Fran Hauser On Scratching the Entrepreneurial Itch
March 9, 2022
Fran Hauser is an author, keynote speaker and startup investor at the intersection of women’s empowerment, career fulfillment, and collective wellbeing. As a long-time media executive, Fran has always championed the power of content in shaping culture, educating the public, and driving awareness of important issues.

She is passionate about helping women build fulfilling careers and successful businesses and has invested in over 25 female-founded companies across CPG, media & publishing, and wellness. Her writing, speaking and investing is informed by 15 years spent in media, where she rose through the ranks at Time Inc. to President of Digital. She is the best-selling author of The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate which has been translated into six languages and was named “Best Business Book of the Year, 2018” by Audible. Fran regularly speaks at conferences and organizations to pioneer the notion that one does not have to choose between kindness and strength, and that the most effective leaders lead with both. Her second title, Embrace the Work, Love Your Career, will be released in March 2022. Below, she shares how scratching the entrepreneurial itch can led to a whole new chapter of success.

About 8 years ago you left corporate America to become an entrepreneur. What was the “aha moment” that led you to take that leap? Once you decided to jump in where did you start?

I had been at Time Inc. for 8 years when I started getting an itch to do something different. I realized that the thing I loved most about my role as President of Digital was partnering with startup founders. Through these partnerships, I got to know the founders and I became a sounding board for them. I was also able to make invaluable introductions, like connecting Jenn Hyman and Jenny Fleiss of Rent the Runway to Highland Capital who ended up being a critical investor in their first (and subsequent rounds).

My aha moment came during a coffee with Soraya Darabi who was the co-founder of Foodspotting (and later went on to launch her own VC fund). Soraya told me that she had many female friends in NYC who wanted to launch businesses but when they looked up they didn’t see any female investors or advisors to support them. Soraya encouraged me to go for it. And I did. I started investing and advising as a side hustle at Time. I did that for two years and then went out on my own. I’ve invested in over 30 female-founded companies and I truly love what I do.

What are some pros and cons you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur vs working in a corporate position?

As an entrepreneur, I love being able to choose the projects and people that I want to work with. It’s such a gift. I can also decide when I want to throttle up and when I need to pull back because other things in my life need more of my attention. I love that I see my kids before school and when they get home. I love that I get to spend quality time with them. In terms of cons, I do miss the resources that were available to me working in corporate – both financial and human resources. And there is something pretty powerful about being attached to brands like PEOPLE and TIME. When you pick up the phone, you always get a call back!

Do you have any advice about managing up and securing advocates that you utilized while you were still in corporate America?

In terms of managing up, I think my best advice would be to put yourself in your manager’s shoes. What’s important to them? What results are they looking to drive for the company at large – what are their bigger goals? How can you be helpful and align your priorities with what’s important to them?

What experiences led you to write your first book The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate?

Early on in my career, I was told that I was too nice to get ahead. And over the course of my career, many younger women would ask me, “How can you be so nice and still be successful?” I wanted to write a book that encourages women to be themselves and to show that there is so much power in kindness, compassion, and empathy. I also wanted to share my own experiences in leading with kindness and strength. I truly believe the most successful leaders lead with both traits – they are not mutually exclusive.

I truly believe the most successful leaders lead with both kindness and strength – they are not mutually exclusive.

You have a new book coming out in March Embrace the Work, Love Your Career. Can you tell us the inspiration behind it and what our readers can hope to glean from it?

The idea came to me last year when I noticed that so many of my friends and colleagues were struggling. They were questioning their purpose, their career path, and, on a more tactical level, their day-to-day work. I wanted to do something to help. I love to write, and I realized that through all of the mentoring and talks I had done over the years, I had accumulated so much content – everything from strategies to checklists and creative prompts. I thought it would be really valuable to package all of that up in an experiential way where you’re not just reading, but you’re also doing and interacting.

Taking action is a fundamental principle of the book, and readers will walk away with a personal career action plan. They’ll find fun checklists, tools, and creative exercises, all with the goal of helping them activate their vision for a career they will love. There are also lots of personal stories and practical advice – and the chapters end with meditations and coloring breaks, which offer an opportunity to reset and reflect.

You have invested in over 30 female-founded companies. What do you look for in the companies you invest in? What advice do you have for women founders seeking funding?

What I like to see in a potential investment is a big market – an opportunity tied to new consumer behavior or technology, or a pain point that needs addressing. Being able to clearly articulate the consumer value proposition is so important.

I also want to see that the founder is self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses. No founder is perfect at everything, so how do they fill in the gaps when it comes to their own shortcomings. If they are the visionary, is there someone on the team that is great with day-to-day operations?

I usually invest very early, so traction is not always possible but is definitely a bonus. Traction comes in many different forms. For a company that has not launched, 10 clients that have given verbal agreements is a big mitigation of risk, as is a few hundred people who have filled out surveys for a direct-to-consumer product.

In terms of advice, fundraising is easier to do when you have a network that supports it. One of the struggles I hear consistently from female founders is that they have a hard time getting in front of the right investors (who are predominantly male). It’s important to me that I get female founders in front of the right investors and that I champion them. So my advice is don’t be afraid to ask for an introduction. Being successful in business (and fundraising) is mostly about relationships.

What are common founder mistakes?

Not qualifying investors. The same way you qualify prospects for a sales position, you have to qualify investors too. Look for investors that not only like your industry, but also have either previously invested in that space or have a personal affiliation with it. It’s important to know if they are actively investing at the stage you’re seeking funding for, because otherwise you’re wasting their time—and yours. And it’s crucial to know their reputation as an investor and how they treat partners. Regardless of how much money they can offer, do you really want to work with a known jerk?

Too much jargon. You want the investor leaving the meeting thinking yours is an opportunity too big to pass up. That now is the right time and YOU are the founder who can make it happen. But you don’t want the investor thinking you’re full of BS because you load on inspirational quips and a giant vocabulary. Be authentic by providing actual numbers and real-life stories. These are things that investors are going to remember and will be able to easily repeat to their colleagues. Simpler is better.

Lack of mindset. Mindset is everything. If you go into your fundraising with a growth mindset, it will make the whole process so much more enjoyable. Go in with your eyes wide open. There are going to be a lot of NOs, but if you turn each one of those rejections into a learning moment, you’ll enjoy the process a lot more.

Why does the world need another X? Another common mistake I often see is that the founder starts with a product description before they communicate the pain point or opportunity. Convince the investor that there is a need first and then follow up with how you are addressing that need with your next billion-dollar idea.

When is it an advantage to be a woman in your business?

Women direct 83% of all consumption in the United States in buying power and influence. As a woman investor, I have the advantage of identifying opportunities for new products that will solve really big problems and be market-makers.

Whether it’s making a complex financial model digestible or breaking down a really gnarly decision, the ability to make things easier is a highly underrated skill.

To what do you attribute your success?

My leadership style, particularly valuing kindness as a superpower.

On a more tactical level, my ability to simplify things has had an outsized impact on my career. Whether it’s making a complex financial model digestible or breaking down a really gnarly decision, the ability to make things easier is a highly underrated skill. It saves people time, emotional labor and can cut through noise!

Name one person who was instrumental in your career success and why.

My dear friend and former colleague, Patricia Karpas. Patricia and I worked together “back in the day” at AOL. She ran AOL TV while I ran AOL Movies. Patricia saw something special in my leadership style and encouraged me to write a book about it. Not only did she make introductions to potential agents, but she interviewed all of my direct reports to learn more about how I lead and set up focus groups with young professional women. She stayed on top of me for years to write this book – I mean, she was relentless. The Myth of the Nice Girl wouldn’t have happened without her and it launched a whole new chapter of my career around thought leadership. I’ve done over 150 talks since the book came out four years ago and public speaking is now a meaningful part of my business.

Fran Hauser's new book, Embrace The Work, Love Your Career is available for pre-order.



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