This International Women's Day we spoke to Ann Marie Juliano, Founder and CEO of Nimbla's partner Muse Finance, about how the App is helping entrepreneurs overcome challenges in the crisis. Providing fast finance that doesn't mire SMEs in debt isn't the only way Juliano is helping them to grow though. Having walked the talk herself, the ex-Wall Street financier told us about the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, how she has overcome them (she has built three profitable businesses so far), and her top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Why should we have heard about Muse Finance?
Muse Finance offers app-driven, same-day invoice funding to assist businesses with short-term cash management. We offer three different funding opportunities; single, selective and whole book invoice finance. For single and selective invoices, our rates start at 2.5% of the invoice value, and 1% for whole book invoice finance.
By automating a lot of the time-consuming financial management, Muse helps entrepreneurs focus on scaling up, and gives them access to the funding without high interest borrowing. We grow with our clients, rather than requiring them to take on additional debt like a loan would.
Why does Muse use Nimbla?
Nimbla gives us an immediate response, which aids in getting customers funds within 24 hours. We are a small but very efficient team, and our technology plays a big role in enabling us to offer this turnaround time.
How has COVID impacted you and your customers?
Like many other businesses, Muse has had to adapt rapidly to the new reality. Although SMEs have been severely affected by COVID-19, Muse enables them to monitor and stress test cash flow. The forecast in the App allows Clients to spot when they may experience a dip in their cash flow and offers the solutions to sell their invoices to assist.
Muse has built a strong network of partnerships with like minded individuals. This has allowed us to gain market share over the past few months. We are looking forward to continuing to help our clients achieve their goals as we start to come back into what looks like a normal operating environment (with some obstacles, which we help clients overcome). Facing the challenges of 2020 has given us confidence and lent credence to the business proposition. So we are continuing to grow and develop the product even further.
In what ways is Muse game-changing for the market?
We hope to influence the market for the better by offering fair and transparent pricing. We act very much like an overdraft without giving the additional debt burden an overdraft or cash credit would give to the client. We care about helping our clients achieve their goals and look to grow with them rather than capitalise on them. We have some great clients including big names funding invoices on behalf of their networks. We are also dedicated to revolutionising entrepreneurship for women, specifically by making revenue sourcing less dependent on Venture Capitalists (VCs).
In your experience, what prevents female entrepreneurs from following their muse?
There are a lot of female entrepreneurs out there - which is great! In fact, 40% of businesses in the US are women-owned, just to put it in perspective. Even more impressive, female founded businesses perform 63% better than companies made up of all-male team members. Sadly, investment into female founded businesses is scarce. Less than 2% of VC capital goes to female-founded businesses. In fact, there has been a 26% decrease in investment in female-founded businesses.
Depressingly, Government funds in the UK go to VCs to support business growth, but these VCs are not female-friendly. Unfortunately there’s a lot of chat around supporting the businesses but there is no real action so cards are stacked against these businesses. It would be great to see better support and mentorship out there to change the dynamics.
What needs to change to enable future female entrepreneurs?
The questions need to change. An Associate Professor at HBS reviewed the questions that females tend to get when raising capital compared with males and the results were alarming:
“Our findings suggest that investors (both male and female investors) are more likely to approach men with questions about how they will “win”, whereas female entrepreneurs are approached with questions on how they will “avoid losing.”" - Scientific American
Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs?
Network as much as you can and try to align yourself with good mentors and advisors that aren’t looking for a quick win or cash compensation to help. Equally, help other female-founded businesses as much as you can. Look at ways to partner with female founded businesses that are in similar markets so that you both grow, develop and become stronger together, rather than competing with them.
There’s a lot of competition out there, and unfortunately you might be compared to another business in a similar vertical just because you are both female CEOs. The big challenge isn’t the other CEO, it’s taking market share from the larger market. Find ways to join forces to get to your goals more efficiently.
What have been the keys to Muse Finance's agility in this crisis?
Good friends, a little luck and some amazing mentors. Initial investors are called angels for a reason, and we have been really lucky that our angel investors have really stepped in and helped the business during what has been a difficult time for all businesses globally.
About Muse Finance
Founded by former Wall Street financier Ann Marie Juliano, Muse helps entrepreneurs to overcome cash flow challenges so that they can follow their muse. Available via the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the Muse App enables SMEs to avoid amassing debt by releasing capital from unpaid invoices. Learn more about Muse at www.getmymuse.com.