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Advice for Women Looking to Start a Business

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Zirtual CEO Maren Kate Donovan on why women don't need special advice in business. Read more: http://lnkd.in/raisingcaptial

In the early days of a startup, you can get away with a lot less capital than you think. Borrowing from friends and family, keeping your day job and working nights, or relying on a Kickstarter campaign will keep you from needing to raise funds. When I started Zirtual in 2011, I brought in enough early adopters to be “ramen profitable” during the business’s first iterations. As I prepare/begin to raise a growth round, here’s what I’ve learned when it comes to bringing in the dollars:

Take heed before you raise

If you’re in need of outside capital, get as granular as possible about what you’ll use the funds for. Do a little experiment: figure out what you would do with $100,000, $500,000, $1,000,000, or $5,000,000. What would the next one to three years look like with that cash in the bank? What part of the team could you grow that you couldn’t without the funds? How do you think you’ll grow customers?

The goal of this exercise is to lay the foundation for a clear path to profitability or your next funding milestone that will contribute to the company’s success: key hires, customer growth, technology infrastructure, and scalability. If at the end you don’t 90% know who you’d hire, or what you want to do with the money, hold off on seeking funding. Having a cushion sounds like a great idea, but when you start looking at the terms that come with raising capital, hold off until you have thought about where every dollar will go.

Build relationships

My experience raising capital has been 100% relationship-based. My seed round of funding from Tony Hsieh and Vegas Tech Fund was a result of a few meals at a go-to downtown Vegas restaurant, Le Thai, and a handshake. I had been introduced to Tony through a long time client who was also a close colleague of his and, luckily, we hit it off.

When we raised some additional funds late last year, relationships again played a key part. One of our larger investors in that round was a client who ran a venture capital firm in L.A. Another was a personal friend who believed in our vision, and another was Recruit Strategic Partners, a Japanese firm who was introduced to us by one of our original investors, Mayfield Partners.

No matter what you do, build a loyal following first. When the time is right, turn to them for funding—either directly or indirectly through introductions.

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  • We women already are great at multi-tasking, so managing different priorities in starting your business should come easily to us. Get the right tools, dont sort cut on investing in the right tools and let the tools work for you. There are some great tools out there specially cloud based, be it accounting, payroll, budgeting etc, so use them and start the business like a business.
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