How Pantene & The Wing Are Closing The Revenue Gap For Female Entrepreneurs

We are securing less than 1 percent of the pie. My solution? Get involved.

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This post is in partnership with Pantene.

You've probably heard the news by now: Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the nation!

And to spell it out even further, since 1997, our women are holding it down with entrepreneurial growth rates that are peaking at a whopping 518 percent.

518 percent. Yasss, queens.

This is all good news for us, right? Well…

According to a 2018 State Of Women-Owned Businesses report, there is a huge revenue gap and Black women-owned businesses averaged revenue of just $24,000 versus $142,900 by all women-owned businesses. Furthermore, 88 percent of women-owned businesses are reportedly making less than $100,000 per year, and only 1.8 percent of women-owned businesses are successful in scaling past $1 million dollars in revenue. In 2015, only 2 percent of venture funding went to women founders and less than 1 percent went to black women.

Ladies, we are securing less than 1 percent of the pie.

When reflecting on my own entrepreneurial journey, I realized how fortunate I was to have reached an acquisition that came with a set of business development advisors and helped propel my brand to accomplish things I could only dream of.

But for those of us who aren't privy to the basics of acquisitions, or optimizing investment funds and shareholders, the question for me has become, how can we better educate women on how grossly imbalanced our entrepreneurial growth rates are to capital access? I knew that I needed to be present in spaces that allowed me to provide more. I knew we needed more bridges, more ladders, and more step stools.

My solution: get involved.

Kaye McCoy/xoNecole

In December, I was invited to West Hollywood to join an expert panel for The Wing's Inaugural Pitch Perfect event in partnership with Pantene. In addition to myself, the panel also included Maris Croswell of Pantene, Susan Lyne of BBG Ventures and Lauren Kassam of The Wing.

During the inspiring evening, five finalists pitched their businesses in front of a live audience—with the ultimate prize being a chance to explore future investment opportunities with BBG Ventures (who has actually recently invested in two black women-owned brands, Mented Cosmetics and RadSwan).

Allison Zaucha/The Wing

The purpose of Pitch Perfect was for each brand to promote and potentially fund their business, while simultaneously bringing an awareness to the lack of diversity of awarded investment opportunities.

Allison Zaucha/The Wing

Pitch finalists included five innovative brands who were disrupting their respective industries: The Baalm, a membership-based skincare community, Glow Up Games, the self-described 'Fenty Beauty of Interactive Entertainment' gaming firm, Huggable, an organic baby formula alternative for moms transitioning from breastfeeding, Varnish Lane, a non-toxic and waterless nail salon, and Spacey Studios, a direct-to-consumer affordable art collaborator and curator.

"We believe that that is a massive gap in the amount of female-founded new ventures," Croswell of Pantene says. "We really just wanted to have a supportive environment where people could get feedback on their business opportunities and really have that exposure," adds Kassam.

Kaye McCoy/xoNecole

Prior to going on stage, Mandi Nyambi of The Baalm, revealed to me that although this wasn't their first pitch opportunity, they have never pitched a woman before, let alone a black woman.

This moment stood out being that I knew over 90 percent of all capital investments were awarded by white men, to white men. And I knew women who had previously gotten the opportunity to pitch to investors, would have to go the extra mile to prove their worth, as research shows that we are more likely to be asked questions centered around anticipated problems, whereas a white male's questions focus on growth-hacking areas.

Allison Zaucha/The Wing

So, on the surface, Mandi was grateful for the panel's diversity, but in reality, she was expressing current concerns that so many black women founders know all too well.

As the pitches continued through the evening, we each actively took notes, listened to what each finalist had to say, and threw out questions before convening to make a decision on who would win the ultimate prize.

Kaye McCoy/xoNecole

We took deliberation very seriously—asking ourselves, and each other, the very criteria that a VC investment firm would ask themselves before investing:

  • Is the addressable market large enough?
  • Are they solving a problem that millions of people share?
  • Is their product or service unique enough that it is going to stand out?
  • Is it scalable and what kind of capital will it need to get there?
  • Are the economics of the business viable?
  • Do we have confidence in the founder(s)?
  • And in success, do we believe this has a shot to return 10x to the investors?

Business owners, I hope you wrote these down.

Eventually, we decided Glow Up Games were the finalists that stood out the most. They were the team that were going after a huge underserved market, of women and women of color, and they were disrupting a male-dominated gaming industry.

Allison Zaucha/The Wing

Most importantly, these ladies have a clear understanding of what their business would evolve into over time.

Glow Up Games now has the opportunity to meet directly with BBG Ventures to discuss potential future investments; an opportunity created by simply going after what they've envisioned. As if that wasn't a perfect ending to a night filled with Girl Power, Pantene's Maris Croswell revealed that all of the finalists would be receiving $20K each to go towards their business growth.

"At Pantene we believe that women and people are transforming their communities, their families, the world around them," says Croswell. "We feel that we have a responsibility to lift up those women who are transforming, so we thank you for the opportunity to do so with each of you and your business."

What an end to an inspiring night!


Featured image courtesy of Allison Zaucha/The Wing

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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