In the last years, sales, purchasing habits, and processes have completely changed. Thanks to the digital transformation, we now find ourselves with a more empowered consumer and greater control of their purchasing process, having relegated shop assistants, sellers, and salespeople to second place and prevailing in many cases, their own research on tech giants such as Amazon, and Google. An important term to explore and understand is “sales,” which includes all the activities necessary to provide a customer or company with a product or service in exchange for money. However, for companies, the meaning of this word goes much further.
In the pre-internet era, we needed to follow push strategies and impact the user to advertise our solution, our added value, our qualities. In short, we had to create a speech to impact our target. When the user has the information at his disposal quickly and easily, push techniques are less and less effective, and it has become practically vital to use pull strategies. This new client does not want to adapt to the sales processes of the companies, but rather the companies are the ones who must adapt to the user’s new purchasing wishes and process. They want to be guided, advised, and accompanied in their research and decision phase to be an active part in solving their needs. This strategy is more related to inbound sales, unlike the outbound sales that focus on the pitch, that is, on the message given to the user about what the company offers and what is their added value. These two methods, especially the inbound sales-type, provides visibility to the entire process since it allows to know the life that exists between a potential client in a phase of awareness, research and decision, and the purchase: their first interaction, the most optimal channels, the type of content with which interacts. This inbound sales strategy allows businesses to know and have more visibility of the customer’s preferences since, in addition to the information that would come from marketing, it is possible to know the entire itinerary that has been followed until the purchase.
The sales process has moved from punctual repetitive actions (calling leads over and over, door-to-door…) to a more agile, data-based informed, in constant need of innovation to get customers’ attention and answer their needs. The current and future models focus on the company’s journey and their whole funnel, from reaching and converting them to increasing their brand awareness and virality. As everything can be measured fast, integrating sales in the company’s culture has to be done the same way employees and founders get more data-driven and informed. The challenge remains in keeping a share of creativity, intuition, and impulsiveness to stay over the top.
Text by: DANIELA PATERNINA
Entrepreneurs are characterized by using the resources they have to develop an idea and turn it into a business. Entrepreneurs pursue a dream; while some seek to solve a market need, others seek to create social impact and improve communities. Entrepreneurship contributes to reducing poverty in a country by creating jobs and generating income, thereby raising the socioeconomic level and well-being of citizens, particularly of its main actors: entrepreneurs. To succeed as an entrepreneur, It is relevant to understand how to build a brand, monetize products or services, and most importantly: how to make startup businesses grow and get funds. Currently, women entrepreneurs struggle to access capital without going into debt. Still, it doesn’t have to be this way as there are different ways to access funding through investors, which we will briefly discuss below.
There are different types of funding routes to build a company, and one of them is bootstrapping, meaning no funds are raised, and the only source of money comes from the founders and customers. In these cases, founders get to keep the shares and profits if successful, but they also assume all the risk if they fail. Of course, this option is impossible for everyone because the initial investment needed to scale up a business can be quite high. Therefore some entrepreneurs go into a partnership with another entity to grow its activity and delegate part of the operation to another company in exchange for a revenue share. This is an excellent opportunity to access new markets.
A significant term to mention is ‘Venture Capital Funds,’ described as “a mutual fund managed by professional investment managers. Fund investors are mostly pension funds and institutional investors” (Morrissette,2007. p52). The ability to form a business network is imperative to female entrepreneurs for setting ventures. It concedes them to approach peers individuals and improve their skills and competencies to establish opportunities that help them grow their business ventures. This is important to mention as men manage most venture capital funds, so women tend to have more difficulties accessing this capital.
An investment fund is a Collective Investment Institution made up of a group of participants, either individuals or companies, who invest part of their capital in an investment vehicle (shares, fixed income securities, etc.), operated by a managing entity, to obtain an economic return, maintaining the security and liquidity of its capital. The growth of private capital funds worldwide during the last years has been remarkable, reaching an annualized rate higher than that registered by any other financial product. The investments of these financial agents have the potential to represent a determining impulse for economic development. According to recent studies, its participation in very diverse companies’ capital produces positive effects in terms of job creation, sales, results, investment in assets, and tax collection, among others.
The typical private funds capital seeks to invest in projects that meet clearly identified attributes, such as the profitability of the project, its maturity period, and the economic sector where it is proposed to invest. One of the dimensions that receive the most attention from the perspective of the analysis and selection of projects carried out by the private funds capital is the Entrepreneur’s Profile. In most of the research on the topic of entrepreneurship, the attention given to entrepreneurs’ characteristics stands out. Specifically, they are interested in their commitment, dynamism, experience, and leadership, recognized as defense mechanisms against the adversity of the environment at the time of funding, managing their business, and internationalizing.
Another relevant concept to look into is the term ‘Angel Investors’, this definition of business angels describes “wealthy individuals who provide capital for start-up companies. Also known as, private investors, this term emphasizes the non-public and idiosyncratic nature of this capital market.” (Morrissette, 2007. P52). Morrissette also points out a profile of ‘Angel Investors’, describing that a “consensus paints angel investors as well educated, middle-aged men with significant business experience and substantial net worth.” (Morrissette, 2007. P53). Sudek (2006) analyzed the priorities of the “Angel Investors” during their selection of entrepreneurial projects and found that they pay special attention to the entrepreneur’s technical and administrative team’s characteristics. Other studies show that the entrepreneur’s commitment, experience, and track record are equally important investment funds.
We can assume that there is an unconscious bias based on the fact that people tend to look for a similar profile while building a network between investors and entrepreneurs. Women-owned businesses do not have equal access to angel capital. This could jeopardize female entrepreneurs’ situation, as they might lack the knowledge and experience to pitch in front of angel investors. Many women still ignore how the investment process works, and the fewer presence of women as business angels could explain the difficulty women face when financing their business projects. This reminds us of the importance of supporting and educating female entrepreneurs when raising funds, creating better opportunities for women to access funding.
Text by: DANIELA PATERNINA
Online presence has a huge impact on sales and visibility growth for businesses and brands. The digital transformation has revolutionized the way we consume, communicate, think and work, radically changing how we do business. Digital transformation is key to access funding, scaling your business, and achieving a great customer experience.
The digital transformation has completely democratized access to information, knowledge, and data, opening up a whole range of possibilities for entrepreneurs to gain direct and informed access to markets and consumers without time and space barriers. The democratization of access is, without a doubt, the most important and transformational benefit that the use of technology has in this era. Similarly, through crowdfunding platforms, technology has boosted access to capital, and entrepreneurs can raise funds in a more agile and diverse way, multiplying the growth opportunities. Likewise, technology allows investors and Venture Capitalists to access and get to know more projects that they would have hardly been able to discover, evaluate and fund without the facility the Internet brings to reach new leads and share information.
Online success or digital transformation can be approached in three different ways. Some consider digital transformation as an issue – it is associated with implementing information technologies and/or digital platforms that would change the organization’s processes. Others understand digital transformation as a marketing means, a new way to attract customers and deliver value. However, a third group considers digital transformation as a new way of doing business: digital transformation leads to the construction of new business models and exploiting new opportunities (Hachana, R., Berraies, S. & Ftiti, Z. 2018). Successful ventures manage to integrate technology into every business area: sales, marketing, data analytics, management, and customer service. For companies, innovation and digital transformation is no longer an added value but an essential element, which must be integrated into the organization’s strategy, culture, and structure, creating a strong foundation to scale and reach different markets.
Another benefit of online presence is the possibility to keep track of your customer’s preferences and behaviors, generating useful insights to improve customer experience. Customer experience is paramount for success, and the ability to tailor and customize products and services is a huge competitive advantage of digitalized businesses.
In this era of high innovation, well-used technology and online success allow the opportunity to make important changes that benefit businesses and our communities, and female entrepreneurs are no exception. Even though women entrepreneurs generally overcome more barriers to reach the same business opportunities as men, women-led companies often are more successful. Currently, startups run by women and online businesses for women are on the rise on the international market, such as Whitney Wolfe, creator of Bumble, a dating app worth $1.5 billion. To continue increasing female entrepreneurs’ success, it is essential to adopt online social activity successfully. By doing this, women, entrepreneurs will continue to impact communities worldwide.
Text by: Daniela Paternina
Pimcy Innovation & Portfolio management in Tilburg helps organize innovation and embed innovation in services, products, or business models. The result is an acceleration of innovation, increased innovative capability, and motivated employees. We cover the entire innovation management domain: idea management, innovation portfolio management, and life cycle management.
What is your story, and what led you to join the entrepreneurial world?
I have a career in product management and product development. After I did my master’s in Implementation & Change management, I concluded that I could not apply that knowledge in my current job. I always had a dream of starting my own business, and 5 years ago, I did.
What have you learned in your entrepreneurial career?
For the past 5 years, I have learned more than in the previous 18 years working for various companies. This is because you constantly encounter new challenges and see new things that you want to learn to provide customers with the best possible services.
I also have learned that what sometimes looks like a great idea can turn out to be something that does not work or does not make you happy. I have learned to say goodbye to things or even persons that are ‘energy drainers.’
What is one thing you still really want to do in your entrepreneurial career?
I want to expand further the innovation software consultation that we already offer. I think we really are distinguishing in that domain and have a great added value for the companies that hire us.
Looking back, what is one thing you would do differently in your career?
I stepped into a software opportunity as a side business. I still would have done it because I learned so much, only I would have stopped the initiative earlier on.
What would you advise women to start their journeys in the entrepreneurial space?
Women tend to do things only when they are 100% sure. My advice would be to trust your gut feeling more: if you think you can do it, you probably can. Don’t make yourself too small and humble when you are selling yourself. Women should learn to demonstrate more self-confidence.
What is the reason you joined FEMpreneurhulp?
Due to the Corona crisis, many companies have to pivot to other business models to survive. I want to contribute to that survival.
What are common challenges women face in the startup world, and how can we tackle them, according to you?
I think it has to do with my previous advice: know your worth, demonstrate self-confidence, and don’t show if you feel a bit overwhelmed.
Anything else you would like to share?
I really like FEMpreneurhulp as women are helping other women. I have often seen that women think other women are less capable than men or should not try to stand out in my career. In this way, we are our own barriers in advancing in business.
Find Joyce on www.pimcy.nl and https://www.linkedin.com/in/innovation-accelerator/
Joachim Goyvaerts, the director of PayPal Benelux and Ireland, talks about the power of digital transformation, the benefits of building networks, and PayPal’s new partnership with FEM-START.
What was your journey leading up to being the Director of Benelux and Ireland at PayPal?
I have always found myself at the intersection of customer-centricity and technology; I have a degree in marketing management, but analytics interested me. I started my business consulting career: I helped businesses flip a product from internal orientation to customer orientation. Unwittingly, I entered the area/field of payments, and as of today, I have been working in it for the past 15 years. I was the first person to be hired at PayPal Belgium six years ago and helped them establish themselves in this region. Throughout the years at PayPal, I have been in different roles: from developing strategies for partners to leading the Benelux and Ireland region.
What were the greatest challenges you faced as a Director?
At PayPal, there is no lack of opportunities. The challenge lies in smartly using limited available resources by focusing on the most important things. PayPal now doubles down on cryptocurrencies as we see a more stable regulatory environment and customer relevance. More recently, at the onset of COVID-19, I had to rebuild the team’s culture and keep that culture alive throughout the global crisis. That has been a big challenge, but it also energizes me the most. Customer orientation is important, but that gets done through the team, of course.
How did you maintain the culture through COVID-19 times?
I have great internal allies who help me organize things for the team. With COVID-19, we miss out on the informal interactions, so it is important to structure them and make them more intense. PayPal really cares about its employees. We constantly check in on them; ask them if they are in hardship, or continue to work, etcetera. People need to take the time they need to get the basics right first. Otherwise, there is no way to perform sustainably over time.
Shifting gears now: over the past few years, we have witnessed a growing interest in businesses going digital, especially in the past year. How important do you think it is for businesses to adopt this new “trend”?
I don’t think we can think in terms of a “trend” anymore, it is important, but it is also a necessity. If you set up a business now, being digital helps you ensure continuity in all your processes. It is your lifeline today. The advantage of digital is that you can scale it. If you are starting a company, you need to think about scaling and think big. Having digital technology from the start facilitates faster scaling.
So, it is a must!
Yes, it is. Another advantage is that it makes things simpler, as well. It is essential to offer a straightforward solution to your customers and give them the possibility to contact you easily, digitally. If you think about customer service, for instance, phone calls or even e-mails are not so effective anymore, it is easier to have a chat available. Digitalization also helps to focus on sales, e-commerce, among other things.
It does! FEM-START is an ED-Tech solution to close the funding gap for female entrepreneurs. We are grateful and excited about this partnership between FEM-START and PayPal. What is your vision for this alliance?
First, it is important to understand the nature and the identity of PayPal as a company. We give people access to their money through technology. We believe it is a way to achieve more equality and inclusion by making the management and movement of money more accessible, secure, and affordable. More people have access to economic opportunities. Another core value of PayPal is innovation, and we have an entrepreneurial nature, so we encourage people to start their business.
Based on these core values, a collaboration with an initiative such as FEM-START seems natural! There are still many challenges for women to combine different roles. They often have more difficulties accessing funding, so we really need to watch out and ensure that digitalization does not increase inequality. We are also supporting women internally at PayPal. We have active programs to promote female leadership and diverse leadership. It is what we live and breathes as a company, so we have knowledge and networks to share.
Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest in female entrepreneurship? What are the advantages for investors and the community as a whole?
If you are trying to solve a problem, you would ask someone: would you leave out 50% or more of the potential? Of course not! By promoting female entrepreneurship, we are also tapping into creativity, sustainable results, and creating a society with a healthy bandwidth of equality and inequality. If half of the people are not participating, it is too unequal. Fundamentally, we should aim to have a healthy ecosystem that offers sufficiently equal opportunities, and that is, in the end, what produces the best results. Female entrepreneurship clearly has a big gap, even in The Netherlands, where many women work part-time when they become mothers.
Besides motherhood, what do you think contributes to this gap?
Networking plays a crucial role, having informal connections. It is key, and many people who have access to a strong network are not even aware of it. For example, many men from these business networks inadvertently exclude women. They seem to be unaware that this creates exclusion. Furthermore, with the lockdown, there is also a risk of missing out on opportunities because, in a way, people who do not have a strong network suffer more. This also goes for mental health. People who are alone are having a harder time. It might mean that some things need to be reset. Some networks do not exist anymore, which creates an opportunity for building new ones. Again, it is crucial to give women access to these newly formed networks, as well.
How can we bring more men on board to include female entrepreneurs?
I think the first step is awareness. If men become aware, they can make simple actions to change this, also in digital networks. Another action is to promote women and not see it as a threat, because it is not. If companies and stakeholders in society stand up and speak about these issues, we can address them. But it starts with what you can do as an individual because, in the end, it is the people and leaders within companies who are assigning budgets, assigning people, setting up a structure, focusing on diversity, and so on. As an individual, you can have a huge impact. It takes time, it takes precise focus, but once it takes off, it can become really big, which changes the network. As an individual node, you can influence the whole network.
Generally, women face difficulty when looking for investors for their businesses. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs that want to raise funds?
I would say think big and bold; it is what investors are looking for. Compared to 10 years ago, there is a lot of capital available, and there are really many great ideas. The supply and demand are at a whole different level, so show that you can be that next big company, but you need to demonstrate how you will generate revenue. How will you get cash and make money out of your idea? I would suggest showing mastery in how to get paid. Many companies do not think this through, and thinking about this deeply builds trust and shows that you are a solid team. If you address this dimension of numbers and finance, you build extra trust in your leadership quality, and it helps get not only funds and investments but also helps your business.
How do you think start-ups can be helped to go to the next level financially?
As we discussed, if you build your company and use a digital backbone, you are ready to scale. I see many companies struggling with the scaling, and the excellent startups have thought this through, and they have the flexibility to test a lot, especially in different locations. Also, I would say think about geographically scaling. I have seen too many companies starting in one market and planning to expand in the next 2-3 years. I think that by doing this, you inhibit yourself from learning. It is better to learn sooner by testing the different markets simultaneously. Accessing a different market challenges your own perspective. It is a different culture.
The second thing is to define KPIs which in the future will generate cash and revenue. You do not need to be profitable from the start, but you need to know your key indicator that will lead to that profitable and healthy position. We see all social media platforms not making money at first but gaining users because they know that they will monetize on that in step two.
That is great advice. Thank you, Joachim.
You are welcome! I am really excited to see how FEM-START will create this energy and network of female entrepreneurs. That is why I have been advocating to support this!
By Azaina Shaikh and Paola Hasbun
By: Paola Hasbún
Lotte Engels is a corporate communication expert with years of experience in operations management and market research. After working as a Communication Officer at Océ Technologies and Operations Manager at Hewlett Packard, Engels ventured into business and became the Director of the Netherlands Business Support Office (NBSO) in Barcelona, a Dutch governmental trade promotion network that enhances the trade between The Netherlands and Spain. Committed to promoting the connection between Dutch and Spanish businesspeople, Lotte is also the President of ‘The Circle,’ a very dynamic Dutch business association in Barcelona. In this interview, we talked about the Spanish market, the importance of building strong business relationships, and the opportunities COVID-19 might bring.
As the Director of the NBSO in Barcelona, I understand you are connecting Dutch companies to the relevant people in Spain…
Yes. At the NBSO, we assist Dutch companies that want to start their businesses in Spain. It can be either exporting, opening a factory, or setting up a branch office. We facilitate this process in many ways: we provide them with information about the market, inform them about the rules and regulations applicable in Spain, and most importantly, we can provide them with the right contacts and networks to break into the Spanish market.
What would you advise Dutch entrepreneurs who want to scale-up their businesses and launch them in Spain?
I would advise them to come to our support office or connect with the Dutch Government’s economic network in Spain. We are an external part of the embassy in Madrid, focusing on the regions of Aragón and Catalunya. I think it is a perfect entry point because whatever your business model is, we can help you to explore the market, the opportunities and to put you in contact with the right people; it is all for free since it is a service from the Dutch government to promote the export.
Often, there are fewer female-founded businesses, and women are less represented in startup ecosystems. Is there a special focus or program for female entrepreneurs?
Not per se, but I have a broad network of female entrepreneurs and people working to promote gender equality in business, so I can also connect women entrepreneurs with the right people. After I started at the NBSO, I soon noticed the gender gap, especially in the tech sector. You can see it at the events and congresses; fewer women participate. Luckily there are many local initiatives, like, for example, a professional women’s network and the STEM Women Congress in Barcelona. Many different people have contacted me regarding this topic, so I have been connecting them to promote gender equality.
So there are good opportunities…
Absolutely, and hopefully, more Dutch entrepreneurs will internationalize and open their businesses in Spain. A colleague of mine at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs focuses on female entrepreneurship. She often mentions there is a huge potential for young female Dutch entrepreneurs who are not yet internationalizing. There is a big opportunity for Dutch female founders to take that step and to take that leap into internationalization. Whatever they do, they should be aware that there is a very interesting network of the Dutch government outside of the Netherlands. They can reach out to us, and we can help them with information and join events and connect them with the right people. I have an overview of Spain’s networks; relations and business connections are essential in this country.
Which markets are growing in Spain?
The tech industry is so broad; it can be Fintech, e-commerce, digitalization of events, etc. With COVID-19, digital transformation has become really important; many companies will have to do a digital transformation because of the current situation, so there is a good opportunity here. Moreover, the Spanish government is strongly focusing on digital transformation and putting many resources and efforts into it to be a good opportunity for Tech companies.
And besides Tech, are there any other markets growing?
I would say everything related to sustainability. Whatever is going to be restructured, it will have to be done sustainably. From a government perspective, there is a strong focus on the green economy, circular economy, and sustainability in Spain. This means companies will have to comply and adjust their policies. Due to the COVID-19 situation, Spain got extra funds from the European Union, and they need to plan and spend it sustainably. This is a great opportunity, and it can be comprehensive, from the cancellation of electric vehicles to water management.
What challenges do people change when investing or launching their businesses in Spain?
I would say to manage their expectations. An essential element is to build a network and have a strong business relationship with companies to be successful. It is important to invest in this business relationship and to understand that it can take time. It does not happen from one day to another. It’s not like you will enter the market one day and start having turnovers immediately… it will depend on the business model and how you want to approach your market.
Do you have any tips for approaching the market?
We see a big tendency in Dutch companies approaching the market with local business partners, who are already settled in a specific sector. It is beneficial for both parties: the foreign or Dutch companies can bring a lot of added value by bringing a new product or service -which is good for the business portfolio -, and the Spanish business partners add the value of being already present in the market. By partnering with a local business, Dutch companies do not have to start working on entering the market by themselves. Many Dutch companies enter the Spanish market this way, and I think it’s a good and recommendable choice.
It makes it easier…
Yes. Of course, you can still enter the market by yourself if you have a good product and a good team, but you need to be aware that it will take time to build relationships and make people trust you; you need to put time into it.
Are there any cultural differences in how to build that network and business relationships?
I think Spain is a bit more hierarchical than The Netherlands, so you need to have the right people at the table to make certain decisions. It is important to know this. Otherwise, you can spend a lot of time networking with people, but you need to have the right person in front of you for things to happen.
Another difference is that in The Netherlands, we are used to people working part-time. In Spain, most people work full time, the whole part-time culture is not really present yet, and it is important to be aware of this. Before COVID-19, the flexible-hours and working from home once a week culture was not fully established in Spain. I think things will start to change now.
Let’s hope so…
Yes, I think this would help women’s role in business, not only entrepreneurs, in adapting and managing their work-balance life better, because if you have stringent working rules, you have to adapt the personal part. That is not the way for me. One of the most important elements in a workplace is flexibility; to have the possibility to work from home and be more flexible so I can pick up my children from school. I think this flexibility is also important at a personal level.
In what sense?
In the sense of having a supportive partner who is willing to give you the right to have the same opportunity to grow and develop yourself on a personal level… a partner who is also willing to take a step back and not just say: ‘this is my working schedule and you have to adapt to it.’ It’s about putting two working schedules next to each other and seeing how you will adapt to it together. These were the most important elements in all the roles that I have performed so far. This flexibility, balance, and equality helped me take the steps that I have made, which helped me develop in the roles I have performed. To have a flexible work environment can be as important as the salary, and on both sides, you need to have the flexibility.