Julia Pimsleur is a successful entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Little Pim, a language learning for kids company. Julia’s just published a fantastic book, Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big, based on her both her experience as a business woman and through teaching these principles at her Double Digit Academy and Further, Faster, Funded.
While Julia focuses on teaching women how to raise angel and venture capital, she is also passionate about women having the right mindset to succeed in a challenging business world. In this insightful interview, Julia shares the top lessons readers will learn from her newest book.
What was your vision for Little Pim when you started the company? Did you ever envision it would grow into the business it is today?When I started Little Pim, a company that produces a program for young children to learn foreign languages at home, I wanted to create an exceptional language-learning experience for young children. I knew it could be more than a kitchen-table business, but I wasn’t sure how big I could take it.
At one point I hit a wall and even considered shutting down. Instead I doubled down on my dream. I realized that I had to think and behave differently in order to become the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company. This meant overcoming self-limiting beliefs, raising venture capital and learning to do so many things I never imagined I was capable of. I have loved (almost) every minute of it!
What was the inspiration for Double Digit Academy?I founded Double Digit Academy to help women raise angel and venture capital and generally get “further faster”. Most women start their businesses in their 30s and that is right when many of us have young children or aging parents and so many responsibilities.
Time is our most precious resource. I wanted to provide a time-efficient and cost-effective way for women to learn how they can raise Venture Capital and large Angel rounds. This is the bootcamp I wish I had been able to attend. Instead I spent nine months doing research, spending too many precious hours away from my business and family. Really fundraising is a dance, and I love being able to teach this dance to other women.
It is a huge privilege to help them learn what they need to have in place to raise funds, how to approach investors, and how to keep their sanity while doing it. I get tremendous joy from working with the DDA grads (there are 50 grads and they have raised a collective $10M for their businesses, which range from science camps to software to beverage companies).
As an advocate for women entrepreneurs, have you seen any positive changes over the past decade?These are the best of times and worst of times for women entrepreneurs. Thanks to record-breaking levels of investment in startups, women potentially have access to millions of dollars in capital in a way that was unthinkable one generation ago.
And yet, most women start their businesses with about half the capital of their male counterparts, and a majority feel they lack the training and support they need to expand beyond sole-proprietary, low-grossing companies, according to the 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. I see three big positive changes this last decade:
1) Women can raise money from women.
Female angel investors now make up 25% of all angel investors in the US (up from about 18% just two years ago). When women acquire wealth they tend to invest in other women. So women have more chances of securing capital from other women, who studies show are more likely to invest in them than (most) men are. Crowd-funding is a great entry way to start raising money from other women (see Plum Alley, Moola Hoop, Circle Up, etc)
2) We are an economic force as women entrepreneurs.
If U.S.-based women-owned businesses had their own country, it would have the fifth largest GDP in the world, just behind Germany and ahead of France and the United Kingdom. We will be hearing more and more about our collective buying power, employment power and effects on the global economy.
3) There are more uber successful women each year.
In the United States, though the number of million-dollar businesses is tiny (just 3% of all women-run businesses), the number of women-owned companies making over $10 million in revenues grew by a whopping 57 percent over a recent ten-year period. As we scale up our businesses and encourage other women to pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams, we will add another 500,000 jobs to the U.S. economy in the next decade.
What do you think is the biggest reason many women get stuck at the “mom and pop” level?From my own experience, taking Little Pim into the seven figures in revenues and teaching my Double Digit Academy, women get stuck in three areas: Mindset, Skill Set, and (access to) Networks.
The hardest one to work on is Mindset. If you have the right Mindset about “going big” then you will go get the Skills. Once you have the right Mindset and Skills you still need a powerful Network so you can learn how to grow your company, get access to capital if you need it, and get to the next level more quickly.
If you time travel back to the day you started your company, what one piece of advice would you give yourself?Stop thinking about what you don’t know. Just go learn it, or hire people who complement your skills. You are your best asset. Put all those self-limiting beliefs into storage and get moving.
According to research, more women are discouraged to borrow than men . However, the overall loan rejection rates are relatively equal between men and women borrowers  and the approval of loans for women and men-owned businesses is almost the same .
What advice do you have for women who may be discouraged from borrowing funds to start their business?Business is about relationships, and banking is no different. I know so many women business owners who obtained loans in part because they created a connection with a local banker, often a woman, who was willing to take a chance on them. You can also seek out organizations like SBA (Small Business Administration) to help you navigate the process.
Loans have become harder to get since the 2008 economic nose dive but not impossible, so women with a good credit history who are looking to raise in the $50k - $500k range should consider this option. The SBA will even guarantee loans for small businesses that meet their criteria.
How do you think your background in fundraising helped obtaining VC and Angel Investor funds?Getting comfortable talking about money is one of the greatest challenges we face as women. I had many years of practice discussing money and asking people to invest in great nonprofit organizations. Many of these skills were transferrable when I started raising money for my business.
What do you think are the biggest startup challenges facing women entrepreneurs today?I think we tend to be good at multi-tasking and we sometimes think this means we should keep doing everything. I think the greatest impediment to our own success is not delegating early and often enough.
We have to get out of the day to day operations to do the three things Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures says we need to do as CEOs: 1) hire the best people 2) set the strategy and 3) keep the money in the bank!
In your book, you teach women how to grow their businesses into multi-million dollar companies by profiling successful women business owners. What are the traits that these women have in common?They all had the Mindset for going big and went out and got the Skills and built the Network. They also are incredibly optimistic, resilient people who share my motto “What other people think of you is none of your business.”
They didn’t need to be liked, they knew they were likeable. They didn't need everyone cheering them on. They had their key “people” in their corner. They always found a way around challenges and kept going.
What are the biggest lessons you hope readers will take away from your new book, Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big?
1) All you need is the right Mindset, Skill Set and Network to go big.
2) You may have to think and behave differently in order to become the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company. You may have to raise capital. You may have to overcome self-limiting beliefs you have about your own abilities. You can do this and access what I call the Triple Win for women entrepreneurs: Money Meaning and Mobility.
3) There are thousands of women are running multi-million dollar businesses while raising families and leading balanced lives and I profile seven of them in my book. I agree with Sheryl Sandberg who says in Lean In that as women we need to “see it to be it.”
4) If I can do it, you can do it! I was a creative person who had a business idea and taught myself how to be a business person running a business with a creative idea at the center of it. Anyone can run a multi-million dollar business if they are willing to do what it takes!
Do you have something to add or a question for Julia? Join the conversation on Twitter!
References: Prasad, R. M. (2009). Loan hurdles: Do banks discriminate against women entrepreneurs? Academy of Management Perspectives, 23, 91- 93. doi:10.5465/AMP.2009.45590144
 Prasad, R. M. (2009). Loan hurdles: Do banks discriminate against women entrepreneurs? Academy of Management Perspectives, 23, 91- 93. doi:10.5465/AMP.2009.45590144
 Treichel, M., & Scott, J. A. (2006). Women-owned businesses and access to bank credit: Evidence from three surveys since 1987. Venture Capital, 8, 51-67. doi:10.1080/13691060500453726