Stacy Kehren Idema is the Founder and Managing Director of Global Collective, which is revolutionizing how men and women do business.
Chad talks to Stacy about the work Global Collective does, starting a company based in the U.K, and the differences between doing business in the U.S. and the U.K.
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CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Stacy Kehren Idema, the Founder and Managing Director of Global Collective, which is revolutionizing how men and women do business. Stacy, thank you for joining me.
STACY: Chad, it is a pleasure. How are you today?
CHAD: I'm well. I'm well. [laughs] I wasn't going to bring it up, but since you asked, I feel like whenever someone asks that question, I feel like I need to give an honest answer.
STACY: Of course.
CHAD: Because I think, so often, we don't answer honestly. We just sort of...so what's going on in my life right now is, unfortunately, even though we got our fourth boosters three weeks ago, my wife tested positive for COVID yesterday.
STACY: Oh no.
CHAD: And so she feels fine. She feels mostly fine. But we have kids and everything, so it throws a huge wrench into life right now. We're very fortunate that we've got vaccines, and it'll be mild and everything, but it is a big wrench in our life.
STACY: It is.
CHAD: Today, tomorrow, for the next week, so...
STACY: I'm sorry.
CHAD: Yeah, so she's in a different part of the house, quarantining away from all of us, and we're hoping for the best.
STACY: Me too.
CHAD: We could probably do a whole hour around how life is for all of us right now, coming in this different stage of the pandemic. I hesitate now to ask you, how are you today? [laughs]
STACY: I'm here in London, so, for me, it's the end of my day. And fortunately, I haven't had COVID in a few months. But I know that experience and being even alone was enough to put a wrench in everything. So I get it.
CHAD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let's get back to Global Collective. I gave just a brief snippet. But can you tell people a little bit more about what it is you're actually doing?
STACY: Yes, I would be honored. So the mission of The Global Collective is to revolutionize really how investment companies invest in female-founded and led businesses, and there are three key areas of that. It's really about changing gender perceptions by actually connecting the unique strengths of each gender. And if you were to even remove the gender piece, it's really talking about the core masculine and the feminine energies of how and what resides in all of us. How can we bring more of the flow and the creativity into business?
The mission is also designed to eliminate the diversity gap. How can we make things better, more equitable, easier both for the men and the women, you know, going back to the genders? And something that's very near and dear to my heart is really about increasing the financial benefit and, frankly, the mental well-being in business because one thing that we don't talk enough about is the impact that mental health can have not only on our personal life but on business and vice versa. And I think it's starting to come out more and more.
But with founders, with entrepreneurs, and with executives, that mental illness journey has actually increased, and there are some really interesting statistics on it. So, how can we make it a non-shaming conversation? And how can we actually help each other in this area? So the mission is really about transforming business into something different that I think we're all feeling the need for.
And how it actually came about was from my 50 years of business and personal experience. I was born into business owners, into a family of business basically. My first husband was a generational business owner and had the hard position to be in, and he had to choose family over business. And then I, in my corporate career, had a really long tenured corporate career.
I worked 26 years in companies as small as 40 as well as at Fortune 7 companies where we even did new initiatives, new businesses, startups within those. And modestly, most of my time was actually spent with male executives. And I'm a woman in business. I've been in business a really long time. So that's a little bit about the mission and how The Global Collective came about.
CHAD: You're not the first guest we've had on the show that's talked about these issues. But I'm curious because it is more of a conversation right now. It's something that we've been talking about on the show. Is there something that people in that environment that maybe people still don't realize or that you need to just reiterate over and over again here are the challenges, here are the differences, here's what's happening in the real world right now?
STACY: Specific to the mental health piece?
CHAD: Either the mental health piece or just women in business and what it's like for them.
STACY: Well, I think this is where I love to talk a little bit about the extremes and where those extremes are actually very similar. I believe that men feel like there's this weight of the world on their shoulders and that they have to provide, and serve, and do. And I also believe women do as well, you know, provide for their family, protect for their family. For many women, they may even be a single parent, and with that, they want to be able to go out and provide for themselves and do.
So you have this desire, this deep desire to do both of those things differently, yet, we're going at it both parallel. And at some point, I think the convergence and really where things start to explode in a beautiful way is when we get to come together. Because if we go about it in a very myopic fashion, we often miss the things that are going on around us that could be a benefit.
So from a very specific where I'm very focused on in the venture capital and investment space, so much of what has happened over the course of business time, if you will, and when venture capital investments started, which is, you know, I would imagine hundreds and hundreds of years, it has been mostly men that have done that investment. And when you look at the world as it exists today, it is mostly men that...I don't want to say control the money, but they're the ones in that business.
So when you continue on doing the same thing that you've always done and you don't do anything new, that's telling us a couple of things: you don't know how, or you're afraid. And women, on the other hand, are going about doing their thing, working really, really hard. They're probably even more so working harder because it takes longer for them to earn just as much as a man. If they get funded, it takes longer to get funded, and then they actually get less, but they get to that point.
And in the meantime, they've had to either endure additional risks to their family by not spending time with their family, or giving up their family and focusing on the business, or focusing solely on their family and giving up the business. So we don't have to do things the way that we're doing them now.
And the other element, and where the mental health piece comes in, is this thought that we still have to do these things in these linear ways when we can actually come together and learn the beauty of what men do well in business and the beauty of what women do well in business, and figure out how to do it differently.
CHAD: You mentioned you have a lot of experience working for other companies. So I'm curious, when did you start to feel like you needed to do something to solve this problem and potentially create a new company around it?
STACY: I've always had a deep desire to do business differently. And what I didn't know at the time in my corporate career was why I didn't feel like I fit in. Having grown up in that business world and knowing what it was like before cell phones and you still had your landline, and a Sunday evening, the telephone rings, and you're sitting at dinner, and your parents dare not answer the phone because the phone will keep ringing until somebody answers. That's just how it happened in the small town I grew up in.
Knowing that stress and that pain and watching them go through that to being married to a small business owner, and then being in the rooms and the spaces of the people and hearing the stress and the pain, there was this thing that followed me all the way through that knew that business had to be done differently. And I attempted to insert it a lot in my corporate career, and for most, because I wasn't a box-checker, I didn't fit in.
But the deep desire to finally do it differently was in 2019 when I was made redundant. I had been working and doing coaching on the side, and it was my goal to finally go into business for myself. But in 2020, I divorced myself and decided to take myself on a journey. My children are a little older; they're in their early 20s. And I decided to just kind of come back to myself and understand what did I need to do this business for me and to do with what was deeply passionate within me. And could I do it in another country?
So in 2021, I spent six months in London and, as part of that journey, did some work for a woman who owns a diversity, & inclusion, and belonging company. And through that experience and listening to her, along with a few other women, talk about that journey to get invested, there was something inside of me that just clicked. It was as if I was reliving sitting in front of capitol committees in my corporate world and listening to the same stories. I'm like, you know, that's just not how things have to happen.
It was that moment that I knew it wasn't for me just about helping the women in business and helping them scale their business; it was something bigger than that because, in order to do that, to make that change, and to really make a meaningful change, you have to bring the men along for the journey. You have to help them. I know there are many men out there that are all for women-owned businesses, co-founded businesses, women-led businesses, and many of them come to me privately and talk to me about it. And my response is I need you not to tell me; I need you to show me.
And with that, I've also learned that many of them are afraid. They're afraid to do something different, which tells me that we have to create a space for both the men and the women to thrive. Otherwise, we'll just keep spinning our wheels and doing the same thing over and over again. And it will be far more difficult to get to where we need to get to than how we can get to where we want to go doing it a different way.
CHAD: So, what does the work Global Collective does look like? Is it coaching? Is it more than that? Is it different than that?
STACY: My end vision, the bigger vision, is really this end-to-end ecosystem. So there are roughly five elements or five stages of a business idea: start, sustain, scale, and exit. The focus right now is on the scale and working through pilots with investors and with women in business to learn what and how we do it differently. Coaching will be a component of it, the mental health journey and navigating how that works for the founder and the business owner executive also becomes part of it.
But it also is extensive external networks and communities that we bring into that ecosystem that can support both the investors and their journey and the women in business and their journey. Because the other elements that I have learned along the way is when these investors invest in these all-male-led firms, they don't even know how to help those businesses diversify. They themselves even know and have that challenge.
Let's take, for example, a woman founder who would like to go on maternity leave. It's more often that she will leave that business because the pressure from the investors to stay in the business and choose business over family is great. Wouldn't it be fantastic if there was a collection of fractional C-suite individuals that get to come in and help that business along on that journey?
And not only does the female founder get to be part of deciding who and what will be taken on and for how long, but the investor and the business. And then that way, everyone is along on that journey and is in agreement of what's going to happen. So there isn't that pressure to have to choose between business and family for anyone.
CHAD: I guess that's part of where the collective idea and name comes from.
CHAD: That's great. You mentioned you moved to the UK as part of this journey. Are you working with companies primarily focused on the UK, or are you doing it globally?
STACY: My focus right now is the U.S. and the UK. So I actually started a brand new business. I secured my own visa. And as part of that visa, I had to start a new business, which was this business. So yeah, the primary locations right now have been UK and U.S. If an opportunity came up in a different country, that would be fantastic, exciting, but that's where I've been focused are in those two areas.
CHAD: When thoughtbot was getting started in Europe, like most locations that started for us, it was driven by someone who was from there originally and wanted to go back. So when we were getting started, me and my family...my wife was working for a company based in France at the time, and so we were able to go over for the summer. The kids were out of school for the summer. And so we spent several months there, and we loved it.
And we're fully remote now, but when we had an office there, I would go about once a month. There's probably a small list of places where I could see myself living [laughs], and that's at the top of the list. Was that the case for you? Did something particularly resonate for you?
STACY: You know, I had never been to Europe. And when I was looking at where I would go, I wanted a place that would be culturally diverse. I wanted a place where I could learn, just even be more immersed in history, and feel safe as a single woman in a foreign country. I'm grateful for my family. They're always very concerned about me, and frankly, so are my boys. Having two young adult men, I worried about them, but now they worry about me has started to come into play.
For me, it was really about where can I be that would be safe, culturally diverse, and allow me the ability to travel, and to your point, to just go explore new things, really to take a different perspective even outside of the gender diversity piece, the cultural, the language, all of those things? And so this place is home, and I didn't know that when I set off.
I thought it just would be; I'll go see how it is for three months. And then I wasn't even here a week, and I said three months wouldn't be enough and stayed six. And it was about five weeks into that journey that I said six months won't be enough; I need to be here longer. And then that's when I did more due diligence from the visa standpoint.
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CHAD: Is there anything that either has stood out to you or surprised you about differences between business in the U.S. and the UK?
STACY: It's fascinating to see how much they complain. The U.S. and the UK complain about each other and their work standards, yet how much they like what each other does. So I would say some of the biggest differences is that the city truly never seems to sleep, yet they definitely take time away from work and business and are very family-focused. That's probably some of the biggest things that I have learned as part of it, and especially having grown up in the culture that I grew up in, in corporate, where it was very much the grind of the nine-to-five plus.
So there are some slight differences. I think, if anything, there's just so much more culture and people here that have come from so many other different parts of the world that that's probably the thing that I noticed the most.
CHAD: Do you think that the work you're doing is ready to be received more or less in either of the places?
STACY: I think different parts of it are more ready to be received in different parts in each country.
CHAD: Can you tell me more about that?
STACY: Yeah, there's probably more heavy gender influences here in the UK, especially with Scandinavian countries that are much more gender equitable. So I think that piece is very much a belief here. And there are other elements that support both sets of parents from a family standpoint in this country. So I think that is more readily received.
I also do know that women-owned businesses are significantly less here and certainly less from getting funded. I think that's where the U.S. is further ahead in that game. However, the number of businesses that are started by women are significantly more than what they are here. It becomes more about who's louder with certain pieces. I think the U.S. is louder in that area. I think the UK is more open and receptive.
CHAD: One of the things that I learned about investment in general between the U.S. and the UK is there's not, I mean, it's just not as big of a place as the U.S. The amounts are often less. And I'll say, speaking a little bit more generally, I would say people in the UK, investors in the UK, are a little bit focused on different things. They're maybe a little bit more risk-averse, or they're focused on different markets. So the investment community is a little bit different between the two different places. Does that make the opportunity for founders, particularly women founders, any different between the two different places?
STACY: From the research that I've done through some interviewing with investors and then the research I've done on my own, there's a lot of little, smaller type of investment for female founders in the U.S. than there is in the UK. But that said, one thing that seems to be very prevalent is how much Europe, in general, talks about London being the epicenter for Europe and investment. You're asking a great question that I hadn't thought about in that framework.
CHAD: Yeah, and I don't know the answer either [laughs], so...
STACY: What I do know is in the U.S., there are more female-founded investment companies and female-led. However, I do know many of them are very much sticking to U.S. companies. But what I do know is that the UK is starting to leverage more and work in more partnership with U.S. investment companies.
CHAD: So if I am an investment firm, chances are that my entire, especially the leaders in the firm, are probably all men, maybe not, but if not all men, then the majority. So if I was sitting in that seat, how do we get started on this journey? Contact you?
STACY: Yeah, contact me. [laughs] Honestly, it begins with a conversation. This is the really interesting piece that I don't think that we've yet talked about is women believe that men have control of all the money. And while they may be the ones that are leading more of these investment firms, it's not just up to them, if you will.
There is this piece of the puzzle that, yes, we have these male-led investment firms, and they have repeatedly invested in mostly male-led businesses. But we have these women who have these beautiful businesses. Women are known for going to market with products and services that have fewer competitors in the market because 70% to 90% of consumer buying decisions around the globe are made by women. And so when they're out there buying and they see a gap, that's where a lot of these women start these businesses is based off of this gap that they see in the market, but they do have the power.
How can I, as part of this...and even the men because I know I wouldn't be where I am today without the male mentors and influencers in my life encouraging me to be bolder and to be better. And they could see in me some things I wasn't yet willing to acknowledge. We, women, have to do the same for each other. We have to help each other be bolder, be braver, not assume that we are at the mercy of somebody else; we're not. We get to be in partnership with each other as women, and we get to go have these conversations with these men. So I think that's the part that's missing in that.
So back to your question about if men want to get started in this, what do they do? Contact me, yeah, because let's start to have a conversation. There are so many men that know that they want to do different; they just don't know how. And when they do even see a woman come through the door, it's most often as a co-founder. They're not even sure what to do different to attract more of that.
So that's when we get to talk about what is it that they're doing today? Where are they going to look? Who are they calling in? And how does that change their business? Because, at the end of the day, it's not as easy as just investing in women-owned businesses. And I get this question a lot; the question is, "Hey, Stace, are you going to bring us a list of women-owned businesses that we can invest in?" And my response is always with a smile. However, what I say is "No," or "You would have already done that because the list is already available to you."
How they do business will transform. And that's the part that they get to go on this journey with The Global Collective is how do they transform their business as part of that? And that's scary to think. You've done something for so long. You do it really well. You make a lot of money doing it. Yes, there's risk, and as part of this, there's something even greater that would transform how you do business. So it becomes a longer conversation. It's not just about contacting me; I think that's the point I'm trying to get out. [laughter] It's a long-term relationship, and most don't consider that. And I certainly know that women don't either.
CHAD: So, speaking of that, what is the flip side of this if I'm a woman thinking about doing something new or already working on something? What do I do to get started with this and position myself differently or better?
STACY: It's A, building your network. And this is where it gets really uncomfortable for women because the fear of asking for money from men it's a real fear with this perception that they have control. But it's really our own mindset around money and the fact that there's enough of it available. So how do we create diversity in who we talk with, who we talk to? What is it that we are looking to bring to market? Doing some research but not doing so much that you get caught in your own bubble if you will.
I would imagine, Chad, that especially those that you've interviewed and even on your own journey doing this as a founder or even being an executive, it can get kind of lonely. And sometimes we get into that I'm just going to do it, and I'm just going to do it. And I'm going to do it until it's perfect and kind of forget that along the way; we need checkpoints.
So for women, it's the mindset factor of going in and doing something different, which means doing things that they've never done before: getting help, getting a coach, getting a mentor, putting together an advisory board, people that will hold you accountable, maybe even see your blind spots. It also is understanding that if you go pitch to one investment company, or one investment firm, or one investor and they say "No," okay, that doesn't mean that it's the end of the world. They just may not be for you at that time. And there's plenty more out there.
So keep refining. Keep doing your thing. Continue to build your community. Continue to build your voice. And with that, also know that...and this is even part of my journey. You have to be confident in what it is that you're doing. You don't have to be confident in everything that you have to do to get it done, but you have to be grounded in what it is that you're bringing and what it is that you offer.
Because the one thing that isn't talked about enough, and I've heard this enough with investors, is they're actually investing in the person. Yes, they're investing in a business, but they're investing in a person at the end of the day. And that part is overlooked. It's not just bringing something to market to bring it to market if you will.
CHAD: I hear that a lot. I think you're absolutely right. And I think that that gets too close, maybe, to what one of the core problems is. I think if investors are used to investing in people rather than the product and the stream of people that they're used to investing in looks a certain way or behaves a certain way, they're making decisions heuristically, oh, this makes a successful co-founding pair, or this makes us successful founder. And when something shows up that doesn't match the rest of what they see or the heuristic that they have, they really aren't able to think that that will be successful.
STACY: I know myself even being in the rooms that I've been in and doing the work that I did; this journey has been nothing short of a beautiful journey of learning. And the craziest things have happened, as in, they're more difficult than I would have ever imagined mostly because I got in my own way. Or it has required me to learn the nomenclature that's applicable to the investor world, that's very similar to working with capital committees and finance and corporate. However, they use the word slightly. They use either slightly different words or they use them in a different way.
So I've been very lucky. One of my advisors is actually a serial tech entrepreneur who has gone for funding alone half a dozen times, and so even when he and I will sit and talk about things, I continue to learn from him every single time. I said it this way. It would resonate more in this way. Which when you think about that, that doesn't mean I change my story, and my belief, and my confidence, and my grounding, and what it is that I'm bringing; it just means that I'm learning to speak different languages, and/or to be able to assimilate in an easier way.
If what I say doesn't resonate with one investor, I can find another way to describe what it is that I'm attempting to describe in a language that might resonate more with him. It's not just about here's my business. Here's how we're going to make money, and the bottom line number says I'm making revenue. It's about the bigger pieces of it. It's about being confident in your story, what it is that you're offering, what it is that your strengths are, frankly. And I think there's a disconnect there.
Wow, this could be a whole topic of its own, the perception that the founder has to know how to do everything or that we believe that we have to do everything. And then, what's your staying power in all of this? And I think that's even lost on itself. It's not for the faint at heart. And you learn not to take things personal, and you develop a thicker skin. But you still have to remain rooted in your core values.
CHAD: On that note of the misconception or the perception that founders need to know or do everything, there's something that I'm curious about that's sort of an extension of that for you. I've had other guests on the show where they're coming at it from a perspective of a lot of the same issues, but they're focused on getting more founders of color access to investment on both sides of that equation.
The language you use is around gender and men and women, but we know there are people that don't fit into those boxes specifically, either. So how have you chosen what you've decided to focus on? And how do you not get overwhelmed from all the sorts of the landscape and how big this problem is?
STACY: That's a great question because you're right, and I think about that often. I speak more in the norm, the heterosexual norm, genders. I am starting to talk more about the energies that really take away from the men and the women and really speak more about the masculine and the feminine. For me, that piece of it is where I'm staying focused because it's where I know I can do and make the most impact.
However, I believe that when we start to make traction in this way, we also get to make traction from a race and a color...and this is where the corporate culture is starting, I think, to understand and become more well-versed in the masculine and feminine energies. And when you can speak more in that language about the benefits that every single person has regardless of gender, when we get to speak in that language that is more inclusive, then I also believe that we get to include more people, more humans because, at the end of the day, we're all human. That's the one thing that we all [laughs] have in common. We get to speak in that language.
But I think the fact that my end vision...the end goal is so big that to your question about how do I not get lost in the rest of it, I know that will come along as part of it. Even though it may not be the language that I use, I know deep in my heart that creating this opportunity and the shift for people to see those perspectives and for me as a founder to also ensure that within my values, I look to have inclusivity in other ways other than gender myself will be of value.
And in the meantime, those external...the business partnerships, the other elements of my business and who I get to work with or who we get to work with as a collective will include those that are more well-rounded into the language, and I can learn from them. And we get to do these things together, so I do believe that it comes together. I've really led with that so that I don't get so overwhelmed in attempting to accomplish everything.
CHAD: Yeah. And I think the things you're working on feel different than just creating another business or another product like a SaaS product or that kind of thing, but I think a lot of the same principles still apply. And if you come out with something that is meant to be everything to everybody and you're not building from your experience, chances are good you're not going to be as successful as if you could focus and build from your experience and find your niche, and find the people who can help you do what you want to do and have the impact you want to have and then grow from there, as opposed to doing everything all at once.
STACY: Yeah, I agree.
CHAD: But it's tough because it's hard to say, "No, I'm not working on that now," because it is still important.
STACY: It is. The one thing I did, unknowing that this was going to happen but almost three years ago, while in my former life and in my corporate career, I led global teams and worked with different teams across the globe and had a little bit more of that cultural experience. The one thing that I really got hung up on when I first started was figuring out what my niche was because I've had all of that experience. But what I do know is that you get to create your own niche. That was something that took me a really long time to figure out.
I was so centered on conforming to what everyone else told me would be my niche. And I knew that there was something missing. And so part of what I do now, which is the beauty of living where I live now because there's so many different pockets of the culture pieces of it, race, religion, and ethnic backgrounds, I get to continue to build my network and my community with that thought in mind of being able to look for partnerships and have conversations, whether I'm here, whether it's those that are in the U.S. now that I have the attention of. It's all those things, and that just makes it better.
CHAD: Yeah. Well, if this has resonated with people and they want to find out more, they want to get in touch with you, they want to start that conversation, where should they go to do that?
STACY: They will find me...website is globalcollective.global. You will also find me on LinkedIn under Stacy Kehren Idema, as well as on Instagram under stacykehrenidema.
CHAD: Stacy, I really appreciate you joining the show and sharing with us. I appreciate the impact that Global Collective seeks to have. And I wish you all the best, I really do. So, thank you so much.
STACY: Thank you. It's been a pleasure. Thanks, Chad.
CHAD: You can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for this episode at giantrobots.fm. If you have questions or comments, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can find me on Twitter at @cpytel.
This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Thanks so much for listening, and I'll see you next time.
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