A Candid Conversation With Kelley Arena About Women In Business, Golden Hour Ventures, & Investment For Startups

Kelley Arena, the founder of Golden Hour Ventures, speaks on career advice for students and young professionals.
Kelley Arena, Founder of Golden Hour Ventures. PHOTO: COURTESY KELLEY ARENA

Meet Kelley Arena, the founder of Golden Hour Ventures. 

She’s a leading voice in investing and a passionate advocate for women-founded businesses. From her roots with the Philadelphia Eagles to shaping healthcare M&A at Merrill Lynch, Kelley's career is a story of resilience and empowerment. As the power behind Golden Hour Ventures, she's on a mission to redefine wealth for women.

At Fetti, we had the chance to chat with Kelley, gaining valuable information about her global mission to empower women. Here are some inspiring highlights from our conversation.

Could you tell us a bit about your background and career journey?

I went to college to study finance and marketing. I tried different roles and jobs. From there, I started working at a professional football franchise, the Philadelphia Eagles, which was so fun. But as you can imagine, being a woman working at a professional football team, there are not a ton of opportunities for advancement within the organization, and it is very much a man's world.

From there, I went to work in corporate finance at Johnson & Johnson then investment banking at Merrill Lynch. It was such a cliche of what an investment banking job is. But I learned so much about the financial markets, like how things move and work, what it is to work in finance in New York City and the kind of personas and the people who went into those careers. It became time for me to start my own family. So I left and spent some time at home with my kids, which was by far the hardest job I've ever had in my life.

And then from there just started to consult for startups. [I understood that] product people are creative people who just need help in the finance side and building out their business plan and that part came pretty easily to me. But through that I really started to see firsthand the difference between the way male founders were accessing capital and how they were operating and then female founders and how they were accessing capital and operating. I just kept seeing these disparities and I knew that they were true, but to live them firsthand and to feel it really bothered me. Eventually, I got to where I am, which is really investing in women founders to make the world look very different by the time my kids and my nieces are growing up in the workforce.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

Well, my office is in my home. I don't really have a typical day, which I love. Luckily, I work for myself, so I can make my own schedule. But it always starts with taking kids to school, which is really important for me. I'm trying to be on Zoom less, taking walks, being out in the world, and meeting with founders constantly. I run an accelerator with an emphasis on dream ventures. So I’m always working on content for that accelerator and how I can get the most information to our early-stage founders in the clearest, most concise way. I'm a little bit of an information junkie. So, I spent a lot of time internalizing information, scouring the internet, taking meetings, and making that information accessible [to founders] in some other way. I also try to get out of my little cubby hole and get out there in the world and talk to venture funds, and compare deal flows - see who’s investing in what, what's exciting right now, learning about consumer trends, and having a lot of conversations with folks who are seeing things through a different lens.

As a consultant for several women-founded businesses, what common challenges have you observed, and what strategies or tips can you offer to female entrepreneurs to overcome these challenges?

Fundraising is challenging, particularly this year. Capital is more expensive than ever, and it's given a little less freely. So fundraising has been a challenge. I tactically spend a lot of my time talking about it [with founders]. And I would say from a macro perspective, I see a lot of confidence gaps. A lot of early-stage founders really know their business, and they know their product. But when it comes time to fundraise, that's a really different skill set. So now, all of a sudden, you have to sell yourself; and selling yourself is really different than selling your product. You can really, really believe in your product. But when you are a founder who’s raising money, the product can only get you so far. 

So I would say that you have to believe in yourself and your business first. If you go out there and you're fundraising it from a timid perspective and are not sure if you're worthy of the investment dollars—I would stop the fundraising process and go back to basics and really convince yourself that this business is what you believe in and that you can build it and reach $100 million in revenue.

Can you share some strategies for effective networking, especially for those who are just starting their careers and may not have extensive professional connections?

It takes work. You have to treat networking and expanding your network as a part of the job. It's not just something to do for fun or on the side. It will unlock doors for you, and every single time I felt stuck in my career and my life, it's always been networking that unlocks it. If you're a founder and you're just getting started, I would say surrounding yourself with other founders who understand the challenges of building a brand.

It's imperative because it's so lonely. Being a founder can be a very lonely journey when you're just behind your laptop all day. I would say go to investor events where there are founders and funders in the room. I would also say to join an accelerator. There's so many great ones right now, communities like Female Founders World, for example. Subscribe to all the newsletters of the investors that you admire who are investing in brands like yours. Look into venture funds, look into your female founders networks, and just go to as many events as you can. Put a couple of weeks aside, stop grinding, and get out there. 

As someone who has worked with numerous founders, what qualities or traits do you believe are crucial for entrepreneurial success, and how can young professionals and students cultivate these qualities?

First and foremost, it's resilience. And a lot of people would say passion here, but it's really resilience because you're gonna have a lot of hard days. It also gets boring. So, having the resilience to sit through and persevere on monotonous, boring days is crucial. We're in an era where there’s always a new next-best thing, particularly in entrepreneurship and even in the startup world. It's always about who's developing something new, AI this AI that, and everything is changing so quickly since we're in the middle of a rapid technological revolution. But ultimately, people who win are those who have a clear understanding of what they're trying to build and can just chip away at it every single day, even when the results are not immediate. So that's a trait I look for in a founder. Someone who I feel can really go the distance even when the waters get rocky. 

Self-doubt is common among young adults. How can we overcome self-limiting beliefs and gain confidence?

Practice, practice, practice. I'm guilty of this—reading all the books and gathering all of the information and thinking that if you just read one more thing, you get a little bit smarter. And all of a sudden, confidence is just gonna download right into your body. Then everything will be great. It just doesn't work that way. You have to get out there and practice your pitch—make a fool out of yourself. All of those things are what fortify you into actually feeling competent because you realize that a no isn't going to ruin you. You get a couple of them under your belt, and they barely faze you anymore.

Kelley Arena, the founder of Golden Hour Ventures, speaks on career advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Kelley Arena, Founder of Golden Hour Ventures. PHOTO: COURTESY KELLEY ARENA

In France, the chef always throws out the first pancake. It's my advice when you're fundraising: don't go after your dream investors right away. Use your first couple of pitches as practice rounds and get the stumbles out, skip over some words, and forget some concepts. Eventually, you'll start to get enough feedback. And then it just starts to come. But I would say the biggest mistake is staying in your zone, reading a bunch of books and hoping that the confidence will come. You've got to get out there and feel stupid a few times before it does. 

Could you share any resources or courses that have had a significant impact on your career and that you would recommend to your audience for personal and professional growth?

As far as formal resources go, we're so lucky that we have so much free information at our fingertips. I would say from the investor lens, that joining an investor syndicate is such a great way to kind of learn about investing in the private markets. There's so many great ones. “She's Independent” is a good one. “Pipeline Angels” is a good one and there are so many out there. But you can put yourself in a river deal flow and start to look at diligence memos and decks and see how the whole process works. You don't have to be writing checks right away. You can just learn the vocabulary of it because it is its own world of jargon. And if you're an aspiring angel investor or an aspiring VC, it's a really great way to start just getting your education.

What are three books you would recommend, and why?

I love “The Warren Buffett Way.” It is about a slow and steady way to accumulate wealth and the way he approaches the public markets. I apply it so much to the way I invest in the private markets, although I do get excited about a lot of innovation and what's new. So I love that one. I also love thinking “Grow Rich” even though it's definitely written with a male lens and it's super dated. But it's a hybrid of how changing your mindset can really change the way you accumulate wealth. There's the “Naval” podcast as well—there's a lot of really great gems in there. Again, I don't necessarily agree with the politics, but I agree with a lot of the sentiments. So I would say they're not three books, but I love those three resources. 

Follow Kelley Arena's impactful journey on LinkedIn for insights into her mission of empowering women globally. Immerse yourself in the world of angel investing at Golden Hour Ventures, where she pioneers a new era of financial empowerment for women.

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