As a female founder, self-belief is my armour in a sexist VC world

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The world of venture capitalism is a brutal place for female entrepreneurs, and even more so for women of colour. This is still a culture driven predominately by macho notions of success, meaning just 5% of women founders attract investment – and therefore power – for their ideas, dipping to 0.2% for Black women.

As a Brown woman, and CEO of Flash Pack – a company that recently raised a $6.2M fundraising round – I’ve witnessed this struggle first-hand. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve had people question how I do things, or been told our business is too niche (because our customer base is led by women), on our pathway to global expansion. 

As a brand, my co-founder Lee Thompson and I are lucky enough to work with some incredible backers right now. But other would-be investors have not been so great. In my pursuit of funding, male VCs have criticised me for being both too pushy and not “aggressive” enough. After the pandemic, investors even said Flash Pack was dead and we’d never be able to relaunch. I’ve been told I should temper my expectations for my business because I happen to be a mum, too. How many fathers would be given the same advice? 

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Flash Pack’s numbers speak for themselves – we’ve seen phenomenal 100% year-on-year growth since relaunching after Covid. We have passion, integrity, a huge global community: we’re the real deal. 

Yet, along with many women around the world, I’ve found the current VC climate tough and hugely unfair. As a business, we’ve proven ourselves; but other companies that have not achieved even a fraction of what we have don’t face the same kind of interrogation. Again, this is likely due to the very one-dimensional take on worthwhile investments that continues to dominate VC circles.

I refuse to be knocked by the opinions of others anymore

However, if the funding environment can’t change – at least not overnight – my attitude to it can. I used to get really cut up about the level of judgement I received in growing Flash Pack as a business. I lost sleep over it. But honestly, now I’ve got to the point where I refuse to be knocked by the opinions of others anymore. That’s all the more true for potential investors who have no idea what it is to scale a start-up. How come they’re the ones doling out advice? 

Nowadays, I look within for my self-belief. I don’t wait around for permission or validation from others. Instead, I’ve developed an armour that looks like an unwavering sense of confidence in my vision for Flash Pack. It’s a mindset that means that, no matter how many setbacks my team or I face, there’s always a core momentum driving us on.

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As female founders, we can hope for a better future. Better still, we can play a key part in that future by getting more women VCs on-board to inspire female-led business growth. But, with the barriers that exist in the meantime, I would suggest that building a rock-solid foundation of self-belief is the best possible asset you can have. 

As a woman, you have to fight harder for every opportunity that comes your way. No-one will cut you any slack. It’s an unfortunate truth of a world that, still now, puts the perspective of white, rich men on a pedestal.

As a woman, you have to fight harder for every opportunity

But it’s a reality that’s also freeing to recognise. Because once you know that YOU are the person galvanising your own success – doubling down on your abilities, following your instincts and proving your own ideas against the doubters – there’s nothing stopping you.

I myself didn’t get to this point overnight. I used to question everything, and agonise over negative feedback or making the right decision. But it’s a tool that’s come to me over time, in the face of major opposition and scrutiny enroute. 

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There are also a few things that can help with garnering this self-belief as a female founder. For one, don’t wait to be confident or ready. I had zero experience in the travel industry before setting up Flash Pack. But I did my research and learnt on the go. Diving in is the best way to develop new skills anyway; whether that’s designing a website, developing sales leads or crafting a marketing strategy. 

Also, surround yourself with mentors who believe deeply in what you’re doing; but also who have no particular skin in your game. Their advice will be invaluable. Most of all, know that when you believe in yourself, other people – your team and your customers, your community – will come along for the ride. And that really is the biggest reward of all. 

Radha Vyas is CEO and co-founder of Flash Pack

Flash Pack is a group travel company that specialises in small group adventures for solo travellers in their 30s and 40s. Find out more about how we work, and our mission to build a global community of friendships

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