After raising millions for her own company, Little Pim language learning for kids, Pimsleur created her popular live fundraising workshops and online courses to help other women learn the “fundraising dance” and access capital to scale up their businesses. Pimsleur is the author of Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big, blogs about entrepreneurship for Forbes; has been featured on Today, NBC Weekend and CNBC and her company has been highlighted in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Pimsleur serves on the board of the New York chapter of EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) as chair of the Accelerator Program, and won the Smart CEO Brava! Award for women entrepreneurs. She speaks French, is an avid scuba diver and lives in New York City with her two energetic boys, who are 8 and 11, and their dog Ginger.
Tell us what you do:
I had a business that I built and ran for nine years – Little Pim – and now I have a mission! My mission is to help one million women entrepreneurs get to $1M in revenues by 2020. I work with women around the world via my online courses, in person workshops, and my book, Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big. What I am most focused on right now is the online course I recently created to help women scale up their businesses quickly. It’s called Million Dollar Women Masterclass and it provides the content, community and coaching for women who are ready to double their revenues and get on a course to reach $1M faster.
As an entrepreneur who built my own business Little Pim from scratch and spent many years and many sleepless nights doing a lot of it the hard way, I want to make it easier for women to scale up. I spent over five years and $60,000 on my own professional development in order to get my business to the seven figures. Part of this was getting into the right mindset to “go big” and part was acquiring the skills I needed (fundraising, managing a team) and then getting into the right networks. It’s extremely gratifying that I now get to help other women entrepreneurs scale up their businesses in a fraction of that time, for a fraction of the cost.
Women have been starting new companies at twice the rate that men have, and yet most of these businesses stay small (under $200,000 in revenues). Only 3% of all women run businesses ever get to $1M in revenues, and that is a tiny number that I want to see grow exponentially in my lifetime. Women also start their businesses with six times less capital than men do. This needs to change. More women will have bigger businesses when they learn how to run a scalable business and to raise capital the same way our male counterparts do.
I am addressing the gap in fundraising by educating women on the “how-to’s” of raising capital, as well as digging into the inner limiting beliefs that tend to hold women back. Working with corporations, non-profits, and government organizations we will definitely see one million more women get to $1M in revenues and then we will have 13% of all women entrepreneurs making $1M, not 3%. I can’t wait to celebrate that!
Did you live "another life" before stepping into entrepreneurship? What inspired the transition?
One of my personal mantras is “this is not the dress rehearsal.” This is my one life and I am not going to let any opportunities slip through my fingers -- I am actually on my fourth career! I was passionate about documentary filmmaking in college (where I studied film studies and women’s studies) and I went on to found my own production company with a friend in New York City in the 90s, Big Mouth Productions. We made social issue documentary films and sold them to HBO, PBS and other TV channels. It was an amazing, intense and exhausting time that took us to international film festivals and working around the clock. I got pretty run down from running that business and doing it in a field that had little possibility for real financial payoff. So I switched over to nonprofit fundraising around the time I got married and had my first son, in order to have less travel, more income and a more dependable schedule. I also am one of those weird people who actually likes raising money. But while I was on maternity leave I came up with the idea for Little Pim language teaching for kids and soon was back running my own business again! This time, I was determined to do it differently.
How did your past experiences help you get to where you are today?
I spend a lot of time with other entrepreneurs and I have noticed that many of us faced adversity early in life in the form of some kind of personal trial, and this creates a kind of resiliency that allows us to embrace the risks and challenges of entrepreneurship. In my case, I lost my father to a sudden heart attack when I was eight and grew up with a single mother in New York. We got by, but it was all hands on deck, so to speak. I started working after school jobs at age 13 in food services and babysitting (I tell some funny stories about this in Million Dollar Women) and found I loved making my own money. Sigmund Freud said “out of your greatest vulnerabilities will come your greatest strength.” For me, growing up with financial insecurity motivated me to work hard for my own financial freedom as an adult, and has driven me to want to help other women access what I call the “triple win” of Money, Meaning and Mobility. In Million Dollar Women I explored this concept of what does success mean to us, as women? For many guy entrepreneurs “success” equals the number of zeros at the end of their revenues or how much they sold their business for, but for women we have more complex idea of what success means. It includes making money, doing work we love and being able to still be part of the lives of the people who matter to us, as daughters, sisters, partners and mothers.
What have been some of your "best practices" in networking and building a solid community?
Jim Rohn said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The first time I heard this, when I was about 4 years into running Little Pim, it really made me stop and think. I had already hired highly competent people at work, but what was the state of my entourage outside of work? Was I spending time with people who would challenge my thinking, who were a few steps ahead of me in business, and willing to help me grow in areas where I needed help? Not so much.
Spending more time with people who already operate in the circles you want to enter, such as professional organizations, will help you grow your business and give you access to people who can help you get through the inevitable challenges that will come up as you scale your business.
Many women (myself included, once upon a time) think “networking” sounds like something that happens in a windowless room where everyone trades business cards and interacts solely because they want to get maximum economic value out of one another. And that’s just icky. But that is not what I am talking about.
I like to call it “Intentional networking” – spending time finding people who can offer advice and valuable business opportunities before you even need their help. I always credit joining Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) with helping me take Little Pim over the $1M in revenues mark and perhaps as importantly, providing me with entrepreneurial peers who kept me sane while getting there! It seems like we rule is providing just this kind of community too and I love seeing so many new online and offline places for entrepreneurs to support each other.
What are some ways of motivating yourself in times of doubt? Do you ever feel like giving up? Why do you keep going?
I have a few personal mantras that I come back to when I feel like I just want to get back under my covers or hand off the keys to the office to the nearest store clerk. They include “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” And “Fortune Favors the Brave.” One of the most fun parts of writing Million Dollar Women was learning what other women who were also running high growth businesses have as their mantras. I assembled the 10 mantras we all agreed on as Million Dollar Women Mantras and posted them on my web site. The artist I worked with on the book also drew them as Wonder Women cuff bracelets (you know, the ones she used to make a force field!). Women have been sharing them on social media and sharing their own mantras and I love thinking that we are all “wearing” these virtual mantra cuffs as we go about building our businesses and tackling the tough stuff.
What piece of business building advice has really stuck with you over the years of running your company?
I think one of the keys to my being able to build Little Pim into a high revenue generating business was working on my own mindset issues. I am a big believer you can only grow your business as big as you grow yourself and I needed to do a lot of work on my own limiting beliefs
As part of my mission of helping more of us to build multi-million dollar companies, I want to discuss the “elephants in the room” for women entrepreneurs. Limiting beliefs and the confidence gap are some of these elephants. When we don’t identify the confidence gap we may fall into it. I know when I set out to raise Venture Capital I didn’t think I could do it, so at first, I didn’t. I spent nine months doing research before even talking to one VC. We my feel we can only make bold moves we need to make to succeed – including raising capital, negotiating hard on a deal, approaching a new mentor or advisor – if we feel 100% certain we can ace it. Some of this comes from how we were socialized. Broadly speaking, girls have traditionally been socialized to please adults, look pretty and having the right answers. Boys, on the other hand, speaking broadly, are encouraged to play sports, get dirty, and learn to contend with repeated failure on the sports field. Even though these norms are shifting as we become more more aware of how limiting these roles are, these stereotypes are still engrained in our culture. The result is the confidence gap, and women who take fewer risks then men do.
When you tackle your own confidence gap it’s a good time to keep one of my favorite #MillionDollarWomen Mantras close at hand: “Have the fear. Do it anyway.” The important thing is not to let those over-active neurons take over. As my yoga teacher would say during a class meditation “acknowledge the thoughts, and gently set them aside.” Once you do, you’ll find yourself doing more incredible, gravity-defying things than you could ever imagine, and it will feel great.
Did you look for funding in the past?
Yes I have raised almost every kind of capital: friends and family, angel, crowd funding, venture capital.
Why do you think that female owned businesses are a VERY small percentage (that has not been growing) of businesses that get funded by venture capital? What can we do to change that?
Many founders say they don’t want to raise money, in part because it seems intimidating and inaccessible. And in many ways it is, but that is starting to change. More and more women ARE raising capital and their businesses are growing faster than if they hadn’t. To get my company, Little Pim, to the seven figures revenue mark, I needed capital to ramp up our marketing, hire a professional staff and build out our product line. First, I had to learn the “fundraising dance.” I find it’s helpful to think of fundraising as a “dance” instead of this intimidating test that will put you in front of crowded rooms of mainly guys in suits (though it might) and answering tough financial questions (though you will have to!). Just like salsa, tango or the fox trot, every dance has its own moves and takes practice; if someone spends a little time with you, you can learn even the most complex moves.
In my blogs Am I Ready to Raise? Fundraising Tips for Women Entrepreneurs and in Learning the Fundraising Dance I gave a step by step breakdown about how more women can learn the “fundraising dance” and raise venture capital.