The interview below is part of an ongoing
effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders
in private equity. To read previous profiles,
click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview,
email Amber Walsh at
Kallie Hapgood is a managing director at
, an investment firm based in New Canaan,
Conn., that is focused on partnering with
founders, entrepreneurs and management
teams, and creating value by building
middle-market companies into industry
Hapgood has an extensive background in the private
equity (PE) industry, including marketing, new
business development and fundraising. Prior to
joining Gridiron Capital, she worked with a variety
of general partners across geographies and fund
types, including buyout, growth and venture
capital, credit and distressed debt, mezzanine and
fund of funds. Hapgood began her career at Merrill
Lynch and is a graduate of Dartmouth College.
Q: What attracted you to PE?
Early in my career, I was at an asset manager with
over 200 product offerings for institutional
investors. Although I enjoyed learning about a
broad universe of strategies, securities and
geographies, I wasn't able to have an in-depth
level of exposure to any of them. When I
transitioned into PE, I relished the opportunity to
dig into the details of individual companies and
their products, services, teams, challenges and
PE is one of the few investment management
strategies where the manager can effect real change
in the underlying portfolio. Joining Gridiron
Capital has given me the opportunity to have an
in-depth understanding of each portfolio company
and be part of the entire journey as Gridiron
partners with founders and management teams to grow
and transform each business. Understanding how
growth is driven and being part of the
transformation is a unique opportunity.
Q: Why is it important for more women to pursue
careers in PE?
The PE market has evolved and matured considerably
over the last 20 years. In order to outperform the
mean, managers need to find those elusive
inefficiencies in an increasingly efficient market.
Managers who simply hire the "typical" PE
professionals are going to look and perform like
everyone else. Different perspectives, experiences
and ways of thinking make a firm more powerful and
give that manager the ability to think outside the
box and create value in unique and creative ways.
At Gridiron, we work hard to get better every day.
Part of how we do that is by interacting with new
people and constantly challenging the status quo.
Additional diversity of professionals within PE
will only enhance the asset class and returns.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge
facing women entrepreneurs? What advice would
you provide to overcome it?
I think female entrepreneurs have a finger on the
pulse of new trends and consumer needs. I see many
female entrepreneurs with incredible products and
services but oftentimes they don't have the robust
network needed to pursue more advanced growth
strategies. Over the long term, I would encourage
female entrepreneurs to help and support one
another. Deepening and improving their network
would be a rewarding byproduct of that mentality.
In the short term, I would suggest picking up the
phone and meeting new people every day. Everyone
enjoys a warm introduction, but even more important
is a great company with multiple opportunities for
I would also stress the importance of finding
partners and investors who value what you bring to
the table and who you can envision having an
enjoyable partnership with over several years.
Gridiron has done an outstanding job of partnering
with women founders and entrepreneurs, being
flexible, understanding and listening and creating
an environment that fits their goals and objectives
and helps them be successful. Tom Burger,
Gridiron's co-founder and managing partner, grew up
working in a family business where his grandmother
was an entrepreneur and the chief financial
officer. Tom's upbringing is an additional reason
why Gridiron has always been committed to
partnering with women entrepreneurs.
Q: What advice would you provide to a woman-led
company interested in securing PE?
If you are looking for a PE partner, make sure that
potential partner is bringing more to the table
than just capital. Spend as much time with them in
person as possible and ask a lot of questions. Have
they worked with other female entrepreneurs? If so,
call these women and speak to them. If not, call
the male chief executive officers and management
teams they have worked with previously or
currently. Do they understand your industry? Your
competitors? What is their strategic plan? Do they
plan to make management changes?
Also pay attention to the questions they ask you.
Are they asking you about your employees? Are they
asking you about your relationships with customers
or just financial questions? Make sure your
interests are ultimately aligned with your new
Gridiron has successfully partnered with several
woman-led and women-founded businesses and helped
them scale and grow. If you pick the right partner,
your next bite at the apple should be much more
rewarding than the first. At Gridiron, we call this
To contact Hapgood, email