The Vinetta Project / Woman-Owned Business
Tell us a little about yourself and your childhood.
I am the CEO and founder of The Vinetta Project, a platform that helps close the gender-based funding gap by sourcing, funding and supporting women entrepreneurs.
I began my career in retail finance and private equity, and later transitioned to a top digital development agency where I consulted with Fortune 500 companies on digital innovation projects and directed startups on tech infrastructure and software builds. In 2010, I launched my first technology venture. I saw first-hand the lack of funding and resources going toward female founders and set out to close the gender-funding gap for female tech founders through my company, The Vinetta Project.
When did you decide you wanted to start your own company?
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I have launched a number of companies in my life and went back and forth from corporate jobs to my own startups, but I could never just show up to a 9-5, complete the same tasks and repeat that day in, day out.
Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?
I still don't know what I want to do. It is always evolving. The concepts behind all of my companies stem from problems that I encountered at some point in my life, yet I knew I could apply my experience and understanding into solving. I had worked in private equity and at an early stage startup, not to mention, raised capital for my own company, and experienced the gender lens problem first-hand. There were very few female investors around the table, very few women successfully raising capital and no ecosystem to improve the deep stemming gender issues that exist in tech and venture, hence, the creation of The Vinetta Project.
Vanessa Dawson, CEO & Founder The Vinetta Project vinettaproject.com
After you made the decisions, what steps did you take?
I wanted to create a vast network for female founders and give them access to the information, capital and networking opportunities needed to successfully launch and scale their companies. I started small at first. I put together a team and we hosted one pitch event that brought together investors looking for deal flow, top female entrepreneurs looking to raise capital and corporations interested in partnering with or acquiring early-stage companies, and it was successful. There was a reason all these groups of individuals wanted to be connected, and the business potential is endless when you put the right people together in a room. Once I had a solid concept, I had to find a way to monetize my ability to build strong networks.
How did you fund this project?
Vinetta was self-funded and we charged for events in the early stages, but we have always generated revenue. As we continue to grow and scale, we may look into investor opportunities, but not yet.
What were the hardest hurdles?
We grew very quickly across North America, and it was hard to keep up with our rapidly growing network and community. There was a lot of travel, sleeping on friends’ couches and just making it work to build our brand and grow our network.
What advice do you wish someone would have given you?
I have learned that you are going to get a lot of competing advice from every angle, so learn to trust your intuition and pursue what feels right. If you aren’t motivated anymore because the vision has swayed or you are forced to pivot in a direction you don't want to go, then you are not going to succeed.
Did you have a mentor?
I have hundreds of mentors. I have learned from so many people I have met along the way.
At any point, did you want to give up?
Of course, many times. In those moments of doubt, you have to slow down, take a step back and reassess how far you’ve come.
What made you keep going?
I regularly assess my business, goals and my personal life plans. If we weren’t having an impact or delivering results, or if things weren’t aligning with my personal lifestyle and goals, then I may have moved on.
How long did it take to become profitable?
We launched in 2013 and we are thriving.
What was the best thing you did to grow your business?
Attract the right people who believe in your mission and vision.
Do you feel it was more difficult because you are a woman?
I am very passionate about this subject. There are so many deeply ingrained sexist norms that have transferred over to business. Women still earn less than men across all sectors and occupations, hold just a fifth of global parliamentary seats and have an estimated 118-year wait for the gender pay gap to finally close. Not to mention, the physical, verbal and sexual violence that takes place daily against women around the world. We can’t deny there is a problem and need to continue to fight for equal access and opportunity.
Do you think social media is important?
The importance of social media can vary depending on the needs of your business, but for Vinetta, media attention and awareness is crucial to our success and mission. We need to be vocal about the issues that matter.
What is the happiest memory from this journey?
I love hearing testimonials from founders who have benefited from Vinetta. It makes it worth it!
Where do you see your company in five years?
My next goal is to expand our digital presence to reach more female entrepreneurs and help them on their startup journey. We’ve got a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline, and we are staying true to our mission to close the gender-based funding gap.