The startup founder scored $500K in funding when she was 7 months pregnant -- here's how she did it

SuppliedSubhaga Amarasekara (L) with her husband and child.

Pitching to potential investors can be nerve-wracking.

Doing it when you’re seven-and-a-half months pregnant is a whole other story.

But that’s what Subhaga Amarasekara did when seeking funding from Australia’s largest angel investment organisation, the Sydney Angels.

Her mobile beauty startup, FLAYR (a play on the word “flair”) had been a success since she and her husband launched it in 2016.

It connects Australian women with professional freelance hair and make-up artists, providing highly flexible at-home service at affordable, standardised rates.

She initially launched it to try to help her mother-in-law, a trained makeup artist, drum up more business.

But when demand took off and bookings raced past $1 million, the pair realised they had “a real opportunity on our hands”, and decided to seek capital to scale up the business.

“Pitching to a room full of investors is always a somewhat daunting experience,” Amarasekara says.

“Doing this while heavily pregnant, and having just dealt with my toddler’s meltdown an hour before, made this especially challenging.

“I know investors want founders who are 100% focused on the business. I also knew it was clear to everyone in the room that I would soon have a pretty large extra commitment in my life – as if running a start-up wasn’t hard enough.

“But my concerns were quickly alleviated, as I saw that the Angels were solely focused on the strength of our business, what we had already achieved, and what we were planning to do.

“They bought into our vision, and were extremely supportive throughout the whole process.”

Amarasekara scored $500,000 in seed capital from Sydney Angels, the Sydney Angels Sidecar Fund 2 and private investors.

Adrian Bunter, lead Sydney Angels investor in the deal, said it was FLAYR’s business model and plan which was “clearly and compellingly communicated in the pitch” that won them over.

“The numbers also showed was an impressive demand for FLAYR – over 800 stylists from across Australia already signed up, over 2,300 verified customer reviews averaging 4.9 out of 5, and over $1 million in bookings,” he said.

Investors can also often shy away from spousal business partnerships due to the potential risk of family conflict, but Bunter said this wasn’t an issue in this situation.

“Any spousal concerns were alleviated because of a business they had previously run very successfully together, and how their complementary skill sets made them a particularly strong team,” he said.

The marketplace platform will use the funding to drive rapid Australia-wide growth, with a particular focus on increasing consultation with stylists on the platform in order to constantly improve their experience as suppliers.

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