The pitch deck a 24-year-old entrepreneur used to secure $1 million for her intimate-apparel startup
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- Emma Butler, 24, is the founder and CEO of Liberare, an adaptive-intimate-apparel business.
- She started the company as a student to help women with disabilities dress easily and feel sexy.
- Here’s the deck she used to close a $1 million round led by British Fashion Council and Venrex.
Paris, France-based entrepreneur Emma Butler thought of the idea for her company Liberare, an adaptive-intimate-apparel business, marketplace, and community forum, while blogging in her Brown University dorm room in 2018. Inspired by her mother, who deals with chronic fibromyalgia pain and limited dexterity, the Rhode Island native envisioned disabled women dressing easily, being confident, and feeling sexy.
That blog led her to launch the company as Intimately while she was a student in 2020; she rebranded to Liberare in June 2022. After graduation and in the middle of a pandemic, she crafted a preliminary pitch deck, launched a Kickstarter campaign, and won two pitch competitions: the Brown University Venture Prize and Smith College’s Draper Competition, bringing in a total of $60,000.
She knew she needed venture capital to raise her $1 million preseed goal, so she identified people and businesses she wanted at her capitalization table and “found a way to get to them through networking, asking somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody,” she said. “I went on LinkedIn, cold-emailed people, and sought female investors.”
After dispatching the deck to hundreds of venture-capital firms and early-stage sponsors, Butler closed a $1 million round in fall 2021, which British Fashion Council and Venrex, as well as other investors including Steph Korey, a cofounder of Away, and Michelle Kennedy, the founder of Peanut, led.
This capital allowed Butler to assemble her design team in Paris, which she said she chose as a home base because it was closer to the fashion-manufacturing industry and the high-end textiles she wanted for her garments. She launched Liberare’s line of functional and fashionable front-close magnetic bras with hand loops, side-opening underwear, and pajamas in February 2022, and she sold out the first release within a few months, she said.
Butler is now planning a Series A round in 2023 to unveil a unique community-engagement app, expand Liberare’s marketplace of partner brands, and introduce new products alongside patenting existing ones.
How she built her pitch deck
Heeding advisors’ advice that investors typically prefer 10 slides or fewer, Butler divided her deck into sections. The first section emphasizes the challenges that getting dressed poses to women with disabilities worldwide, while the other sections focus on Liberare’s technology, partnerships, community solutions, and market growth. An appendix expands on key questions preliminary investors ask about the consumer with disabilities, marketplace gaps, and how Liberare would leverage community for growth.
Because of the lack of visibility of adaptive fashion, Butler said it was critical for her to immediately demonstrate global need. The dominant number from her research is a standout: 600 million women worldwide struggle to get dressed every day. Visuals illustrate the ugliness, dehumanization, and expenses of that process, creating a poignant effect on investors who have little experience in this industry’s depth and potential growth.
The slide highlighting Liberare’s direct-to-consumer line of lingerie and its B2B marketplace of additional brands, which provide an international one-stop-shop for disability-inclusive fashion, is intentionally simple, she said, because of Liberare’s complex, multilayered business model.
Distilling this potentially unclear lingo is high on Butler’s radar, so she maintains two versions of the deck: this heavily-loaded edition with a detailed appendix that’s more suited to savvy businesses and a shorter, simpler presentation that she pitches to unfamiliar investors.
“I was worried that if I sent the whole deck, which I did a lot, that investors wouldn’t even open it because of confusing jargon. They might say, ‘I’m not the investor for this because I don’t know what this term is,'” Butler said. “I also knew that people aren’t going to read a big chunk of text, so playing around with these slides was important, and a lot of the design and text is in such a way that someone who doesn’t know me or my story can digest this easily.”
Butler considers an honest visual representation of Liberare’s products paramount to allow investors an opportunity to see how the company manufactures the garments, the technology it’s crafting, and the customers who benefit. Photographs of women with disabilities modeling its bras and panties take center stage. “People, especially people who aren’t disabled, are drawn to these images and videos because they have never seen anything like it — seeing people with disabilities in this way,” Butler said.
Finally, Butler showcases Liberare’s capabilities, including patent-pending technology, key partnerships with third-party businesses like hospitals and disability organizations, and a new app it’s launching this fall that will provide direct access to — and an essential forum for — the population with disabilities.
“By now, folks are hooked on adaptive apparel, they see the problem, they know we can fix it and have a solution. Now let’s talk about opportunity. Will this be a business that can only make $1 million or will it make $100 million?” Butler said. “This is also typically where investors ask, ‘What is the adaptive apparel market size?’ So I beat them to the punch.”
Butler concludes with a showstopper: Liberare is poised to disrupt a $400 billion market. She also includes her contact information and information about the team. “Investors would rather invest in an A team with a B idea, rather than a B team with an A idea. So people matter,” she said.
Here’s the pitch deck in full.