With previous working experience in private banking and private equity, Ms Pandolfino set out to help share the privilege and knowledge she has with under-represented groups of entrepreneurs. She explained: “It’s a financial empowerment platform that focuses on businesses coming from diversity; woman, ethnic groups and LGBTQ+.
“I started Txeya because I came from a position of privilege.
“I had a lot more access to financial and entrepreneurial skills as well as access to capital. Every other person who founded the project feel the same. We want to empower our communities and help them succeed.
“Being an entrepreneur is a lonely place, you don’t have access to the things someone working in a big company has.”
Ms Pandolfino explained that entrepreneurs require not just financial support, but also mental and emotional support from mentors that can understand the hardships they are experiencing.
She noted the founding team of Txeya “all come from one of those verticals so we try to remain true to this ethos as we scale the business.”
She added: “Then we also provide a place for investors to come to, and they can’t use that excuse of ‘Oh it’s difficult to find proper representation’. We have the representation.”
Inclusion and diversity has been a trending topic over the last two years, especially in light of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, but Ms Pandolfino noted that while businesses might by saying a lot on these matters, they aren’t doing much.
Ms Pandolfino noted that while businesses might by saying a lot on these matters, they aren’t doing much, and said: “When I think about where I started 20 years ago versus where the market is now, the trend is generally positive but I think we still need to create more effect and change but that is going to take time.”
These inclusion barriers are particularly pertinent in the world of VC investments and entrepreneurship, with Ms Pandolfino adding: “It’s quite eye-opening for us that many people we spoke don’t even know there’s access to funding. They’ve been bootstrapping their business not even knowing there’s a world of investors out there looking for a business like them.
“Being a first-time entrepreneur is challenging especially when you’re younger and don’t know the financial markets or VC rules. That becomes exponentially harder if you’re from a diversity background.”
She added that there is an uprising of support for female-founded businesses that is closing this gender funding gap, but the support is less so in regards to the other verticals.
She continued: “The UK actually has a very high female participation rate in entrepreneurship, it’s almost 40 percent. So, that already in itself is a plus but then the funding issue is the second issue. There is a female entrepreneur out there, she just doesn’t have access to funding.”
“Women represent roughly 50 percent of the demographic, but less than six percent of the aggregate funding goes to woman founded businesses. When you go down other verticals such as the black demographic and LGBTQ+ is less than one percent.
“Between male and female entrepreneurs in business there’s a 60/40 split but if only six women are getting funded then we aren’t actually on equal ground. The funding gap needs to be much smaller.”
Studies have shown that the difference in outlook between men and women when it comes to business starts around the age of 12-14.
These differences are taught and compounded with age, beginning with subtle shifts like the type of games boys are encouraged to play and the different language used when speaking to girls in the classroom.
Ms Pandolfino explained: “If you think about executive programs in university, the benchmark for any student wanting to be an entrepreneur is generally the CEO and it is going to be a male benchmark. Obviously this will start to change as there’s more representation.
“But if one were to study an MBA, female CEOs would probably a stand alone course or module but it shouldn’t be spoken about as a stand alone thing and this trickles down.”
“There’s a domino effect of self-belief when you witness others doing what you want to do,” she added, not that the opposite is just as true.
Ms Pandolfino concluded: “The journey is quite cumbersome, especially for an out-of-university entrepreneur when it comes to things like preparing a business plan. It’s not easy stuff if you’re doing it for the first-time.
“I think it should be starting earlier than at university. There’s so much around a lot of subjects to have a 360 rounded young adult, but this goes beyond entrepreneurship; teaching people how to save, about pension, the things we’re never taught about.”