11.19.19 | Leadership

One Year of Focus on Female Founders: What We've Achieved And What's Ahead

By Jen Evans, Vice President, Constellation Ventures

It’s been one year since we launched our Focus on Female Founders initiative, a pledge to invest $100 million in female-founded or female-led companies through 2028. Over the past year, my team and I met with hundreds of female founders and have added four incredible female-led businesses to our Ventures portfolio – Austin Cocktails, Vivify, Montanya Distillers, and Durham Distillery (and we have more exciting news to share soon!). We’ve also re-invested in Catoctin Creek - a female co-founded business that joined our portfolio before we introduced Focus on Female Founders.

The outpouring of energy and passion that we’ve seen from founders, Constellation employees, and members of the trade has been extraordinary. It’s clear that we’ve hit on a massively untapped opportunity, and my hope is that we’ll continue to raise awareness about the many amazing female-led businesses in our industry.

I was excited to read the latest Pitchbook report that showed that 2019 is on pace to be a record year for venture capital investments in female-founded businesses across all industries. But we still have a long way to go, with female-founded businesses still receiving less than 3% of all venture capital funds. I’m very proud to be a part of Constellation’s commitment to transforming these statistics. In fact, in just one year, we have gone from having 20% of Constellation Ventures’ portfolio companies being female led to 40% today. That is tremendous progress and there’s certainly more to come.

I’m often asked about what Constellation Ventures is looking for when evaluating investment opportunities – not just those that are female led, but all potential investments. Overall, we’re looking to invest in categories that we believe represent the future of beverage alcohol and adjacent categories. Within those high growth areas, we’re looking for brands that are poised to outpace the competition. We’re looking for strong, well-positioned brands, with exceptional quality and high margins. We’re looking for a strong proof of concept – we like to see brands that have been in market long enough to prove that they can sustain and grow consumer demand. We’re also looking for high performing management teams with a passion for building their brand.

We talk to a lot of founders each week and it’s often the case that the timing of the opportunity isn’t quite right. That could mean the brand is at an early stage of development or perhaps it’s just not the right fit for Constellation’s portfolio. In these cases, we still try to add value for the founder(s) by sharing best practices or brainstorming solutions to challenges they might be facing. We really believe in the power of finding ways to help and elevate others, even if we’re unable to make a financial investment at the time.

For those who we do invest in, we’ve been working tirelessly to evolve our partnership model to increase the odds of success for our venture partners. This includes everything from providing strong consumer and competitive insights to testing packaging concepts to developing robust route to market strategies. We’ve grown the overall Constellation Ventures portfolio’s net sales by +65% in the first half of our fiscal year.

For our Focus on Female Founders investments, we’re also seeing results. We connected Vivify with over 150 distributors, helping them to more quickly enter or expand distribution. We worked with several investments, including Catoctin Creek and Montanya, on their brand positioning. We also assisted brands like Austin Cocktails with repackaging efforts, positioning them for stronger brand presence on shelf. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished and am excited to continue to drive and evolve this program.

Here’s to the future!