Katherine Hague has seen first-hand just how much of an impact an early backer can have on a startup. At 21, Hague co-founded ShopLocket, an e-commerce platform for hardware entrepreneurs looking to bring innovative products to consumers. Two years later, in January 2014, she sold the company to Irish supply chain services giant PCH International.
Hague credits much of her early success to her first investor, Ladies Learning Code founder and HackerYou CEO Heather Payne. Payne wrote ShopLocket a cheque for $10,000 on the spot after seeing Hague’s demo. “At the time, it was a huge portion of her net worth, so she was really taking a big leap on me,” says Hague, who was eight months out of York University’s Schulich School of Business when she started the company. Spurred on by that angel investment, ShopLocket went on to raise a $1-million seed round in its first six months.
Payne’s early vote of confidence inspired Hague to offer the same support to other aspiring businesswomen. “After I sold ShopLocket, I had this soft spot in my heart for female investors, and I knew I wanted to start getting into the game,” recalls Hague, who is now 29. The first startup she backed? CareGuide, an online service that pairs families with care providers. The venture assembled one of the largest sets of angel investors in the country, with 70 backers, but only one of them was female. “[I wanted] to make a statement that women have to be more active and need to be investing,” says Hague.
So in August 2015, Hague started Female Funders, which offers paid access to an online community and courses about the funding process to aspiring and active female angel investors and entrepreneurs looking to raise financing. It’s working: Female Funders surpassed its original goal of signing up 1,000 female angels within the first year. Hague herself has invested in seven startups to date, one of which—a hair extension pop-up shop called Locks & Mane—she recently joined as CEO. “I’ve been lucky enough to invest in some incredible entrepreneurs who have really inspired me and taught me a lot,” she says.
Only 2.7% of venture funding currently goes to female CEOs, according to a 2014 study by Babson College. “Entrepreneurship is so important to our economy,” says Hague. “But I also think, for many people, having the freedom of entrepreneurship is so important to their happiness.” If Hague and Female Funders succeed, many more women will soon have that freedom.