In the world of capital, everyone doesn’t begin on the same, level playing field — education, confidence, and a decades-old system work against some more than others.
Sara Batterby, the founder and CEO of The Equity Capital Collective, recognized this. From her first job out of college throughout her entire career, she both experienced and worked with people who made it clear that women and minorities started out their capital endeavors with specific disadvantages.
The Equity Capital Collective exists to teach diverse founders how to raise money to build their startups by providing them with the education to demystify the process and get them results. Before her idea for the company struck, Sara had a long road of a variety of different positions. Sara began her career as a Management Consultant at Accenture — a position she stumbled upon during her time at Durham University in London.
“I landed the position on accident. I went to a really good University in England, and companies would come and try to recruit students with free food, so we’d all go,” Sara explained. “I went and ended up in a conversation with the manager of a company, and he asked what time my interview was the next day. When I said I didn’t have one, he put me on the schedule, and I ended up getting the job — six interviews later.”
After studying philosophy, it was Sara’s first venture into the world of technology and finance. She ended up moving to the United States to pursue a position with American Express.
“I was working on the technology side of things, and then technology was about designing processes and how to make them. I enjoyed that, but I hated the corporate work environment,” Sara said. “This was 1994, and as a woman in a tech company, it wasn’t a happy place. It was very sexist and it was crazy. We weren’t even allowed to wear pants — it was terrible. We were constantly being hit on, and I hated it.”
At 27, Sara began her own company — in real estate. Eventually, she moved to Oregon for lifestyle reasons, where the cannabis industry was beginning to take off. With her prior experiences fueling her, she saw the people who were pursuing opportunities within the industry and recognized what they needed to be successful.
“All of these people who had been excluded from professional careers and building their businesses had been having opportunities to build an opportunity in the [cannabis] industry. What I realized was they were excluded from this skill set because of prohibition, and they were not going to make it,” Sara said. “They were not going to be able to compete with professionals with white-collar money that were going to come into the industry, and I felt like that especially for an industry that had no participation for women and people of color. It was like another version of prohibition, and I wanted to do something about that.”
After her revelation, Sara raised $5 million for her idea — something that turned the heads, given the fact that she was new to the area. She co-founded the Portland chapter of Women Grow, which was created to educate future generations of cannabis leaders.
“I got a reputation for being someone who knew how to raise money and had business skills, and people started asking me to talk about it at speaking engagements. I didn’t want to talk about me, I decided if I would do it, I would design sort of a mini-workshop to give people some tools and tell them what they needed to know — a process that would be effective and help them to not be totally clueless if they decided they wanted to raise money,” Sara said.
She continued around the country speaking at conferences within the cannabis industry, guiding newcomers to the knowledge they needed to be successful. Her career took a turn after receiving an email from a Mexican-American woman in Oakland, who shared her story and grabbed Sara’s attention. She thought the woman deserved to be funded, and with Sara’s guidance, she went on to raise $1.2 million on her own.
She thought the woman deserved to be funded, and with Sara’s guidance, she went on to raise $1.2 million on her own.
“It was such an eye-opener. It put her on the map and she went on to start designing the equity programs for other states. I was like, ‘wow, if me helping one person who represents these communities can have a huge impact like what she’s now able to do in terms of accessing capital, then I have to do this.’ That was how it all started,” Sara said.
Sara left her position as CEO of her company to teach the same curriculum to more people who needed it. What started as a consulting product is now an online curriculum: The Equity Capital Collective.
“What’s been really interesting is dealing with the fact that we don’t teach people — never mind fundraising — we don’t teach people about money. In college, or at home, and we have a population that is not qualified to do certain things, and that conversation and knowledge only happens in very privileged circles. That’s how the power structure works. It really is trying to find a backdoor into the world of privilege,” Sara said.
Sara believes that the biggest problems lie within two central problems: “the external problem of racism and bigotry,” and the fact that “the founders she works with weren’t taught to experience entitledness and were taught that other people deserve more than them because they have money.” This lack of a healthy entitledness is something Sara is seeking to change.
“Being successful in fundraising has everything to do with feeling like you’re entitled to that money and that an investor is better off giving you that money than someone else,” Sara said. “If you can’t shift into an identity that has an appropriate level of entitlement, your authentic entitlement to that money, all of the knowledge and strategies and tactics will not help you if you don’t work on your identity at the same time.”
What’s been really interesting is dealing with the fact that we don’t teach people — never mind fundraising — we don’t teach people about money. In college, or at home, and we have a population that is not qualified to do certain things, and that conversation and knowledge only happens in very privileged circles. That’s how the power structure works. It really is trying to find a backdoor into the world of privilege.
Although Sara has made huge strides in terms of education of founders, to her, it’s only the beginning of The Equity Capital Collective’s journey.
“Fundamentally, my goal is to create a company that’s made up of different parts — the education is only one piece of that. There are a lot of other problems to solve. What I fundamentally want ECC to do is for people of color and women to believe that this is their money and that they deserve these resources just as much as anyone else, and then giving them access to the tools and education that they need to develop that competence.”
Being successful in fundraising has everything to do with feeling like you’re entitled to that money and that an investor is better off giving you that money than someone else. If you can’t shift into an identity that has an appropriate level of entitlement, your authentic entitlement to that money, all of the knowledge and strategies and tactics will not help you.
Her success so far is due in part to her wholehearted belief in what she is doing — something she knows is purposeful work. Her goal for the future of the company is ambitious but is something she believes in just as much.
“I want to build a new capital market system that allows a different definition of return and different stakeholders to invest in diversity,” Sara said.