We speak to Debbie Watkins in this episode about how finance and business tools can enable female entrepreneurs to grow and scale their business.
In this conversation we learnt…
About Debbie’s back story – from the UK to Cambodia and around the world (03:12 – 17:31)
How most entrepreneurs miss the important step of finding product fit (18:56 – 22:45)
How Lucy, her company creating financial and business solutions for women, began. (23:41 – 27:28)
The challenges of setting up a new financial business (28:27 – 34:53)
What she believes is holding back female entrepreneurs (35:19 – 37:19)
“The ladder and kind of reaching these pinnacles of having everything from a material and title point of view, didn’t actually fulfil me.”
Debbie shares how despite reaching an outwardly successful stage – with her career and marriage, she was dissatisfied. She took action and not only left her partner of eight years, but rejected or delayed several job offers to travel across Asia, specifically Cambodia. She believes that being open minded is the way forward for anybody who’s wanting to grow their business. She believes in constantly questioning your own self beliefs and to keep challenging yourself.
“If you’re not solving a problem for someone, they’re not going to pay for it.”
One of the key gaps in the learning of entrepreneurs, especially small to mid sized, is focusing on product market fit. Debbie says it is essential to actually put yourself in other people’s shoes. People tend to offer solutions without identifying the problem and therefore they need to conduct impartial, non-leading research with potential customers to see if their offering will be viable.
“The women that borrowed… were statistically much better payers, but they often couldn’t get access to credit because it was the men that owned all the collateral.”
With her extensive experience of banking across Asia – from Ghana to Figi, Debbie found a big discrepancy between the genders. 90% of the management she was advising was male, with very very few females at the senior level. But out in the fields, at least 50% of small businesses are run by women. To overcome this gap and support female entrepreneurs, she got together with her co founders to start Lucy.
“I’m also seeing that 90 plus percent of the management I’m advising is male, very, very few female at senior level, but also, when I’m going out into the streets, or fields, or whatever you’re seeing, like at least 50% of these small businesses are run by women.”
And so they’re not really getting what they needed from like financial services, but just in general, as well. So skills that you need. And I don’t like to call it financial literacy, because my belief is that most people, particularly those entrepreneurs are very, very financially literate. What they’re lacking is entrepreneurship skills. And that’s something that’s generally not available and accessible to your average micro entrepreneur.
“Many people, particularly investors, view confidence as being more important than competence. Whereas I think a lot of women particularly don’t have confidence in themselves, but they have a lot of competence.”
Debbie shared that a big misconception for women is that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, they’ve got to be brash, and bold and arrogant, and be able to talk it big, when actually what they really need to be doing is actually to spend their investors money wisely, and really focus on delivering products that solve problems for people. She herself has been described as quietly confident – which means you have to have confidence in what you’re doing, self-belief and the ability to talk about it. So, their pre seed round in late 2020 consisted entirely of women as they wanted to enable women who kind of were willing to take a bit of a risk and put their money into something that they really believed in them the opportunity to get in really early on something.
“I think if we were going to sum up ‘community’, it would be giving without any expectation of receiving anything back.”
Community is key to Lucy and Debbie. She has found that women are almost uniquely motivated to lift each other up. More and more, they are willing to give and support each other for the community as a whole. Community for her is about having each other’s back and helping where one has the capability and capacity to help.
The Goal by Eli Goldratt
Cambodian Living Arts