It never fails. As soon as people hear the "F-word," it's as if the sentences that follow turn into a foreign language unknown to man. I'm not talking about the F-word that rhymes with a certain feathery, orange-billed animal. In fact, that potty-mouth version is probably more socially accepted than the "F-word" I'm imagining. Instead, I am talking about the one that ironically rhymes with passion: Fashion.
Anytime I mention the word fashion, I've found that I must immediately defend my intelligence and throw in "masculine" business lines here and there peppered with such words and phrases as "algorithms" and "multiple different verticals." Otherwise, I've lost my audience for the next three minutes as they tune me out to download a new app on their smartphone.
Despite what some may think, you don't have to wear pink designer clothes, resemble a version of Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, or say the word "like" between every sentence to build a fashion startup. If that was the case, the fashion industry would have kicked me out soon after they discovered that I played Division II college basketball or still ritually shop at Target. But after attending New York Fashion Week for the third year in a row, I can tell you it's clearer to me now than ever before that the world of fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry with just as many tech opportunities as any other business. This can be accomplished wearing stilettos or a Justin Bieber startup hoodie (complete with headphones).
The challenges of using the "F-word" or any other word associated with an overtly female-dominated industry is being able to engage your audience whether they're wearing a Hugo Boss suit or Converse sneakers. In other words, it's relating your idea to a male-dominated startup community in a way that bridges the gap between Dockers and Christian Louboutins, both equally important.
3 Tips for Closing the Gap between Female-Dominated Startups in a Male-Dominated Industry:
• If You Wear Pink, Own It!
There's nothing wrong with looking feminine in the world of black. First impressions are everything but confidence outshines the color of your blazer 9 times out of 10. Wearing pink doesn't make you less intelligent, just like wearing blue doesn't give you more testosterone. But looking professional is key. Lose the sparkles.
• Give Them an Angle
Whether you're pitching to venture capitalists or talking to someone at a local meet-up, if they can't relate to fashion or whatever it may be, relate it to something they would know such as sports, startups or even worse, video games. Have these scenarios hidden in your back pocket, ready to use at any given moment. Using schema in conversation, by providing a basis in which someone relates to the events he or she experiences, is something every entrepreneur should practice. Figure out the person. Find out what he or she likes, and relate your idea based on their interests.
• Back That Ass Up!
Okay, so not literally, but the most important part in pitching your startup is being able to report the problem, state your solution and back it up. This is something even a man wearing pleated pants and a St. John's Bay polo can understand. Mobile may be hot right now but if you have a service/product you can't back up it's not going to be any easier to raise capital or gain consumers. Give them the facts they can't resist that cross all industry boundaries.