Expert Insight: How To Build An E-Commerce Platform That's An Economic Engine For Female-Founded Brands
PSFK speaks with Lindsey Taylor Wood, founder and CEO of The Helm, to learn of the strategies behind the design and execution of her centralized platform for women-built-and-led companies
Businesses owned by women generate $3.1 trillion in revenue, yet women own only four of every 10 U.S. businesses. As more and more empowered women enter the fray, one can only imagine the exponential increase of an already multi-trillion dollar revenue. In actuality, someone is imagining it; her name is Lindsey Taylor Wood, and she founded The Helm, a one-stop shop that helps shoppers find products offered exclusively by female-founded brands.
PSFK caught up with Lindsey to learn more about how her e-commerce platform is building a future that cares for and supports female-founded businesses, and the strategies behind it:
PSFK: What are some of the broader trends you see impacting retail today in terms of female leadership and empowerment?
Lindsey: I believe we are seeing a massive shift towards two things: sustainability and impact. Our entire platform has a gender lens and we are developing a structure which will allow a portion of the proceeds to be directed into our next fund—which means every dollar our consumers spend will be investing in both the women whose products they are buying and our future portfolio companies.
To that end, we have a strong thesis around impact. We also have some exciting ideas about sustainability and look forward to rolling those out soon.
The Helm dubs itself as a one-stop shop. Could you expand on your design for the all-in-one platform?
The mission of The Helm is to make it easy to invest in women, and we’ve known from the very beginning that in order to do that, we needed to create a number of different vehicles and access points that meet people where they are. For those that have the capital to write a five, six, or seven-figure check, our venture fund offers the opportunity to make direct investments into women-built-and-led companies.
For others who are looking to direct a more modest amount of capital, we’ve created a content and commerce platform that tells the stories of game-changing female founders and offers consumers the ability to shop their products. We believe that every dollar you spend is investing in something, and our hope is that this is one more way people will invest in women.
The platform will include a written up description for every brand on it. How important is brand-storytelling to The Helm, and how important is it in retail today?
Storytelling is paramount to any brand but I would take it one step further and offer that advocacy, as part of The Helm’s brand’s story, is even more significant. We want to talk about the relationship between women, money, and power. We want to talk about the fact that only 2% of all venture capital goes to female founders; that women with small businesses can’t get lines of credit.
But even more importantly, we want to make the case that we can do something about it. One of the most powerful pieces of data we’ve found to support our theory of change shows that 90% of female shoppers said they would go out of their way to buy a product marked as “women-owned.”
When you pair that with the reality that $30 trillion in wealth is set to change hands in the next three to four decades and the fact that women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, you arrive at a massive arbitrage opportunity—and one that we hope to leverage in the service of equality. If we can tell that story well—and show how women investing in women can change social, political, and economic outcomes on a massive scale—I think we can create systemic and sustainable change.
The Helm will have a curated selection of products and services on their site. How do you decide which brands to sell, and what is important to you when choosing?
There were three things we really cared about: Discovery, Scale, and Value. We wanted our audience to feel as though they were being exposed to new founders, products, and services they haven’t heard of anywhere else.
On the brand side, we wanted to ensure we were building a platform that could accelerate their growth by connecting them with an audience that would be predisposed to want to support and hopefully evangelize for them. And we wanted to build out categories that went beyond fashion and beauty and honored the entirety of woman’s life.
That meant sourcing products that ranged from her desk to her bedroom. Thankfully, we have a wonderful Style Director, Vogue alum Rachel Waldman, who understood those goals and has curated a stellar first cohort.
The idea for the e-commerce platform arose from The Helm VC fund. Could you explain exactly how the idea arose from that, and what gaps in the market you intend to fill with the new platform?
Building that ecosystem we spoke about is key to our success. It can’t just be one vehicle. It has to be a holistic approach; a brand. We want to build the largest economic engine for women to date by connecting founders and funders in a variety of ways.
The e-commerce platform is one piece of a larger vision but speaks to the interconnectedness of what we are trying to do as it funnels part of the profits back into the Helm’s VC fund which benefits everyone involved: the creator, the consumer, and the entrepreneur.
Lead image: Courtesy of The Helm