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Dive into the unconventional funding journey of April Roy and her startup FemPAQ, as she bypasses traditional VC hurdles to forge a partnership that aligns with her mission for women’s health. April’s strategic choices and resilience led to innovative funding solutions that kept her in the driver’s seat.

Introduction to Funding Journey

Could you describe your initial approach to funding femPAQ? What led you to seek alternative funding methods outside of traditional venture capital?

Venture Capital was something I was taught from the start of my journey. I was told, if you want to have a successful startup and compete with the market, this is the only way. Knowing what I know now, obviously not lol. VC seemed unrealistic for me as an early stage startup so I seeked other ways to fund the business.

Discovery of Alternatives

How did you first become aware of the different funding options available to femtech startups like femPAQ? Were there specific resources or networks that proved invaluable?

I learned from other programming and resources like the ASBTDC, that there were alternative ways to funding. I was working full time at the time so a business loan seemed achievable. Especially those that were supposedly geared towards small businesses but apparently not my business. I also tried applying for lines of credit also not an option for small business owners like myself so bootstrapping was the go to option. What’s invaluable is those who are running programing or small business banking should be honest to entrepreneurs about access to capital and its availability to small businesses.

Criteria for Selecting Partners

What specific criteria did you use to evaluate potential funding partners, and how did these criteria align with femPAQ’s mission and values?

Are they founders first? Do they care about impact as much as profit? What other value will they bring besides capital to help grow and scale the business? As a business we are consumer first. Our customer supports us because we support their lives outside of just selling them our product. Having an investor understand our why is always the goal.

Role of Pitch Competitions and Accelerators

You’ve been a winner of multiple pitches and participated in global accelerators. How have these experiences contributed to securing funding and expanding your network?

My motto is to participate if it’s non-dilutive capital. My network is 100% due to this as well as non-dilutive funding. Not only funding but organic brand awareness, especially for a startup with no marketing budget.

Partnership with Vital Enterprises

Can you elaborate on how the strategic partnership with Vital Enterprises came about? What made them a suitable partner for femPAQ?

I like to say I manifested this partnership without realizing it. This is what my executive coach says. I always wanted a partner that understands the magnitude of what it means to be synonymous with unexpected periods. Allows me to build the type of Women’s Health company that I envision for the future without losing ownership. When approached by Vital, I thought it was spam. Once I realized they were real, I still wasn’t interested because I was done with venture capital. Prior to them reaching out. We were unable to secure a lead investor after securing our follow on investors for our Seed Round. Some large retailers we were unable to work with due to not having the inventory to support so we fulfilled those we could self fulfill. If you know retail, you have to wait an entire year to be considered again, so yea I was done with traditional VC. We also had an opportunity with Amazon FBA so I thought we would use this opportunity to self fund. I decided to meet with them after the second attempt and it sounded too good to be true. Why did they choose to operate differently than other investors? After their visit to NWA and my visit to Oregon I realized they were founder first because they were founders first. Being caught in the chicken and egg scenario for far too long, Vital understood that femPAQ’s biggest challenges were Inventory and Supply Chain management. Having access to $2,000,000+ line of credit and more if needed as well as operational support and maintaining ownership, I couldn’t ask for a better partner.

Benefits of Strategic Partnerships

Beyond financial support, what other benefits has the partnership with Vital Enterprises provided to femPAQ, particularly in areas like supply chain management and operational support?

When securing funding, most founders’ biggest spend is employees for operational support. Although we all want to create jobs, early on you have to be mindful. My biggest worry was hiring someone who wasn’t qualified. As an early stage startup we can’t afford not to hire A+ people. Unfortunately, you come across those fakeit til you make it and it’s hard to spot them when you first start out. Vital provides Operational support through secured manufacturing, supply chain management, account management, legal and accounting. Again, I couldn’t ask for a better investor.

Impact of Non-Traditional Funding

How has securing funding through non-traditional methods impacted the scalability and sustainability of femPAQ?

I CAN SAY YES TO EVERYONE AND MEAN IT! I like to use our partnership to let retailers know that we can support any volume ask. That’s a flex I didn’t think I could have until later in this journey. I never thought I could maintain ownership if I did so.

Advice for Other Founders

Based on your experiences, what advice would you give to other founders who are considering alternative funding sources?

Choose you and your startup first. All money isn’t good money so do what works best for you. Patience is a virtue and nothing happens when you expect it. Lead with your side eye, even with those with the best intentions when it comes to funding partners. Non-Dilutive is always the option. Pitching can be scary but it’s necessary. It’s the best way to get non-dilutive funding and improve your ability to discuss your product with anyone.

Future Funding Plans

Are there new funding methods or partnerships you are considering as you plan for future growth, especially with your goals for 2024 and beyond?

So we just landed UNFI, one of the largest distributors in the world. Their onboarding process is strenuous but so grateful for the opportunity. We also just landed Islander Group, a distributor who services Hawaii and Guam. We will be available on Amazon FBA June 2024 and expanding through digital dispensing with a new partnership. What I’m most excited about is our partnership with nonprofits AL4ME and YellowHammer to purchase and distribute our kits in rural Alabama. Someone said 2024 is our year and it looks like it may be.

Reflection on the Funding Landscape

How do you see the funding landscape evolving for femtech startups, and what changes would you like to see to better support startups in this space?

We will see the landscape change once more femtech founders become investors. Unfortunately women are going to have to invest in women if we want to see any change. We need investors who invest in early stage startups who understand that not every founder is looking to go big and fast but can address a sizable market and make an impact.

Side Note* Vital searched for entrepreneurs in NWA and my pitch wins came up in their search. So I guess it’s a testament to putting yourself out there because you never know.

More About April and FemPAQ

April Roy is the founder and CEO of femPAQ Inc. where we take the oops out of unexpected periods, by providing accessible period care in every space menstruating people exist. Our mission is to improve Womxn’s Health through products, policies and storytelling. April is a Zane Access Best in Class Spr’ 22 grad, A GAN Founder, a multi-pitch winner, global accelerator winner and a period warrior and an advocate for Menstrual Equity. She has partnered with other local organizations to help push for change through legislation and advocacy. April has a degree in Fine Arts with a background in Design with over 10 years of product development experience. She is a champion and advocate for Women’s Health through mentorship and speaking engagements like the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Business Conference as well as a speaker for the ASBTDC AccelHerate NEA because Womxn’s Health is everyone’s health. Period!