…More articles and features like this! The more we raise the issue and highlight the powerful stats behind investing in female-led companies, the more funding we’ll see.
As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the VC gender gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dana Spaulding.
In April 2017, Dana Spaulding, certified level II Sommelier, founded Wander + Ivy. Wander + Ivy is a certified woman- and disability-owned company providing premium wine in upscale single-serve packaging.
All Wander + Ivy wines are produced by award-winning, family-owned vineyards around the world. Wander + Ivy donates 1-percent of gross profits annually to a nonprofit providing healthy food to those in need.
Prior to creating W+I, Dana spent 7 years with J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank, managing assets for ultra-high net worth families. Most recently, Dana was a Vice President in the J.P. Morgan Rockies Market, covering the food and beverage industries, among others.
Dana studied Economics and Business Administration at Fordham University in New York City and graduated Summa Cum Laude. While at Fordham, Dana also danced with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Dana currently lives in the Denver Highlands with her husband, Gus, daughter, Maelyn, and boxer, Tedy. In her spare time enjoys yoga, running, skiing, cooking and traveling with her family.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?
I spent the first 8 years of my career in private wealth management. My teams and I managed wealth for ultra high net worth families and most recently I covered entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industries. While in finance, I met my husband, Gus, and we often talked about how inspiring our clients were and how we’d love to build our own company one day. We were constantly throwing out crazy business ideas. And finally I had the “spark” for Wander + Ivy when Gus asked me, “are you really going to waste another glass of wine?”
I was frustrated because, yes, I wanted to enjoy a nice glass of wine after a long day; but yes, I hated to admit, he was right. I would likely waste the bottle by not finishing it. I love wine. He loves whiskey. So we often find ourselves wasting bottles, because hey there is a time and place to have a full bottle of wine to yourself and for me it’s not a weeknight! I sought out single-serve options, but found low-quality wine in cheap packaging and no organic options.
Cue the sparks!
Can you share a story of your most successful Angel or VC investment? In your opinion, what was its main lesson?
CONFIDENCE. My most successful pitches have been when I’m fully prepared and relay my absolute belief and confidence in the brand, team around me, and future opportunity.
Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding “failure” of yours? Is there a lesson or take away that you took out of that that our readers can learn from?
In the early days, I found myself spending too much time on investment opportunities that in the end were not the right fit and my gut told me that from the start. I took all of the calls and did all of the laborious follow-up (modeling, research, you name it!), even when I felt that there was only a slim chance of earning that investment. The investor either wasn’t comfortable with the inherent risk of an early-stage company (something I really couldn’t change), didn’t have the capital, or just didn’t at all get our vision.
The core lesson was to be really strategic and thoughtful with how I spend my time fundraising. We have such limited time as founders and wear all the hats. If your gut is telling you it’s not the right fit (for whatever reason), don’t spend countless hours trying to convince that investor to change their mind.
Was there a company that you turned down, but now regret? Can you share the story? What lesson did you learn from that?
I have not directly turned down a company or investor’s offer, however I have made the decision many times to not further explore opportunities given the lessons I learned above.
Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this article in Fortune, only 2.2% of VC dollars went to women in 2018. Can you share with our readers what your firm is doing to help close the VC gender gap?
I am extremely proud that we are a WBENC certified woman-owned company. Despite how little funding goes to women, we have raised several 7-figure rounds of investment and have consistently exceeded all milestones. We are demonstrating that funding diverse, female-led companies is a smart financial decision and using our platforms to elevate the issue across the industry.
Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the VC gender gap. Please share a story or example for each.
- We need to see more female angels and VCs in decision making roles. Most pitches I’ve done are to rooms full of men.
- Increased access to the decision-makers. Oftentimes, founders need an “in” or else they will never receive a response from a cold email introduction.
- More articles and features like this! The more we raise the issue and highlight the powerful stats behind investing in female-led companies, the more funding we’ll see.
- A lower threshold for certain milestones such as revenue. If women overall are getting less funding early on, it’s extremely challenging to hit those big $1MM-5MM rev milestones and qualify for larger funding opportunities. I heard this pushback early on from many angels and VCs.
- Continued focus on building communities to support and elevate female founded companies.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
At Wander + Ivy, we are very focused on giving back to charitable organizations delivering healthy food to those in need, particularly children. There are MANY worthy causes out there, but helping the hunger crisis across America is an issue that I am personally passionate about.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s hard to pick just one, but whenever I’m going through the rollercoaster of founder emotions, my dad always says, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” I’ve always admired him and his many entrepreneurial successes. We now talk through how hard it is to build something from nothing and the unique fortitude required for creating a successful company.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
There are so many! My top picks would be: Whitney Wolfe, Sara Blakely and Jennifer Aniston :)
Whitney and Sara’s journeys have been so incredibly inspiring for me.
And I adore Jennifer Aniston and how she continues to recreate herself, build and partner with brands, and support charitable organizations. (My husband and I are deep into the Morning Show right now!)
I think all 3 women could use a glass of premium and organic single serve wine ;)
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.