Julia Elliott Brown is a highly respected entrepreneurial advisor working exclusively with female founders, with a wealth of experience in inspiring, coaching and supporting high-growth potential businesses. As a serial entrepreneur working in the start-up industry for over 25 years, Julia has built, funded, and grown several successful companies from fashion-tech, consumer data, publishing, e-commerce to consultancy, and is highly experienced in raising investment finance. Julia is an advisor, mentor, workshop leader, accomplished public speaker, and a long-standing judge at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. She is the founder and CEO of Enter The Arena, providing investment expertise and business coaching for female founders, host of leading business podcast Fundraising Stories with Female Founders and author of RAISE: The Female Founder’s Guide To Securing Investment.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I’m Julia Elliott Brown, CEO and Founder of Enter The Arena. I’m an equity fundraising expert, specialist advisor and executive coach, working exclusively with female founders. Having built my own high-growth start-ups and raised millions of pounds in equity finance, over seven years ago, I launched Enter The Arena to bring my expertise to support female founders on their journeys to fundraise successfully.
At Enter The Arena, I support female founders every step of the way as they progress through their investment and growth journey with their start-ups. As a strategic advisor and executive coach, I help them to navigate the scaling and investment process effectively and develop fundraising and leadership skills, and business acumen. I also share my knowledge on how to speak investors’ language, prepare appropriate financial information and investor pitch, build a high-calibre investor network and confidently negotiate their investment deal. I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to empower women in this way and to see them flourish as a result.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
From a very young age, I knew I wanted to go into business. I started working at Reuters, looking after investment banks, but even a long time before that I had felt a real pull towards the exciting world of start-ups and took the leap in the early days of the internet. For 25-plus years I was building, funding and scaling start-ups. Having spoken with many investors and VCs, attended hundreds of networking events and met loads of other female founders, I realised the degree of unfair treatment women face in getting funding.
Enter The Arena was born out of the realisation and the data that explicitly shows women are not being afforded an equal opportunity to shine in the investment space. Less than 2% of venture funding goes to women-led businesses, while more than half of female founders experience gender bias in the fundraising process – it’s truly unacceptable. I am therefore working hard to level the playing field by empowering those women with the strategy, skills and support they need for success!
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Although my current business – Enter The Arena – hasn’t required funding, I did previously own Upper Street Shoes, with my sister and I successfully raising over £1,000,000 to take the brand to the next level. This was done through secured a bank load for £150,000 and then half a million pounds from VC firm Venrex Investment Management, and then £250,000 from Aspire Fund from the British Business Bank and then mine and my sister’s savings. Throughout this process I learned the dos and don’ts of raising capital, as well as experiencing the first-hand sexism that comes with raising funds for your business, as a female founder. That was the experience that inspired me to create Enter The Arena.
What are the key successes?
I don’t think there is any one universal key to success. But for me, it has always been that I am very optimistic and have a real can-do attitude. If someone is going to tell me something can’t be done, then I’m definitely going to do my utmost to prove them wrong!
What has also supported me along the journey of professional and personal success was the self-awareness and knowledge of what I’m good at and what I’m NOT good at. I now know how to delegate tasks to experts in their field wherever possible while focusing on being a visionary leader, which is my strength.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Throughout my 25-plus years of building, funding and scaling start-ups, I’ve faced many challenges. One of the toughest was deciding to close my last business, which was really tough as it was my ‘baby’ and I’d poured my heart and soul into it; but it was the right decision in the end. I also faced a huge shift as I pivoted from being a start-up operator to a start-up advisor when I launched Enter The Arena over seven years ago, which was like starting all over again. My key leap into the unknown was, however, a decision to focus exclusively on supporting female founders when everyone kept on telling me that was madness. But deep within me, I knew, I had a mission!
What are your plans now/for the future?
I won’t rest until we have 50% of high-growth start-ups run by women, so I have no doubt there’ll be many more challenges ahead! I would also like to see more gender equality measurements in place in the investment industry. Every investor should be tracking their performance at every stage of the pipeline and be held accountable for improving diversity.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you planned out a business, its objectives, practicalities and other measurable aspects, and they clearly show that you should take a risk and start your entrepreneurship journey, but you still think that something is holding you back, go by the motto “feel the fear but do it anyway”.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Apart from having a great business plan and pitch ready, an often overlooked but crucial factor in achieving success is the right mindset. This is what I teach female founders through mentoring and in my book. You need to unpack your core beliefs about yourself and ask yourself whether something can be limiting you. These can be anything from the career you were told you should choose to internalised gender stereotypes or thinking that as a woman, you should not say or act in a certain way. Once you unpack any false, negative beliefs about yourself you can start building your confidence as an entrepreneur with a supportive community or a mentor.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
My two children, my partner, sister and my friends..
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong [wo]man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [wo]man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” – Theodore Roosevelt
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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