In this month’s column, Mairi Macdonald interviews Gillian Fleming – CEO of Mint Ventures, a women-led business angel investment group offering a fresh approach to raising early-stage capital by democratising angel investment for women.
With a keen interest in making investment accessible to women, Gillian is Co-Founder, Director and CEO of Mint Ventures (Syndicate) Ltd, a women-led angel group focused on investing in women-led and diverse teams with an environmental, ethical or social purpose. Gillian is an Entrepreneurial Scotland
Saltire Fellow, a voluntary mentor Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) and an active angel investor.
Gillian is an Advisor, Non-Exec Director and Investor to start-up and spin-out companies – with 20 years’ experience in the entrepreneurial ecosystem advising and nurturing early-stage ideas and projects.
Q (Mairi): Can you describe angel investment?
A (Gillian): Essentially, angel investment is early-stage investment in unlisted stocks and shares from
individuals using their own personal finances who are looking for a return for the risk in providing their money at some point down the line.
We often find that start-ups don’t have access to traditional finance – they may be unable to secure bank loans, and they may well have already bootstrapped their business in those early days, using personal savings or relying on friends and family. Some start-ups may also have looked at crowdfunding in those early validation stages.
This is where Angel investment comes in. Angel investment is smart money – it’s access to people who have the finances to invest, but it’s also about access to the networks of those investors – they can facilitate introductions, support your business as a director, and provide industry knowledge, support with supply chains, and may even provide access to customers for your business. Some Angels may also provide mentoring. However, there are some ‘silent’ Angels out there who are perhaps short of time and are happy to invest purely financially in your business with the deals that come through our curated pipeline.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about Mint Ventures?
A: Mint Ventures is a not-for-profit organisation that acts like a club and all the decisions we make as a group are made by our members. We are a group of women-led business angels, and we look at applications for investment collectively, giving our members an opportunity to vote on those applications – once we’re satisfied that they have met our criteria for investment. It is a safe place for our members to come and learn all about angel investing with gender specific language to make is more accessible and fun.
Q: What is the criteria for investment?
A: We’re looking to invest in businesses that have at least one woman in their leadership team and/or on their board – this really allows for diversity of thought in the organisation – something which is hugely important to us. We’re looking for the team to be coachable and willing to accept guidance. We also require businesses to have a clear purpose – be it social, ethical or environmental – our research shows clear demand from our members for this type of purpose led investment.
Q: What are the benefits of becoming an angel investor?
A: There are numerous personal benefits to becoming an investor including using your skills to support small companies to grow, meeting like-minded people, and helping the future lifeblood of the economy by supporting innovative new ideas.
You can also focus on personal development by understanding more about innovative new products, services and markets. On top of this, there are tax benefits of receiving 30-50 per cent of investment almost immediately back in tax relief which helps de-risk this type of more risky investing as you should only invest as much as you can afford to lose and ultimately you have the potential to make a return on your financial investment.
Q: What is the process for becoming an Angel investor like?
A: A lot of people ask about the time commitment involved in becoming an Angel investor and it works out around 1.5 hours per month – including training, a bi-monthly opportunity meeting to meet the companies, and some additional reading.
To become an angel investor, you can self-certify as one of the following: a high net worth (income over £100,000 per annum, or assets over the value of £250,000 – not including your home or pension), or have experience in leading a company with a turnover over £1m or have a background in investment. You can also join an angel investment group for 6 months.
We provide 6 months of gender specific training to enable self-certification and through these training
modules be able to make informed decisions. We’ve tried to make things as accessible as possible – for each investment deal you can start with as little as £2,000, this opens up perhaps using a work bonus to gain confidence and manage risking.
Q: How can people find out more and get involved?
A: Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a women business owner, or potential investor – we run a free
taster course which is a great way to find out more. We also have a 20-minute Podcast on our website which is a fantastic intro into Angel investment. Please just reach out to us if you’d like to find out more – we welcome interest from all – no matter your experience or knowledge of investment.
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