Two Female Founders Entering Male Territory

Written by: Victoria Wæthing

18.11.2020

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Photo by: Ine Therese Aarkvisla

Two young women entering two male dominated areas of business: tech-industry and wine import. Their goals are nothing less than their product becoming the microcontract equivalent to Vipps, Norway’s answer to Google Pay.

Mia Westby and Carina Elise Godou more or less stumbled into their first business endeavour which was importing wine from South Africa. How did it happen? Well, Mia was studying at Cape Town Graduate School of Business in South Africa, when she tasted what she is confident is the best rosé wine in the world.

She called her friend Carina, who at that point was having her internship in Silicon Valley, “Let’s become agents and import this amazing wine I have found,” Mia said. But as it turns out: being an agent, without an import company, is not good business. Carina, who had studied entrepreneurship at UC Berkley, just said: “Why don’t we just build our own import company? If others can do it, I am positive we can definitely do the same”. 

They recognised the window of opportunity, because of the combination of value and quality. 

“It was probably my time in Silicon Valley that made me strongly believe in my own abilities, that being an entrepreneur and creating a business was possible. I met so many inspiring and talented people and I started recognizing myself in them. It gave me the confidence to say: okay, if they can do it, so can I,” says Carina.  

The lessons from Silicon Valley, taught Carina about claiming your place, doing the work – setting goals. Additionally, she learned the importance of finding a good team.  

“As a team, Carina and I complement each other. We have the same work mentality, which basically means that we are always working, and since we are also friends and do what we love—it never really feels like work. It’s a lot of fun and every victory feels very personal,” says Mia.  

Photo by: Ine Therese Aarkvisla

Male Dominated Industry 

It was tough getting into the wine business in Norway. It is dominated by several big import companies that have been in the game for a long time. Mostly run by men with a large network in the industry.

On top of that, the girls started their company when Covid-19 struck and the world went on lockdown. There was an export ban on alcohol in South Africa for several months and when it finally shipped, their wine got stuck in Germany. Their logistics representative simply responded that due to Corona, the ship would be placed in Hamburg for an indefinite period of time.

Carina did not accept this: “I didn’t know ships could get Corona. Get our wine to Norway, we don’t care how. We have a deadline with the Norwegian Wine Monopoly that we refuse to miss.”

End of story: the logistics agency put the wine on trucks and it was delivered within a few days. “I have been told that I have a masculine attitude. I think it is because I dare to ask for what I want, and I am completely shameless when I call in favours. However, I also offer my help and service when I’m asked in return. You can’t be too shy if you are looking to get results,” says Mia.  

Mia’s road to entrepreneurship was a bit different than Carina with both a bachelor’s degree in law and one in psychology. She is convinced that no amount of studies will ever be a waste of time, her law degree specially coming in handy for their second business: Lawyered. An app with easily editable contract templates, signed in-app and stored as a PDF. So how did the girls come up with this idea? 

Mini Contracts for Your Everyday Life 

“It came up during one of our daily discussions. We were talking about the many situations in which people actually need to have a non-disclosure agreement. With my background from the faculty of law, I knew that with the Norwegian law system, even a verbal agreement is considered legally binding. The problem is how to prove that such an agreement ever took place. Well, with Lawyered that is no longer a problem. I am just surprised that nobody came up with this idea before”, says Mia.   

The Lawyered app is free and currently offers four standard contracts: a non-disclosure agreement, a consent agreement, a purchase agreement and a loan agreement.  

Mia and Carina say that they are in the process of adding more contracts, and they are searching to find a suitable law firm to cooperate with. “We do not compete with them; the micro contracts are contracts that would never have been made had it not been for the app. If we had a law firm to cooperate with, we can refer our users to them. The users have all downloaded the app because they want legal formalization, which makes them all potential clients. It’s a win-win situation,” says Mia. 

Future Goals 

These two women see their two businesses as the starting point for what will eventually become a conglomerate. They see business opportunities everywhere and will continue to new ventures for the foreseeable future.  They seeded both their companies and initially wanted full ownership, but eventually they let a few strategic individuals invest in both their companies to add value. Innovation Norway have also added Lawyered to their portfolio of innovative companies they support.  

Their goal is to make Lawyered the law equivalent to Vipps; Norway’s answer to Google Pay. They want to create a paradigm shift with regards to how people formalize agreements. This will in turn create both safety and predictability for all parties involved. As for their wine import business, the women want to export to Sweden. They just have to have some more capital before doing so. And probably some sleep. 

Advice From Two Founders to Future Founders 

Being two strongminded go-getters, what would be their advice to those wanting to start their own business? 

  • Don’t overthink everything, and stop telling yourself that everybody else is better than you. Take your place. Why shouldn’t you be able to do what so many others can do? 
  • Find the right team. We share visions and values, but have different academic background and competence.  
  • See opportunities everywhere, take advantage of a situation that might be a good way for you to brand yourself or the company. 

One last advice from Mia: Stay away from the Devil’s advocate. “I’m not interested in your objections, I want alternatives and solutions. Keep your negativity to yourself.” •