A Woman’s World: Trusting Your Gut In A Room Full of Men 

Illustration of woman's head with a unicorn lightbulb "Idea."

By Trinny Woodall

While the number of women running Global 500 businesses has soared, we’re constantly reminded of just how far we still are from gender equality in business. The Financial Times’ list of the U.K.’s top 100 entrepreneurs featured just three women.

In a world of business where women are still having to tackle bigger barriers than their male counterparts, I’ve realized that an essential part of being a businesswoman is trusting the knowledge you have and believing in your ability to create your own success.

If at first, you don’t succeed … try differently

I learned this the hard way.

When I became a co-founder for the first time in 1999, I knew there was a market for our vision, but I didn’t know exactly how to make it happen.

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Trinny Woodall is CEO and founder of Trinny London

So I sourced a team of experienced businesspeople to help. The problem was, many of these (often male) “experts” turned out not to share the passion nor instincts I had for the industry I was launching in.

Eventually, after burning through a huge injection of cash early on, we realized we didn’t really have a plan for how to take the business forward and had to admit defeat.

Although the feeling of failure was difficult, the whole experience taught me my most valuable business lesson: Your gut is always your most trusted adviser.

Your gut leads, your head follows

As a female founder, it can be especially hard to trust that what you have is enough when the number of female-founded businesses to aspire to is so disproportionately low—globally, only around 20 percent of startups have at least one female founder.

But recognizing your knowledge of the market you’re entering, and your passion for the product you’re creating, already puts you a step ahead.

In 2017, when I founded Trinny London, an inclusive DTC beauty brand, I picked apart everything I did in 1999. This time, I started small and focused on what I had rather than what I felt I lacked.

For me, this was my deep understanding of women, having spoken to more than 5,000 women during my career in TV. I realized there was nobody I could hire who would have the same knowledge as me, so I had no one to trust but myself.

Raising money as a female entrepreneur

According to Crunchbase data, only about 2.2 percent of venture capital in the U.S. goes to female entrepreneurs. So even if you’re confident you have a great idea and know how to achieve your goals, it can feel like the entire system is rigged against you.

When pitching Trinny London, I initially received skepticism from male investors who believed a digital-first beauty brand wouldn’t work for our initial target market of women over the age of 35, as they’ve traditionally preferred being able to test cosmetics at a beauty counter before purchasing.

But instead of being swayed by their concerns, I chose to fight for my concept. I was confident that the problem wasn’t my idea—I’d already received positive feedback from women who had seen me use product prototypes—it was that no one else in the room full of men truly understood the reason for it.

Trusting my gut paid off; in 2017 we raised £2.4 million ($3.2 million) and used the capital to invest in tech innovation that would enable us to develop a highly personalized, digital-first solution to beauty. Three years later, revenue reached over $63 million.

So trust your gut, it knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet.

Trinny Woodall is CEO and founder of Trinny London, the digital-first beauty brand with a very clear mission: To give every individual the confidence to be the person they truly want to be. Since founding the business in 2017, she has successfully scaled Trinny London into a global brand selling a wide range of products online to customers in over 170 countries.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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