Fund Femme to Tip the Scales: Oriel Irvine Wells & Ezinne Okoro, Wunderman Thompson

There’s finally a global directory of businesses that people can use to change their spending habits for the better.

by India Fizer , AdForum

Wunderman Thompson
Full Service
New York, United States
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Fund femme, created by global marketing agency Wunderman Thompson, is a worldwide platform that allows consumers to discover, and shop from, women and non-binary owned businesses across a vast variety of specialties. The platform aims to support women and non-binary owned businesses by bringing visibility and addressing the gender equality in the economy. To learn more about the seminal platform for endorsing femme founders, we spoke with Co-founder and Copywriter at Wunderman Thompson UK, Oriel Irvine Wells, and Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson.

Oriel Irvine Wells
Copywriter Wunderman Thompson
Ezinne Okoro
Global Chief Inclusion, Equity & Diversity Officer Wunderman Thompson
 

In your effort to support women and non-binary-owned businesses, can you tell us how you landed on creating Fund Femme and the tools it is comprised of?

OW: We actually started Fund Femme in 2019 with a smaller, UK based campaign called Fund Female. We challenged people to shop exclusively at women-owned businesses for a week and, guess what? Every single person failed. This showed the glaring need for more diversity and representation in our economy. After all, it shouldn’t be impossible to buy food from a woman-owned supermarket.  

COVID further exacerbated the need to support women-owned businesses, as women’s jobs were 1.8 times more likely to be lost as a result of the pandemic. We wanted to come back bigger and better, to help more women and non-binary entrepreneurs and make genuine change, which is why we’ve gone global.

There are a whole range of reasons for this disparity in business - the lack of confidence perpetuated in underrepresented groups by a marketplace that doesn’t represent us, lack of relevant training opportunities, and of course lack of venture capital funding. Indeed, only 1% of VC funding went to all-female teams in the UK last year. 

The first stage of our initiative is therefore raising awareness of this imbalance and starting to tilt the scales towards us. Consumer demand influences funding, and by making people more aware of where they’re spending their money and making it easier to shop at women and non-binary owned businesses, we’ll show venture capitalists that there’s a genuine desire for change.

 

How can the interconnectivity of the database help businesses grow?

OW: Since lack of confidence and representation is a huge barrier for many female and non-binary entrepreneurs, we hope that being able to see and connect with lots of other businesses will boost their confidence. Starting a business is hard enough as it is, but starting one in a marketplace that doesn’t represent you - that is stacked against you - takes a huge leap of faith. By seeing a whole host of amazing and inspiring businesses already thriving and getting the support they deserve, we hope to make that leap less scary.

 

Women led start-ups are underfunded and often have a harder time fundraising than new businesses led by men. How does Fund Femme help bridge the gap between these businesses looking for funding and investors?  

EO: Like many aspects of business, it starts with building awareness and acknowledging the disparities between women led businesses and those that are led by men. Fund Femme helps bridge this gap by offering non-binary and women-owned businesses a platform, a place they can celebrate their entrepreneurial spirit, be celebrated, and showcase their business. Global venture funding to women-owned businesses significantly fell during 2020, Crunchbase data shows. We urge anyone interested in this initiative to search, nominate, and shop at these businesses. Shining a spotlight on these passionate entrepreneurs will offer more exposure for funding and future investment opportunities. 

 

How does Fund Femme plan on adapting these tools to help women and non-binary aspiring business owners in positions of low accessibility?

OW: In our next phase, we hope to partner with existing brands and networks to provide more tangible support to aspiring business owners, especially those who will find it hard to get their foot on the ladder. We want to develop mentoring programs where more experienced entrepreneurs can partner with those just starting out to give advice and support. We also want to create networking events and opportunities to give entrepreneurs who aren’t usually in this space more of a platform to learn, grow and make important contacts.

 

 

As economies recover, what opportunities can Fund Femme provide in the post-Covid era for businesses in sectors that were the most negatively affected by COVID-19? 

EO: Globally small businesses have been disproportionality affected by Covid—women and minority-owned businesses especially so. As our global economy rebounds, there’s no better time to use your wallets to show support to minority owned businesses. Boston Consulting Group research shows that when women-led startups do get funded, they’re more likely to be successful. Our collective efforts via Fund Femme can form a movement to draw awareness to these businesses. It begins on the individual level—we’d love readers to nominate a business in their region to help our directory grow and most importantly, shop with them. 

 

In what ways can you see this program expanding in the future?

OW: In the short term, we’ll soon be launching our editorial platform that will give women and non-binary entrepreneurs the chance to share their stories, give advice and hero their businesses. We plan to do a bi-monthly series where we highlight different underrepresented groups and celebrate their journeys.

In the longer term, we want to help our entrepreneurs develop the confidence and skills they need to thrive in the marketplace. We’re hoping to work with some of Wunderman Thompson’s impressive client base to develop tools to help upskill entrepreneurs in the areas that they lack most confidence in, especially technology, finance and presenting. As previously mentioned, we also plan to create more of an official network which will host mentoring programs and networking events for people to support each other.

 

EO: In the future, Wunderman Thompson plans to curate an entrepreneurship program to support a subset of these companies, providing them skills to scale their business in marketing, communication, and more. As Oriel, our co-founder mentioned, we aspire to tap into our impressive global client base in the future, to help us develop tools to build the network further. Our teams will also have access to this database and be encouraged to hire these businesses as it aligns with their needs.  

 

In a year’s time, how will you measure the success of this program?

OW: We’ve launched with the aim of building the largest directory of non-binary and women-owned businesses in the world. If we keep growing and achieve this goal by then, that will be amazing. It will mean that there’s finally a global directory of businesses that people can use to change their spending habits for the better.

We’ll be measuring the number of visits and click throughs to the site, so we can get an idea of how many people have engaged with the fund femme economy. Success will also be a high level of engagement, so we can prove there’s a genuine consumer hunger for this, which we can use to support our argument for more active investment in female and non-binary owned businesses.