The Female Fusion Podcast!

The Female Fusion podcast is your go-to resource for inspiration, motivation, and practical advice for female entrepreneurs.

Hosted by Jen Blandos, a seasoned entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience building successful businesses, this podcast features insights and expertise from some of the world's top female entrepreneurs and industry experts.

Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your business to the next level, the Female Fusion podcast is here to help you achieve your business goals.

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Episode Takeaways 

  • How to use gender as a screen for venture capital investments
  • What male and female investors can learn from each other
  • The importance of building relationships and performing due diligence when investing

Show Notes

In a society where women receive less than 2% of capital investments, this week's podcast guest is on a mission to challenge the status quo and use gender as a lens to empower female founders.

Heather Henyon is the founder of Mindshift Capital, a gender lens VC fund. She has been investing in women for over a decade and has experience in building seven figure businesses around the world.

In this episode, Heather shares how the relationship between investors and entrepreneurs is like a marriage, and the importance of finding the right people, doing due diligence, and building organic relationships.

In this episode, Heather and Jen discuss:

  • How to use gender as a screen for venture capital investments
  • What male and female investors can learn from each other
  • The importance of building relationships and performing due diligence when investing


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Show transcription

Hi there. I'm Jen Blandos, the founder of Female Fusion Network. I've been an entrepreneur for over 20 years with experience in building seven figure businesses and working around the world. Originally, I'm from Canada, but I've been living in Dubai for the past 14 years. I've created this podcast to share my insights, expertise as a global entrepreneur, and help other women start, build, grow, and scale their businesses. You'll also hear from some of the world's top experts and female entrepreneurs who will inspire and motivate you to achieve your business goals. So join me as we explore all that the world has to offer and build the business of your dreams. Let's get started. Hello, Jen Blandos here. And welcome to another edition of Women On the Rise Female Fusion Networks podcast. And today I am so excited. This is the big interview that I have always wanted to do. I've had two big interviews that I've wanted to do on this podcast. One was interviewing Eva, my daughter, which was amazing, and the second incredible woman that I have been trying even since I had a concept in my mind of this podcast is Heather Henyon, who is the founder of Mind Shift Capital. And I've managed to get a bit of her time today in the studio to talk all about investment and all of the great work that she's doing. Welcome, Heather.


Heather Henyon: Thanks, Jen. It's great to be here.


Jen Blandos 00:01:43
I'm so excited to have you. And what I'd love for you to do is just tell everybody a little bit about you, your background, and about Mindshift Capital.


Heather Henyon:00:01:52
Yeah, sure. So I'm from the US. Originally. I've been living in Dubai and in the region for many years, 14 years. 15 years, and have been involved in investing in women probably really for the last decade when I started the first women's angel investor group in Dubai called Wayne Women's Female Fusion Network, or Wain. And then that was kind of the segue into Mind Shift Capital, which I started in 2020. And we just did our funds final closing this past year.


Jen Blandos 00:02:25
Wow. And so Mind Shift, the thing that's really special about Mind Shift in this region is it's a gender lens VC fund. What I would like to do, just so we're clear for everybody listening, can you explain to everybody what it means if your fund is a gender lens VC fund?


Heather Henyon:00:02:43
Yeah, sure. So gender lens venture capital kind of came into, I guess, existence or definition probably back in 2017. Suzanne Beagle, who's the founder of Gender Smart Investment, she's based in London, she came up with the term and it's really about how do we create a screen for gender? So, just like you would think about something like there's socially responsible investment, there's Islamic investment where they use either a Sharia compliant screen. Sri uses Impact as a screen, however it's defined. We use gender as a screen. And that means really, there are lots of different ways you can define that. Ours, I think, is one of the strongest screens because we only invest in companies where there's at least one female founder or co founder, but it can be all across the board, down to even do you have a majority employees who are women? Are you targeting companies where they've got products that are focused on women? So lots of different is there a woman on the board? But I think for us, as Mind Shift, our gender screen is considered to be quite strong. So there are different variations of it. But I think our screen is very unique.


Jen Blandos 00:03:58
That's amazing. You started this in 2017. What inspired Mind Shift was in 2020. So what inspired you to do this?


Heather Henyon:00:04:10
Well, so I actually was on a plane back from San Francisco. I had just been at an Angel Capital Association summit, and this is a couple of years before, and I just kept thinking, I'd just gone to a session on unconscious bias. I'd heard from the founders of the Kapoor Fund, which created this fund targeting underrepresented founders, and you're probably aware, but very little capital goes to women. So less than 2% in the US. Probably 0.5% in the Middle East, and it's 1% in Sweden, which we consider to be kind of the most leaders in gender.


Jen Blandos 00:04:49


Heather Henyon:00:04:49
Yeah, gender parity. But it's still and so I think our feeling, and my feeling is there are just very few women who are investing. And it's not so much about the, I think, angel investing, which we also need to focus on. And that's been a big focus, and I think there has been a lot of progress over the years in that. But what we find from the companies that we've been investing in I myself invested now in over 200 early stage technology companies across the US. Europe and Middle East, and about 60% of my portfolio has been women led. And I just see over and over again that the female founders can raise kind of a seed round or an angel round, but getting that next level of institutional capital is really challenging.


Heather Henyon:00:05:35
Yeah. This is a whole other conversation and a whole other podcast, isn't it? Just about why we're not getting the funding and the investment? And it's shocking, right, that we're pretty much 50% of the family, 50% of the population, but we are not getting that investment. One of the things, and I know that you and I have spoken about this a lot too, and I also speak to members in Female Fusion Network about this, is that there's also a whole component about being investment ready. Right. And that for businesses, that they need to be ready. When you're looking to invest in businesses, what is the primary criteria that you're looking for?


Heather Henyon:00:06:18
Well, we start with the gender lens, but then we also get this question a lot. How are you different than other VCs? And I say or venture capital funds. We're not I mean, we're looking for the same things that everyone else is looking for male, conventional, however you label it. So we're really looking for world class companies that can build and scale and get us a ten X return in kind of the next three to five years. So that means if you're valued at, let's say, $5 million today, when we invest, we're looking for an exit at $50 million.


Jen Blandos 00:06:53
Right, okay.


Heather Henyon:00:06:54
But beyond that, we're early stage investors, so we're really looking for great founders, great teams. We know the business is going to kind of pivot and change as it gets more traction, but addressable market has to be large, scalability, focus on some point of financial sustainability at some point. So not kind of growth at any cost. We're not big fans of sort of the WeWork models and the soft bank models, but we're looking for, I would say, the same things that everyone else is beyond the gender lens. So that's just the way that we create our funnel.


Jen Blandos 00:07:30
Okay. When you speak with female entrepreneurs who are maybe looking for funding, what advice would you give to them to be able to secure that funding?


Heather Henyon:00:07:47
Well, I think part of it is be okay with rejection. We as women and I have the same problem. It was really hard for me to be rejected when I was fundraising for Mind Shift. We take it quite personally, so I think go out, get the nose and just move on, guys. I think really it's a more transactional sort of relationship, so men don't take it as personally, so they're able to go out, fundraise, talk to lots of different investors. But I think it's okay. You've got to find your backers. You've got to find the people who are the investors who are going to be your champions. And sometimes it just takes more time than you'd like, but it's just getting the right people is more important than just getting money.


Jen Blandos 00:08:33
Yeah, absolutely. And I want to dive into that as well. But one thing I find interesting sometimes I have businesses that will say to me, they'll be like, oh, do you know an angel investor? Do you know a VC? I need funding for my business and I need it within the next month or so. And I'm like, okay, wait, you probably can't even get a bank loan in a month. That there needs to be that it takes time, right?


Heather Henyon:00:09:00


Jen Blandos 00:09:00
How long does it normally take? Like, if you're at the point where you go, okay, for me to scale, I need funding, I need to get that investment in my business. How long would that go from you deciding to do that to actually securing investment, how long does that take normally?


Heather Henyon:00:09:16
Well, I always say it's the same time it takes to have a baby. So it's nine months. And I see this a lot. I don't see it as much with the women. I have to say I see it more with the guys. But I think, again, you've also got to do it in a way that takes the calendar into effect. Right. So don't start fundraising in the summer. Everyone's gone into beach mindset. End of the year is also really bad because people are just trying to wrap up the year they've got the holidays. So a good time to start is probably January in the UAE and in the Middle East, we have also Ramadan that we've got to take into effect. So you've just got to get the cycles right. Okay. And make sure you've got enough runway, we call it, which is the cash.


Jen Blandos 00:10:02
In the working capital to run your business.


Heather Henyon:00:10:04
Right? Yeah. And don't start raising when you've only got one month left of cash right. Because you're not going to get money in, and you're probably going to get squeezed also on pricing, which is something I see that happens a lot to women, and there's a lot of data showing this that women just raise less capital, it takes them longer, and also they get lower pricing than the guys.


Jen Blandos 00:10:27
Wow. I mean, that in itself is so much work that needs to be done on that. But do you find one thing that I find surprising? I've been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, so one of the things that I've gotten really good at is systems and processes within my business. And I find it really interesting, even when I meet some of the bigger businesses, whether they're female owned or male owned, how many people have businesses that don't have those systems behind what they're running? Like, they're successful. They have a product or a service that people want to buy, but actually it's quite messy behind the scenes. Does that come into play? Do you have a certain expectation when you invest in a business that they need to have certain systems and processes in place?


Heather Henyon:00:11:20
Yeah, definitely. Because as investors, we want to make sure that our money is going to be used in an accountable way. So when we do our due diligence, we're looking at things like what are the legals look like? We talk a lot about the capitalization table. So how much of the company do the founders still own? How much have they sold off? We find that a lot with women where sometimes they sell off too much too early. So then we say we call it flawed capital structure. That makes it uninvestable for people like us. Yeah. And we also want to know what is governance like? I think one of the best things that founders can do is just reporting. So even if you're just sending out, like, a monthly investor update, it doesn't have to be long, but just a few bullet points and send it, by the way, to investor prospects. Don't just send it to your current investors, but think about how do we get more of these investors in the loop and relationship building, especially with investment, it takes time. So I tell entrepreneurs this a lot. Even if you're not looking to raise capital right now, if you think, okay, it's going to be kind of one, two years out, start building those relationships, go to events network, schedule a call, try to have a coffee, just find ways that you can figure out who the right investors are and get to know them early. Because we like to see entrepreneurs in different formats before we invest. So we've got the Investment Summit on Wednesday where we'll see the companies who are presenting and pitching. But beyond that, we might then see them speak at a conference. We might also have a coffee. They're just different things we like to see because we like to see how they act in different settings. And it's almost like people skills in a sense, right.


Jen Blandos 00:13:07
Interviews, I guess also as well, like how they evolve as a business too, because this is not something where you're going to meet them and one month later, as we said, give them investment that you're hoping, too, that you're going to see. The business is scaling and growing and the founder is growing because as we get more experience, we've become better at running our businesses.


Heather Henyon:00:13:27
Yeah. And we also want to see that they do what they say they're going to do. For example, one of our companies in Singapore, Shiok meets. So we've now got 14 companies in our portfolio for this fund. And this company. They were in YC youth combinator in San Francisco. I learned about them. There two female stem cell scientists who started this company doing cell based meat targeting the Asian market and yeah, and just reached out to the founder and CEO, sandia on LinkedIn, then invited her to come present to our Mind shift investors at one of our investor events. And then one of our partners was in Singapore, spent time with her, and the team went to visit the lab. And after that we invested. So that was probably over a period of sort of 1824 months where we were just watching, learning about the business, getting to know her, getting to know the team. To the point now where we've invested in two funding rounds. And I've also just joined the board of directors recently. So there's an evolution of time. I mean, it's like all of these things. And I think that's why getting the right investors in your business really is important because it's like a marriage, right? You're going to be in this thing for a long time, and you want to make sure that when you bring these investors in, they're going to spend the time working with you in the business and also just helping you. Especially as early stage investors, we spend a lot of time supporting the founders. So whether we're on boards or not, we're really helping them make introductions, helping them expand into other markets, connecting them, helping with fundraising when they're raising rounds, sales channels we do a lot of as well. So introducing them to our own entrepreneurs and founders and our own network, our own investors, inviting them to events. So there's a lot that goes into the whole relationship.


Jen Blandos 00:15:23
So you need the ones that are going to love your business as much as you do, right?


Heather Henyon:00:15:28
Yeah. And I also think it's chemistry. And this is part of why I do think having more female investors will I mean, my core reason for starting Mind shift was if we've got more investors who are women. Because right now, only in the US. Only 8% of the partners at VC funds are female, and only 2% of the founding partners are female. So if we get more investors who are women, that to me, will help the other side of the table change where the entrepreneurs will also get capital. And I think, again, as women, we understand the kinds of businesses that they're building. We're often customers of those companies and those products, so we're able to kind of grow with them and also the relationship. Right. It really has to be organic. So it has to be this is something I've learned, I think, the hard way, where sometimes you'll see founders and you're like, oh, wow, that person's really interesting. They're awesome, but they're also crazy.


Jen Blandos 00:16:29
You can't have crazy in business.


Heather Henyon:00:16:31
Yeah. And then you're like, wait a minute, I've got to now work with this person and wait, they're not answering my messages. They don't respond. I don't know where they are. So you realize you also need to get the right people, the right relationships that work for you. I think on both sides, as investors, we're doing our due diligence. I think entrepreneurs also need to do their due diligence on investors because it's not one sided. I mean, really, the way I think of it is we're partners in the whole journey to build and grow the.


Jen Blandos 00:17:03
Business well, and you're looking, as you said, as well, like a three to five year.


Heather Henyon:00:17:07
Yeah, in reality it's really much longer. Right. Like our first Wayne investment, we invested in 2014. It's a regional ed tech company, and it's been almost ten years. Right. So for venture capital, it's a little bit shorter, but I would say let's say our fund is ten years, so we want to exit within that time period. Often funds get extended, so maybe it's more like twelve years, hopefully not 15 years, which is what the average is in the US. But I'm hoping that's not us. But yeah, it's a really long term relationship and you go through a lot together.


Jen Blandos 00:17:47
Okay, so going back to a few things, we don't have enough female investors.


Heather Henyon:00:17:54
That's just anywhere, anywhere in the world.


Jen Blandos 00:17:57
So how do we get more women investing?


Heather Henyon:00:18:01
Yeah, I mean, it's a really good question. I think we're seeing more younger women get into, I would say, angel investing. We see more small funds. I think we're still missing the larger funds that can really deploy decent amounts of capital to entrepreneurs and to women. So I think it's a long journey, but just getting it there is this whole transfer of wealth that's happening now. I think that we're just sort of at the beginning of and again, the numbers show that the majority of the people who will receive the wealth at the next generation at kind of the Gen X, are women. So those women now have an opportunity, I think, to invest in the things that they care about in the world, whether it's women, climate change, youth care, economy, all of these things. I think I see women just gravitate towards because for us, business is quite personal and a lot of the things that we want to do have to do with something that we've experienced. Personally.


Jen Blandos 00:19:07
I see that in Female Fusion Network that I would say so many of our businesses and amazing businesses, but so many of the businesses have been created to solve a problem or because they face something or because they believe in something, like whether it's the environment or children or an illness. And it's so cool to see that they're making that into a business as well. But I've seen this, and I would love to have your perspective as well about the difference between male investors and female investors. What are you seeing as the main differences?


Heather Henyon:00:19:47
Yeah, it's interesting because I've been now a part of maybe five different funds, some that are predominantly male, some that are predominantly women. And I think as investors and it's so interesting to me because for the women, I think we overdo it on the due diligence. We like to get lots of information. We want perfect information, which you just never have in an early stage business.


Jen Blandos 00:20:12
So a question just before you move on. You say that we overdo the due diligence. If we're overdoing the due diligence, does that mean that potentially we miss out on opportunities?


Heather Henyon:00:20:23
Then I think we just don't make decisions fast enough. And so if you think about time as being a finite resource, we do miss deals, I think, at times. But I think also it's not necessary. Right. So we're kind of wasting time that we don't need to because again and a lot of this is gut, right?


Jen Blandos 00:20:42


Heather Henyon:00:20:42
You and I have talked about this, but just the more experience you get, the more information you have and life experience. Yeah. It's just your gut actually gets stronger and stronger. So trusting it and feeling self confident in your decision making, I think is really critical as a woman, both as a business person, but also as an investor. Yeah. And the men, I think it's more testosterone driven in terms of investment. So there's this really interesting study that the swedish professor did on this, and I was in Stockholm and she met her. And it's basically this apparently it's even like a subset of testosterone that only men have. I forgot the name of the hormone, but basically it's what helps men in war, gambling, and then apparently drugs as well. So it's like these industries that you don't hear about a female drug lord right. Running a drug cartel, casinos and gambling. I think a lot of it is very male focused. Right. I think sometimes it's like but that.


Jen Blandos 00:21:54
Goes down to risk. Right?


Heather Henyon:00:21:56
Yeah, that was her point, that people will say and the narrative is that women are risk averse. I just heard this term recently, women are risk astute. So it's not that we're not willing to take risk, it's that we take the right risk, which I think is true.


Jen Blandos 00:22:14
I agree with you.


Heather Henyon:00:22:15
I think a lot of the men just get overextended. Right. I worked in microfinance for ten years, and I would see this a lot in the micro entrepreneurs who we were working with, where the reason that women are the target for micro lending is because they pay back the loans 99% plus of the time, the men pay back 67% of the time. Of course, this is over, like, 30 years of longitudinal data that even Mohammed Yunus collected back in Bangladesh when he started this whole thing. So people think historically, microfinance is about economic empowerment for women. It's just women have been a better credit bet they're more credit worthy.


Jen Blandos 00:22:56
But I guess as well, I don't know if you find this, that I will never extend myself so much that I would lose everything. And the reason why, I guess, is maybe because I'm a mother, and I'm always thinking I have to feed my kids, I need to have someplace to live, and I need to send them to school. And so my risks are always I.


Heather Henyon:00:23:17
Will include that into your whole risk assessment.


Jen Blandos 00:23:19


Heather Henyon:00:23:20
It's not just about you. It's about your family, your children, and.


Jen Blandos 00:23:25
I guess even as well, from a business point of view, that also, even when it comes to decisions, I think about the employees, that risk will only go so far, so long as it doesn't hurt the running of the business. That I would never make a decision that if it didn't play off your customers.


Heather Henyon:00:23:44
Yeah, exactly. I'm sure there's lots of psychological research on this, but I do think that's why I often say that women are just really good business builders. Because when you think about the life cycle of a business, it's not a short term flip. Right. It's a long term proposition. So women have historically been family builders, community builders, so of course they're also really strong business builders.


Jen Blandos 00:24:12
Yeah, well, I guess that's true, right. Because I've had businesses for over 20 years and always for quite a long time, and I don't think I could go into something, build it for like a year or two years and flip it because there's so much of you that's in that and that care and that love. Like even with Female Fusion Network, I've gone into that for the long term because I want it to make a difference.


Heather Henyon:00:24:39
And I think, by the way, that's why we don't see as many exits by women which is a bit of a challenge with Venture because true women become almost too beholden to the business and they don't want to let go of it.


Jen Blandos 00:24:50
Yeah, gosh, that's a whole other discussion. Okay. So one of the things as well is you travel all over the world, you meet all sorts of different people but some people and you and I have talked about this, that some people kind of look down on gender lens investing or say pretty stupid things. And it's not that we're saying that there's anything wrong with men. There are husbands, our sons, our brothers, our fathers and we want to work with men but there's this inequality still.


Heather Henyon:00:25:31


Jen Blandos 00:25:32
What are some of the dumbest things that you have people say to you?


Heather Henyon:00:25:37
Well, yeah, it's interesting. I've spent a lot of time especially because the allocators which are the investors in a fund like Mind Shift, often it's predominantly men who I'm talking to and so there's a lot of, I would say education that's got to be done to help them to understand the opportunity. Again, if you think about it as kind of we call it the arbitrage opportunity where if only 2% of the money is going to women, this, let's say, emerging asset class. But the pipeline and the opportunity is much bigger whether it's women or let's say 20% to 40% of the pipeline of founders, you can back there's a big spread. So as an investor you want to look for these low hanging opportunities. So why wouldn't you focus on them? Forget about impact and getting capital to women. Just think about the financial opportunity there. Right. And especially if you're one of the few doing it and who's got a proven track record, which we have through our years of doing this with angel investing as operators and all of that. Right. So I mean, some of the dumb things I hear just well, the number one objection is always pipeline, are there enough women to invest in? There are three and a half billion women in the world. Right. And there will be soon 5 billion where 50% of the population and then I think there's just a natural reaction that's kind of like it's off putting. Because recently I was at an investor event and there was a man there. We were at a networking reception and there were a few different investors there. And this man just we were going around the cocktail table and saying, what we invest in? And this man just said I invest in companies where there's at least one male founder or co founder. And I looked at him and I just said, Are you joking? And he's like, can you imagine if I went around the world and just said that to people how much crap I would get? I said, yeah, but that's really what you're doing, right? There just aren't that many examples of women led companies that especially all male VCs have or fund managers have invested in. So I think there's just a naturally defensive reaction. I think also on the flip coin, 70% of our investors for Mind Shift are women, but 70% of the capital is coming from men as investors. So there are lots of guys who get it, and we're really fortunate to have people backing us, like Fade Gondor, the founder of Aramex and a prominent investor in the region.


Jen Blandos 00:28:28
Yeah, he's amazing. Supporting women.


Heather Henyon:00:28:30
Yeah. And we've got also Madasar Sheikh, who's the founder of N, CEO of Kareem. We've got Amar Rahman, who's one of the founders of Fajr Capital and is a professor at Columbia Business School. So we've got lots of, I'd say enlightened men who get it and get the opportunity, but we need more of them.


Jen Blandos 00:28:53
Yeah. And women owned businesses perform better.


Heather Henyon:00:28:56
Yeah, exactly. There's been so much data around this. The women owned businesses outperform in terms of revenue, the valuation is much more rational, and then they're capital efficient. So times like these, when we've got kind of recessions happening, they figure out ways to spend less and do more.


Jen Blandos 00:29:18
We're resourceful. Yeah, we are. Because we're also like running businesses, running households, doing all of this sort of stuff. You just become resourceful with how you're going to spend your money, and you're always going to find ways to make money, right?


Heather Henyon:00:29:33
Yeah. And cut back. A lot of times women will stop paying themselves. They'll figure out ways to get things for free. So I think it's really important because we've seen lots of examples in the last couple of years where the cash gets blown through really fast and then there's nothing left.


Jen Blandos 00:29:53
I mean, I do think it's important that we have to pay ourselves women sometimes the first thing that will cut will always be our salaries. And of course, you have to pay your people first. You have to pay your suppliers. But we also need to make paying ourselves a priority, too. And I know so many female business owners that don't. And that's one of the big things where I'm like, pay yourself a salary. You need to have a salary. And I guess, as well, that when you're looking at businesses, you want to see that the founders paying themselves, not a ridiculous salary.


Heather Henyon:00:30:26
No, we want them to be one taken care of. We don't want founders to be worried about paying rent or a mortgage and keeping the lights on and neglecting their families or their needs. But I think also we want to know what's the true. Cost of running the business. So if the Founder moves to a different role and we need to hire a CEO, how much is it going to cost to hire that person?


Jen Blandos 00:30:51
Absolutely. One other area I want to dive into with you is tech because you and I have had this conversation about the businesses that you invest in and one of the criteria that you have is that they have to have some form of tech. Why is that?


Heather Henyon:00:31:15
Yeah, I think, look, in today's world where everything is mobile enabled, tech enabled, it's just really important for all businesses to be thinking about that, especially when it comes to reaching customers. I think you look at the last now what? Two generations of digital natives and we talk about it with our kids, that they're just always connected, they're online the Internet too much. Yeah, I know. I think that's just the reality of the life that we live in. But the other side of it is in Venture, we're looking at kind of what we say is the hockey stick growth. So you can really only scale certain things in your business. You can't scale yourself. People are difficult. So the Idea when you've got technology, once you've kind of gotten it to a point where it's ready or Strong, you can scale that and you can grow into other markets, you can kind of have this exponential growth through customers and that's Where the real opportunity comes in.


Jen Blandos 00:32:24
And I Guess as well, even if you're not looking for investment, that it makes good business Sense to have tech within your business. And I'm constantly saying this to the founders that we have in Female Fusion Network as well, that even if you're a product based business, you need to build tech into your business because it's going to save you time. It's going to save you money. It's going to make things more efficient, streamlined, and also as well, I even see for Female Fusion Network that we're very tech focused and always looking at how we can automate and do things. And we've gotten it to a Point as well where so much of what we do just runs itself and that makes it really easy that even if we're not physically in the business doing things every single day, that that tech is running Itself. Which Is beautiful because it makes it easier to scale your business that Way.


Heather Henyon:00:33:19
Yeah. And also there's less risk. Right? So if Something we talk about key person risk, if something happens to you or to me, the business can still function and Run and It's not so dependent on the actual People, but then it's more about the systems that you've put in place.


Jen Blandos 00:33:36
Yeah, and That's I guess as well, if you're looking for investment that the business can't just be you, that needs to tech will play a Big role in that as well.


Heather Henyon:00:33:47
Yeah, exactly.


Jen Blandos 00:33:49
You have some really cool businesses that you've invested in. Can you maybe share one or two success stories of some of those really cool companies and what they're doing and what we can see from them?


Heather Henyon:00:34:06
So we focus on what we call the rise of those millennials. So gen Z, millennial next gen values that are more focused on things like sustainability, longevity, just very different than the previous generations. You find more vegetarians are more aware of their health issues. And especially we saw all of that just accelerate during COVID And so certain business models are really being disrupted, especially in certain sectors. So because of that, we're focused on food tech fintech, ed tech, and health and wellness tech. I would say about half our portfolio now is kind of health and wellness focused just because of all the opportunities that we see, whether it's women's health, preventative medicine, just mental health is a big need right now given the whole, I think, so many factors in our modern day society. One of the companies we've backed is a company called Rebel Girls, and it's a girl empowerment brand focused on kind of ages seven through eleven. Started with these two Italian women who were just writing stories about women. So kind of in in all countries, in all markets, we don't have enough of the stories of the women in history who have been the real champions or leaders. It's just we're just left out over in all the classrooms. So they started just writing first kind of what they called bedtime stories, but then started going to different thematics. So there's women entrepreneurs, women environmentalists, women in sports, women in music, just all of these different areas. So we invested in the company, I think, in 2021, and they've also now got an omnichannel platform. So they've gone to the conversation before, they've gone into podcasts, audiobooks, they've got YouTube, all of those things.


Jen Blandos 00:36:04
And they're in different languages as well, right?


Heather Henyon:00:36:07
Yeah. When we invested, they were in 49 languages, but not in Arabic, which we were just shocked by, given that it's a language spoken by the fifth most commonly spoken language. So we actually just recently helped them sign a deal with the Kalima Group in Sharjah and the Emirates, where they're going to publish two of the books in Arabic. And then also one of our other portfolio companies, Little Thinking Minds. They're an Ed tech that focuses on Arabic literacy for kids through selling into schools. Okay. They've got now, I think, 500,000 users on their platform, 500 schools across the region. So they've actually signed a deal with a partnership with them where they're publishing and digitalizing and translating ten of their stories into Arabic. Wow. Yeah.


Jen Blandos 00:36:59
And I guess that's what I love about this as well, is that the businesses that you're investing in are just making such an impact on the world. Right. It's not just something which is there to make lots of money that it's actually adding value and making an impact, which I think we as women really focus on, right?


Heather Henyon:00:37:22
Yeah, definitely. I mean, we are careful about how we position my shift because I think this happens a lot where especially sort of mainstream business and investment, we get kind of pigeonholed into, oh, you're just women, you're charity handouts, all of that, but trying to show that actually these are financially profitable businesses and really great opportunities. When we did our first audit for Mind Shift, we were at 48% IRR, which is like unheard of what's the industry average? Just like industry average, like it depends, but in Mina, I would say at that stage 5%. Wow. So we're outperforming and we're diversified. Half our portfolio is in the US. Half is in UAE, Jordan, Turkey and Singapore. And that was all intentionally. We wanted to have a balanced portfolio, which is if you get into things like fund construction, that's how you make money. So again, having the financial knowledge, experience, but also the entrepreneurial part of doing this I think is pretty unique.


Jen Blandos 00:38:36
Wow, that's so cool. I want to wrap things up, this conversation. Gosh. We're going to have to do a part two another time when I can pin you down because I know you're so busy all the time, I'm grateful just to have this time from you. But last question, if we look ahead to the next 20 to 30 years, so when this generation becomes our age, what do you think the environment is going to look like for female owned businesses? And also, I guess as well, their ability to secure investment?


Heather Henyon:00:39:07
Yeah, well, I hope it looks really different than it does now because right now it's pretty small. But I think again, it's this idea of like, you can't be what you can't see. So the more role models that we get in either businesses where we've got women entrepreneurs whose stories we hear about, we're aware of, and then also on the other side, the investors. So if we get into the cycle where then we start making lots of money and we can deploy more of that funding to basically scale and grow and reach more and more women entrepreneurs, I think in 2030 years it might not look drastically different, but I do hope that there's a different mindset and a mind shift when we get there. And I think again, the generation of our children, they don't want to waste time, right? They don't want to sit in some boring corporate job just doing FaceTime when they could. They understand, especially having gone through COVID and watching all of the people getting sick, losing people, all of that. I think they really appreciate time in a way that previous generations didn't and they think of it as being more fragile. So for them, doing things that are meaningful with their lives is going to be very important. And I think that funds like Mind Shift, Female Fusion Network, we are building that platform for the future.


Jen Blandos 00:40:37
Yeah, I love this generation. I love the generation of our kids because they're just so kind and caring and see the importance of equality. Both you talk to boys and girls, see the sexual fluidity.


Heather Henyon:00:40:53
I mean, just even the definitions and the labels are very different. Right. Much more open.


Jen Blandos 00:40:59
Yeah. And I absolutely love that. And I hope that all the work that you're doing and the work that we're doing just makes a difference, that it is going to be totally different, that it isn't going to be the constant battle about women are getting 2% funding, 0.1%. If it's in the Mina region, hopefully that's not going to happen. But Heather, keep doing everything that you are doing. You are a trailblazer not only in this region, but in North America, in the world, for what you're doing. And thank you for everything that you're doing for women. I feel so grateful to know you and I've known you for so many years, and I'm just in awe of the vision and the strength and the passion that you have for this that you're doing so much. So thank you so much for your time today and just for being you.


Heather Henyon:00:41:58
Thank you, Jen. That's really sweet. Thank you so much for having me. And thank you also to you for everything that you're doing and building. So we'll have to have a podcast hug.


Jen Blandos 00:42:08
Yeah, I was going to say we'll hug now. So thank you to everybody who's listening. And I guarantee you I'm going to be doing more with Heather because there's so many more things that I want to talk about. But Heather, thank you so much for joining me today. Thanks for listening to this week's episode of the podcast. If you'd like to get on top of the numbers in your business, why not download Female Fusion Network's SME Dashboard? It's the tool that we use to track our progress in the business month on month and it helps us take the right business decisions in Female Fusion Network. You can download it on Female Fusion Network or you can find the link in the show notes.