey, which is like I’ve invested in creating those systems and building the people and the and the sort of efficiency models which are intangible. They’re worth a whole lot. But when I go in there, the bank is like, all right, little girl come back when you have a property with 1 million bucks, right?
Andrea: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. And so we’re in a new age, right? We are in an age where intellectual property is the thing. It’s what you can create, the systems that you can create, the new innovations that you can come up with. But yet the banking and the funding system lags behind that on is more interested it would seem and the tangible assets which as we develop and as our world changes, we’re going to be less and less important.
Will: Now let’s Canada versus the US for a minute. Cause I know you were telling us a story about a woman who couldn’t get funding here in Canada goes to the States and she’s able to set up her business and get funding there. Is there a difference you see in Canadian financial institutions versus the American money that’s available? Is it that our system is just more conservative and we don’t value that intellectual property as much as they do in the States? What do you think?
Andrea: I think it’s definitely more conservative, which is not always a bad thing is the reason why our economy didn’t go off a cliff when you know, it did that in the States. So that’s a good thing. So conservative isn’t necessarily, you know, bad is it, but it is true that I have had examples of, of many business owners and women led businesses where they could not get the funding in Canada and moved and one lady in particular, they’ve just raised 7 million in funding in the States.
Andrea: And this is a business that would have been able to imply countless numbers of people in Canada. She’s a Canadian, but she only left to go to the States because she couldn’t get the funding because again, their business owns nothing. It is 100% of systems and logistical assets business. And because of that, it was difficult for her to be able to get funded. So my concern is we have so many bright, ambitious entrepreneurs here, we want to keep them here. We want to make sure that they’re growing the economy and hiring people in Canada and not losing out to the States because we’re not in a position to really value assets in a way that some of the banking institutions here and also comfortable with.
Susan: Yeah, and as you were saying, you know, it’s like a, it’s like an entrepreneurial brain drain. And you’re, you’re having people sort of move over there. And a point you made earlier that stood out for me was that whole implosion of 2008 didn’t happen because entrepreneurs got it wrong. It happened because of real estate.
Andrea: Yes. It was investment bankers in real estate. Yeah.
Will: So you know, we’ve set the stage here that it’s not that easy for female led entrepreneurs to get funds from financial, traditional financial institutions. The amount of money they need to really grow their business. What, when they come to Andrea or Susan from your experience, what is out there? What, what are the next things people start looking at and are they good options or not?
Andrea: So what will often happen is if you can’t get financing from a bank or credit union or any other type of lending institution, then you’ll look for investment, which which makes sense, right? It’s in a sense less risky than financing through debt where you’re 100% liable and you will usually need to provide a personal guarantee. What I find is a pitfall is that when you’re growing rapidly and you know that to get to the next level, I need marketing help or I need, you know, sales coach and whatever else you need to get to the next level. I need to bring on an employee and someone is willing to offer you their services for a stake in the company. So like you don’t have to pay me, but I want a 10% stake or 20% stake. So at the time you’re desperate and you believe in your company and you know it’s going to get to the next level, that seems like you know, manna from heaven really, I don’t have to pay you and you’re going to give me all the services that I need.
Andrea: So I fully understand that. The concern with that is you really have to think about what you think your company’s going to be worth because if someone is to pay for those services would have been $20,000 and you think your company’s going to be worth $1 million and you give up 20% of that, you’ve just spent $200,000 to get $20,000 worth of services. Right. It is an expensive way to fund your growth. If you have no choice, if you really, there is no way out. Our professors would always say, go to go to friends and family first, but the reality is for a lot of us, especially people who are new to entrepreneurship, who are immigrants to the country, who come from communities where they aren’t resources, we can’t write. Like I know there are people who go to their fathers and get a $50,000 loan or $100,000 loan to start a business.
Andrea: That was not my case and I know that’s not the case for a lot of people out there. So if you really have no choice, then you want to make sure that you still keep some control of your shares. So maybe you give up some of your company, but you keep control over it through call options or through convertible shares, which allow you then to somehow get your shares back at a later event. It might be more expensive, but it’s not as expensive as if you allow your company to grow to this multimillion beauty that you know it can be and you’ve given up too much too early. The other problem with giving up too much surely is when you then grow. So you use these services and you, you know, and now you’re attractive to people with much deeper pockets. You have already given up, you know, 20-30-40-50% of your company, what do you have left to give?
Andrea: Because anything you give at that point is going to make you a minority shareholder and you’ll lose control of your company. So it’s just important to really think about all the ways that you possibly could fund and you know, negotiate. I saw something just this morning in life, we often don’t get what we deserve. We get what we negotiate. So ask for what you want. You want to be able to buy your shares back three years from now. Ask for it. Right? You might have to pay different terms, you might have to pay a little bit more in the future. But if it’s something that was important to you and you think that your companies want to do well, ask for it and work with someone who’s willing to work with you.
Susan: That’s such great point to make. Andrea, let’s sort of like give our like female owned business listeners some thoughts that you’ve discussed with us in the past about how you can be structuring your business from a legal perspective to perhaps be more attractive to those funders. And you know, not seem like that person who doesn’t know some of these ins and outs of the whole thing as you grow.
Andrea: So from both, whether you’re going to go to for traditional bank financing or you’re looking for investors incorporation. So having a corporate structure in the first place is really important. Not just, you know, incorporating online and having your certificate of incorporation, but actually going through the formalities, having a minute book, all of those things are going to be reviewed by your potential lenders, by your potential investors, and a shoddy minute book are a non-system. And that book can completely just scupper a deal to begin with. Keeping really good records from the beginning. Even a clear distinction between business and personal, which is hard when you’re starting out. And when you know there’s a lot of fluidity between your personal and your business life, but that’s important because you need to be able to, so clearly what’s the business and what’s yours and then that to incorporation incorporated with a structure that gives you some flexibility.
Andrea: So generally speaking, people think of shares and we think of common shares and comment and voted in shares as a part of the meat of the shares, right? It’s the things that allow you to keep control over a business and they entitle you to the underlying assets. But there is a whole world of different types of shares that you can have. You can have shares that don’t carry voting rights, you can have shares that are preferred, which means they don’t have access to the underlying assets. You can have convertible shares that can turn from one type of security to another. So shares that will then become debt. At some point in time you can have call options on your shares, which means I sell them to you, but I have the right to buy them back at a particular price at a particular date. So making sure that you are working with a business lawyer who really understands corporate structuring and who understands what it is you want your business to do and where you want it to go.
Andrea: A lot of people think you just get the certificate and that’s it, but you are hurting yourself if you, if you want to be a big business and you want to go after significant funding to not have the right corporate structure in place. And then the other thing, and this isn’t even really legal, I just pass this on cause I’ve spoken to so many lenders where this has been a point of frustration. Um, and I wasn’t guilty of it myself when I started out. When we start, especially if you don’t have tons of resources, you spend all of the money on your business, right? You spend all of your savings and you max out your credit cards, and you max like line of credit. I’m sure most of you are nodding with me and only when we’ve like nearly run out of money, then we go for financing.
Andrea: It’s just the worst possible time to go. So goal to the lender before you need it. So goal when you still have access to it, when you still have some savings because lenders will look at that, you know, right or wrongly, they will look at the fact that you bought some savings that you’d bought, some access to credit that you’ve been having, you know, increase in sales, go then, they’re much more likely to fund you at that point. The third thing I will say is, it is almost impossible to get funding or invest in debt if you owe CRA, especially if you owe them lots of money. And so, you know, making sure from the very beginning that you are keeping good records, the money that you spend on a bookkeepers is going to be some of the best money that you can spend just so that you are completely on the right side of CRA and that doesn’t prevent you from getting funding in the future.
About Andrea Henry:
Andrea is a Cambridge-educated lawyer with more than a decade of experience working with businesses of all sizes and at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey. She’s the daughter of an entrepreneur and also married one herself and is pretty much obsessed with all things business.