A venture capital firm that funds women entrepreneurs has launched another way to invest in them: an ecommerce site featuring women-owned brands. The shop is the next step in fulfilling The Helm’s mission of making it easier to support women founders.
It’s well established that women make most consumer spending decisions. What’s increasingly clear is that consumers would prefer to buy from socially conscious companies—about 90% of consumers, according to a recent Cone Communications survey.
But good intentions only go so far when it is so easy to drop a bargain into your Amazon shopping cart or snap up a cute top you see on your Instagram feed.
The Helm’s new shopping site aims to make buying from women-owned companies just as easy. The online boutique opened in July with about 80 fashion, beauty and wellness brands including Mansur Gaviel, Nili Lotan, Rosetta Getty, Araks, Coco & Breezy and Daughter of the Land. A former Vogue editor curates the products, and the site’s filled with stories about the women behind the brands.
A nice bonus: a percentage of profits will be invested in The Helm’s next VC fund, so shoppers also play a role in funding more women-owned startups.
The Helm started in 2018 as a VC fund that focuses on women entrepreneurs. To date, it has invested around $1.5 million in 11 women-founded companies.
Founder Lindsey Taylor Wood said the shop has been part of the plan from the beginning. “Not everyone can write a check, so for many people being a conscious consumer is the best way to invest in women,” said Wood.
“We all aspire to be better, whether that means eating better, becoming more eco-friendly, or supporting the things we care about, but the reality is that we are also really busy and only have so much time and resources,” said Wood.
For women–and men–who want to support other women, The Helm curates both products and people on a single platform to make it easier to shop with intention.
Before launching The Helm, Wood spent about a decade as a strategist and activist focused on gender equality. The idea for the startup began with an ‘a ha’ moment that wasn’t exactly positive.
Wood saw that despite decades of advocacy, women and girls hadn’t gained much ground. One example: the amount of VC funding that goes to women hasn’t changed much in decades. Another example: women still earn substantially less than men do for the same job. And the list goes on.
After a yearlong listening tour, Wood was convinced that political and social action could only go so far without women achieving economic parity with men.
“When men have money they are invited by their peers to invest and amass more wealth, whereas women are invited to give it away,” she said. “When you start unpacking why the world looks the way it does, it has a lot to do with that foundational truth.
Men, particularly white men of privilege, continue to invest in themselves while women are spending their resources cleaning up the mess that’s been made.”
Wood and COO Julie Weber are building The Helm to act as a one-stop shop where both investors and consumers can support women entrepreneurs.
Evolving into commerce was a natural outgrowth of building the fund and a community of women founders who, even if they are among the small percentage that do secure capital, can benefit from support in distributing and marketing their products.
Early sales have been strong, Wood said, and it is not just urban Millennials who are finding their way to The Helm. “The most fascinating thing about our brand, and it extends to our deal flow and readership as well as consumers, is that we are across ages, races, industry, and geography,” said Wood.
“In terms of every characteristic other than gender we are equally distributed.” What The Helm’s followers have in common is a desire for equality, and now, a fun and easy way to find great products from women-led companies.