First impressions are crucial, especially when you're trying to get potential investors on your side. And when you walk into that all-important pitch meeting, the first thing everyone sees, before you even open your mouth, is the way you're dressed.
Sheila P. Coates, head of Be Your Own Brand (BYOB), says entrepreneurs need to understand that they are the brand they are trying to project.
"As a company founder, you have to ask yourself: 'What is your brand? What are the top three things that you want people to get within that first 30 seconds of meeting you?'"
Clothes are clearly an important part of your personal brand and women seem to be willing to invest time in dressing for success. According to a study by the market research company OnePoll Co., women spend about 100 hours shopping for clothes each year.
For men, the process is often much easier. This is exemplified by President Obama's decision to eliminate all of his work attire besides blue and gray suits. He minimized having to think about the mundane, so he could focus on the nation's pressing issues.
What can women in business learn from Obama's approach to clothing? Designer Alex Robinson thinks quite a lot. Last year she created her own company and clothing line, Aclott Clothier, to make dressing up and looking professional easier for women.
"I really wanted to design things that are effortlessly stylish, effortlessly put-together, so a lot of Aclott's outfits require no thought," says Robinson. Her company makes entirely bespoke clothing according to a client's measurements and design specifications to suit their lifestyle and figures.
Designing clothes has been stitched into Robinson's family for generations. Her great-grandmother, Millie "Mimi" Tanner, co-founded Doncaster, one of the first women's direct sales clothing companies during the Great Depression in North Carolina. The first product Tanner designed was a custom shirtdress, sold by members of the Junior League.
Inspired by her great-grandmother's legacy, Robinson decided to bring back tailored clothing for women.
"We joke about breaking the 'glass ceiling of custom clothing,' because men have been so catered to, especially in the professional world," explains Robinson, who learned first about bespoke clothing while working at a men's apparel company.
For her, made-to-order female apparel is even more important than men's: "We have such different curvatures that we really need custom clothing to flatter it and highlight what we love, and hide what we don't."
When it comes to dressing women to meet with potential investors, Robinson says clothes should project the entrepreneur's message but shouldn't distract from it. She suggests simple transitional pieces that you can mix and match according to the occasion.
Watch Robinson show off her go-to outfits for a pitch meeting.
To complete your outfit and personal brand message, the right accessories pull it all together. Stevie D'Andrea, co-owner of Jewels for Hope, says there are two key elements you need to keep in mind when accessorizing for a pitch meeting -- know your audience and feel comfortable in your jewelry.
"If you are meeting with someone at a more conservative company, do not wear a tribal necklace or bold, chunky jewelry. Simple and elegant can go a long way," says D'Andrea. "If you love loud statement pieces, wear a more subdued outfit so that piece really shines."
Matching too many pieces can also have a disastrous effect, while a pop of color can make all the difference.
"Sometimes, the most simple necklace or bracelet is the perfect touch to any outfit." D'Andrea says.
Accessorizing one dress in different ways can effortlessly create completely different looks, and you don't need to empty out your savings account or spend hours figuring out what to wear.
At the end of the day, what comes out of your mouth in that crucial pitch meeting is what you really need to focus on.
Do you have a go-to business outfit? Share it below.