By Sara Schaer – When I started pitching and fundraising for my company Kango, a safe ridesharing service for kids, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. At the time, we were going through the 500 Startups accelerator. Of the roughly thirty companies in our batch, only two had CEOs who were mothers, and I was one of them. I had been warned that sometimes investors could ask different questions when they find out you’re a working mom. Instead of letting this deter me, I decided that our mission was worth fighting for, and that I would tackle whatever came my way. As a priority, I decided to focus on building the business.
I was prepared to go into investor meetings where I knew I could be asked gender-specific questions because other female founders I knew had told me about their experiences. I didn’t believe it until it actually happened. One potential investor asked me, “How are you going to run a business and have a family at the same time?” I found two things ironic about this: first, I founded this company precisely to help working parents juggle their responsibilities; and second, I was asked this in the future tense, as if I weren’t already running a business while being a mother. Over time, I honed my confidence, my product and my pitch. Here’s what I learned from these types of questions:
1. Don’t let these questions fluster you. Come prepared to answer them and keep your calm. There’s no reason to get bitter, angry or defensive. Refocus the conversation on your strengths as a founder, on your team, and on the progress of your business.
2. At the end of the day, as entrepreneurs we all have a lot in common. We’re pitching our companies to large numbers of people, and often getting rejected. We’re dealing with similar struggles. The performance of your product or service is really not a function of your gender. Your progress is measured by business metrics, and dollars and cents.
3. Be confident that you can do more than you think you can. If you push yourself, you’ll grow, rise to the challenge, and have a good chance of reaching your goal.
At the end of the day it is a test of persistence. As female founders, we may experience more resistance, but the startup ecosystem is evolving in the right direction. That’s yet another reason to be resilient. Keep persevering. My company didn’t get into the 500 Startups program until our third try, but with their encouragement, we reapplied until we did. It’s worth it to just never give up. Five years later, I run a company and recently brought to reality a first-of-a-kind partnership with Chrysler. Nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself!
About The Author:
Sara Schaer is the co-founder and CEO of Kango, a service providing safe rides and care for kids located in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. The Stanford University alum also recently championed a first-of-its-kind partnership with Chrysler; the automaker is providing eligible Kango drivers with Pacifica Hybrid minivans for ridesharing use.
Previously, Sara was a product manager for Snapfish.com where she grew the product team from 2 to 50 people globally, pre and post their acquisition by HP. Kango’s first investor was 500 Startups, where they earned a spot in the 9th batch of the accelerator program.
Outside of work, Sara mentors young women through the Technovation program, and lives with her husband and two sons in San Francisco.