Victoria’s Secret’s latest transformation efforts are powered by $7 million.
On its continued mission to be “the world’s biggest and best advocate for women,” the lingerie and beauty company revealed plans on Monday to donate seven figures to various female-founded and -led businesses in order to help them gain capital and scale.
Venture capital firm Amplifyher Ventures will select the female entrepreneurs.
“As a company whose associate base is nearly 90 percent women, ensuring that women are represented and supported in their careers is extremely important to us,” said Martin Waters, chief executive officer of Victoria’s Secret & Co. “We’re proud to make this investment in women with Amplifyher Ventures and help address the critical gender funding gap. With Amplifyher, we are championing women entrepreneurs who are already leading the way and also supporting them in paving the way for the next generation of women founders.”
In a press release, the retailer acknowledged the gender gap in venture capital funding for female-founded and run startups. Citing data from Crunchbase, just 2.8 percent of funding went to women-led businesses and entrepreneurs in 2019. The numbers fell to 2.3 percent the following year. For women of color, the opportunities are even fewer. (Last year, Fortune reported that Black women receive just 0.27 percent of all venture dollars in the U.S.)
The numbers might come as a surprise to some, considering the rising number of women in the workforce (currently about 50 percent of females over the age of 16, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics) and high number of females with college degrees (women accounted for about 60 percent of all college degrees during the 2020 to 2021 academic year, according to a 2021 report by National Student Clearinghouse Research Center).
There’s also the added benefits of having women in the workplace, both as colleagues and as leaders. “Data shows that women-led companies are more likely to be successful — they deliver higher revenue at more than twice the rate of their male counterparts per dollar invested and they feed the ‘representation funnel’ — filling their staffs with two-and-a-half times more women,” Victoria’s Secret said. “In addition, companies with a woman founder and a woman executive hire six times more women than male-led companies.”
Victoria’s Secret — parent company to the Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Beauty and Pink brands — has been deep in transformation mode since 2018, a year after revenues began declining, thanks to changing consumer preferences and the #MeToo Movement, which sparked backlash over Victoria’s Secret’s unattainable beauty standards.
Last August, the retailer separated from Bath & Body Works (then L Brands) to become its own company on the public market.
Since then, the company has hired plus-size and transgender models, including Emira D’Spain, the first Black transgender woman to rep Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Sofía Jirau, the lingerie brand’s first model with Down Syndrome, and plus-size TikTok star Remi Bader at Pink; updated its C-suite and board (which now contains six women out of seven members); optimized its retail fleet by closing unprofitable locations for more lucrative markets, such as India and Israel, and unveiling new store formats; and updated the assortment with the addition of things like mastectomy and maternity bras.
Victoria’s Secret also launched the VS Collective in summer 2021.
The initiative includes a group of women from diverse backgrounds — such as Eileen Gu, Megan Rapinoe, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Bella Hadid, Paloma Elsesser, Valentina Sampaio, Hailey Bieber and tennis champion Naomi Osaka, among others — who will share their stories by way of collaborations, partnerships and social media.
“We’re moving from sexy for a few to sexy for all,” Waters has said. “We’re moving from a look to a feeling. It’s about including most women rather than excluding most women and being grounded in real life rather than mostly unattainable. And it does reflect a very significant turnaround from where we’ve been, where we’re moving from what men want to what women want.”
On Monday, Victoria’s Secret added that it is also addressing the gap on its own platform by making a commitment to partner with more women-founded and women-led intimates and swimwear brands. Currently, brands such as For Love and Lemons, BlueBella, Frankies Bikinis, Mindd and Black female-founded swimwear brand Bfyne, among others, are available at Victoria’s Secret’s e-commerce and in select stores.
“[Victoria’s Secret] is opening to partnering with new brands that may fill a void in their assortment,” Todd Mick, executive director of fashion apparel at market research firm NPD Group, said during a presentation the Curvo trade show in New York City, also on Monday. “And their numbers are improving. And part of that turnaround story is their change in visual communication.”
Last quarter, Victoria’s Secret logged $75 million in profits, thanks to $1.4 billion in total company revenues.
Meanwhile, Amplifyher Ventures has invested in a variety of home, beverage, beauty, lifestyle, apparel and swimwear brands.
“We look forward to partnering with Victoria’s Secret in supporting women innovators,” said Tricia Black, partner and founder at Amplifyher Ventures. “Amplifyher arms outstanding women with the resources and capital needed to build their own C-suites, and Victoria’s Secret is authentically aligned with this vision.”
Meghan Cross, Partner, a partner at Amplifyher Ventures, added: “We admire how Victoria’s Secret is fostering community to become a leading advocate for women. At Amplifyher, we work closely with our portfolio of under-represented founders who have a unique ability to deliver outsized returns through network-driven flywheel effects of growth. We sincerely look forward to Victoria’s Secret playing a role in our community.”
Victoria’s Secret will report quarterly earnings on Wednesday, after the market closes.