For Lindsey Taylor Wood, it was never just about creating a cool new shopping website for women — although, that's not to say that The Helm isn't all those things, too.
At the time, Wood, who had built her career as an outspoken advocate for women and girls, felt that the time had come for her to approach the issue of gender inequality from a different angle than her work in activism and philanthropy: "I became disenchanted with the lack of progress," she tells Refinery29. "I just wasn’t seeing the type of impact I believed was possible." The year was 2016, and after doing some major research, she came across the chilling statistic that only 2.2% of all venture capital went to female-founded businesses. (According to a November 2019 CNN article, that figure has since grown to 20%.)
"When women found and run companies, we see higher social and financial returns," Wood adds. "On a micro level, we see cultures, policies, and products that work for everyone. On a macro level, I believe we’ll start seeing much greater social, political, and economic outcomes."
One year later, in 2017, The Helm was born. In addition to having chicness in spades and a brand assortment that would impress even the savviest, hard-to-please shopper, The Helm is making it its mission to invest directly in female-founded brands – which goes back to the "aha moment" that was the genesis of her brand. "I set out to create a company that would make it easy to invest in women," she says. "We do that in a variety of ways: a venture firm, an e-commerce platform, and a membership launching later this month. We meet people where they are, regardless of capacity." Since 2018, they've invested $1.5M of seed capital in 11 companies – and they're just getting started.
Ahead of building a second wave of funding (which is sourced partially from a portion of the e-commerce site's profit) The Helm is creating what Wood refers to as a "flywheel of women investing in women investing in women"; they invest in brands that generate funding that eventually make its way back into new brands.
"Our goal is to connect female founders and funders and that means, as it relates to e-commerce, speaking to the entirety of a woman's life," Wood explains. Instead of just featuring brands in fashion and clean beauty, The Helm also curates products for sexual health, wellness (including options for new moms — think lactation massagers and warmers), home, office, and more.
With such an inspirational brand mission, it's no surprise that The Helm has its sights on taking to the streets — literally. Having already launched a successful holiday pop-up in SoHo last year, Wood has her sights on hosting an even bigger activation in 2020, with a permanent space not off the table sometime in the future. "We've received a few requests [for pop-ups] in other cities, which is exciting."
With a name like The Helm, one thing is certain: Supporting women in charge has never meant more than it does in 2020 — and if you discover a new face serum or excellent vibrator in the process? Consider it a cherry on top.
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