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WOMEN-OWNED
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How to hook an investor

Cari Carter has a hot product. Now she needs cash to expand.

By Kimberly A. PorrazzoPublished: November 01, 2012

It’s one of those “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that” products. Car-go Handbag Hooks prevent accidents that are just waiting to happen. You stop short while driving, and your purse or takeout dinner slides off the passenger seat and spills onto the floor. It happened once too often to Cari Carter, and she solved the problem by creating a decorative hook that holds a handbag – or any bag – in place while one is driving.
   
The product is a winner. More than 70 stores carry it, and she’s received some nice press. But now Carter needs cash to take her business to the next level.
   
Therein lies the dilemma for most women business owners in the U.S. Of the 10 million companies created and run by women, just 3 percent reach $1 million in annual revenue, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. Most don’t have the capital to invest, so they tap their personal savings and their credit cards. Few are awarded commercial credit. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Santa Ana District Office, a scant 196 women-owned companies in Orange County were funded in 2012. Their loans totaled a little more than $100 million.
   
So Carter is going another route. She’s looking for an angel investor who will come up with the cash she needs.
   
“On the low end, $25,000 would open a lot of doors for me,” Carter says. She adds that $50,000 would open even more doors.
   
So far, all she’s had to package has been her product. Now, she has to package herself. She has to convince an investor that she can make money for them both. To better prepare for the big pitch, Carter participated in Springboard Enterprises’ Dolphin Tank session at the recent California Women’s Conference. She had the opportunity to pitch her business to a “Shark Tank”-type panel that offered observations, suggestions and resources to help her win investors.
   
Springboard Enterprises’ president, Amy Millman, says that the most important thing a woman business owner can do when pitching an investor is to exude confidence.
   
“Women often don’t feel as confident about their ideas,” says Millman, who with her team has helped women win more than $5 billion in equity funding. “If a man came up with the idea,” she notes, “he’d say, ‘Yes, this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I’m going to do it. I’m going to be really successful.’ And the women are always thinking there is something else they don’t know.”
   
Bottom line: Believe in your product and its potential before you start pitching investors.

Go HERE to get a behind-the-scenes look at Dolphin Tank and Cari Carter’s Car-go Handbag Hooks.