9 Reasons to Crowdfund

At iFundWomen, we believe that crowdfunding should be the first stop on every entrepreneur's funding journey. 

Here are 9 reasons why:

FUNDING

1. RAISE SEED MONEY

The money you raise through crowdfunding is seed money for your business. It's cash you can use to start or grow your venture, without giving away any ownership of your business or taking on debt.

2. ATTRACT POTENTIAL INVESTORS

Put away your powerpoint, and get out there and sell.  Get more eyeballs on your business, some customers, and demonstrate your entrepreneurial hustle.  A successful crowdfunding campaign proves to investors that there is a market for your product and you are the person to bet on.

3. SECURE A "BRIDGE FUND"

Drive up the value of your company and show some GRIT during your growth stage.  Equity investors recognize a smart entrepreneur who gets scrappy and raises via crowdfunding - it's a more compelling story.

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

4. TEST YOUR MVP

Perfect is the enemy of done.  Test your prototype and find out quickly if people really want whatever it is that you're selling.  Crowdfunding is a controlled environment for you to test your product and get the market feedback that will be essential for you to optimize your overall strategy.

5. CUSTOMER DISCOVERY

Crowdfunding is the ultimate market research tool.  Test and validate your value proposition through campaign feedback.  Identify undiscovered customer segments and needs to inform and refine your broader go-to-market strategy.

MARKETING

6. MAKE MONEY INSTEAD OF SPENDING IT

Turn traditional marketing on it's head - instead of paying to market your brand, leverage campaign rewards to extend your reach.  Crowdfunding is the ultimate marketing vehicle - increase awareness, generate leads, get product feedback, and increase sales ALL at the same time. 

7. GENERATE BUZZ AND AWARENESS

To run a great campaign, you need a clear communication and messaging strategy. Engaging past, current, and future clients drives business benefits far beyond your immediate campaign success.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

8. EXPAND YOUR NETWORK

Get out of your comfort zone.  The confidence gap is real for female entrepreneurs.  To win at crowdfunding, you need to get off of the networking sidelines and into the ring.  The success of your campaign depends on you reaching far and wide to tell your story.

9. SUPPORT FELLOW FEMALE BUSINESS OWNERS

1,100 new businesses are started by women each day in the U.S., yet only 2-6% of venture funding goes to female entrepreneurs.  iFundWomen pays forward a percent of our fees into active campaigns on our platform.  So when you crowdfund with us, you're helping female entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.

A smartly run campaign can be an incredible catalyst for growth - for you business and for you.  So get out there and WIN.

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Balancing Act

This week, we are thrilled to have guest editor Rachel Trobman SHARE HER STORY OF LITERALLY BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY.  Rachel is the founder & CEO of Ouchie, a mobile platform for pain management which helps providers help patients.  She is also an ifundwomen alumni as the executive producer of the successfully funded digital comedy series, dating zoe.

Eight. That’s how many times my daughter spit up on me as I was presenting before the managing director of Golden Seeds, one of the most preeminent investment groups in New York City. It certainly was not what I would have hoped for, but it is my reality. My only hope is it makes me memorable.

You see, I’m not only the mom to a 3.5 year old and a 3.5 month old, I’m also trying to raise seed funds for my rapidly-growing digital health business, Ouchie. And despite my confidence that I could easily balance a newborn and a startup as I did with my oldest, nothing has gone according to plan. While my older daughter took a bottle with no issue, transitioned without fuss to daycare at three months and then seamlessly adapted to the introduction of formula when the well began to dry, the newest addition to the family dared to be different. No matter what we tried, baby June could not latch onto a bottle and required feeding every hour. So in between pitches and presentations, I was attending gastroenterologists and feeding specialists. All the while, the little lady joined me at every work event. Safely nestled in the Ergo carrier, we took the daily trip on New Jersey Transit into the city and the subway down to the office. Together we endured quizzical looks from the 20-somethings in the co-working space. We traveled up to a law firm to review contracts and across town to review designs with a development group. As my back grew weary from the weight of my laptop and my chest glistened with sweat from the tiny creature laying on me, June would give me a sleepy grin and I’d keep on trudging ahead.

The response I’ve gotten from those I’ve encountered on this journey, in both a professional and personal capacity, has been overwhelmingly positive. There was the aforementioned investor who encouraged me to nurse when the baby got fussy. There was our medical adviser who introduced my daughter to colleagues as our Chief Operating Officer when we toured his hospital. There was another investor who succinctly said, “Well, isn’t this what we all work so hard for anyway?” There were the potential clients at a dinner meeting, both parents themselves, who after briefly oohing and ahhing, conducted business as usual. Thankfully those who did not have anything nice to say didn’t say anything at all. I’m grateful that the majority of the people in my circle are female and that the incubator I’m part of (shout-out to Monarq) is dedicated to promoting diverse founding teams and frequently misunderstood founders. I’m lucky that my daughter is at a very portable age, one only slightly more interactive than when she was in my womb, and that her disposition allowed me to engage with others with limited distraction. And, I’m incredibly happy that those I worked with and alongside could see beyond the baby in my arms and speak with me about the issues at hand.

I felt like I had no other choice but to keep moving forward. It’s my nature to adapt and to fight like hell for the things I love and believe in. In this case, it was both my business and my daughter. Neither could be or deserved to be left behind and even though it’s been difficult physically and emotionally, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Today, for the second consecutive day, June took a bottle.  Not too long ago I daydreamed of the time I could drive to a client without the sound of cries in the backseat, pitch a VC without a tiny head bobbing back and forth or attend a dinner meeting without fear of dropping food on her face. Now there’s a twinge of sadness that I’ll soon be going at it alone. I’ll have to find a way to carry June’s perspective with me without her actual presence. I have a feeling my outfits will look better without the spit-up. 

Perfect Is the Enemy of Done

Don't overthink it. Don't overthink it. Don't overthink it. 

These are words every entrepreneur should live by, along with "MVP" and "product/market fit," well, and maybe a couple dozen others. While there may be many entrepreneurial mantras to live by, having one that reminds you to NOT wait until you've reached perfection is definitely high up on the list. 

Philosophers like Voltaire and Confucius first coined the sentiment, and it seamlessly translates to entrepreneurship - the idea that attempting to make something perfect will likely keep you from finishing that very thing at all.

Think about it.  Have you ever really seen perfection? Have you ever witnessed a business on the rise do everything perfectly right? No. It's impossible, so why waste your time waiting for every single thing to be just so before you share your business plan, take your product to market, or start your crowdfunding campaign?

The crowdfunding coaches at iFundWomen see this regularly in female entrepreneurs. These women have all the tools they need to launch a successful campaign, yet they question whether or not the time is exactly right. Whether everything is perfectly ready to go.  The answer is typically NOW is the perfect time to get your idea out there into the world. NOW is the time to call upon your friends, family & followers (your "FFF's") to give you the support and feedback you need to continue to improve your product. NOW is the time find out if there really is a market out there for your product. With crowdfunding, the feedback comes fast and gives you the opportunity to continually iterate and improve. It's scary to get out there before you 'feel' ready, but let's be honest, will that moment ever come? Our mantra is "Leap, and the net will appear" (John Burroughs). 

In theory, perfection would lead to success, but in reality, for entrepreneurs, waiting for your product to be perfect prevents you from getting the feedback you need in order to make it great. Founder & CEO of iFundWomen, Karen Cahn, learned this the hard way with her first startup.

I spent lots of time and money making my product perfect and I had no feedback.

In a recent Facebook Live, Karen and iFundWomen's Director of Operations, Kate Anderson, talked in depth about how perfection is the enemy of done, and Karen, now onto successful startup #2, shared her wisdom.

Karen is now the Founder & CEO of iFundWomen - a startup that is finding success within it's first year.  The learned lessons from startup #1 were applied to her second company, which is why iFundWomen launched with a beta in November of 2016. The product and technology were appropriately tested and improved, and to this day iFundWomen continues to release and improve features as feedback comes pouring in.

It's important to note that striving for perfection isn't necessarily a bad thing.  You should want your product to be as good as it can possibly be, but just don't let perfectionism prevent you from recognizing a good and more importantly, complete thing.  Give yourself credit for bringing your idea to life, for having functioning technology, or for having completed the first iteration of your product. 

Female entrepreneurs have the capacity to achieve incredible things with their businesses, but you must be mentally prepared to recognize the good in what you've created and be done with it in order to take it to the next level and make it great. 

Here's to making the leap!

Data: The Single Most Important Thing You Need to Know

Shannon Ware & Melody Jennings Bowers, Co-Founders, Virtual Collective & Her Data Method

Shannon Ware & Melody Jennings Bowers, Co-Founders, Virtual Collective & Her Data Method

This week, on the Pay-It-Forward blog, we welcome guest editors Melody Jennings Bowers & Shannon Ware.  Melody and Shannon are iFundWomen Alum and co-founders of Her Data Method, an online course which teaches women business owners how to build a data collection framework that will help you make smart, data-driven decisions tailored to your business.

To all those who process the word “data” through a veil of trepidation, this blog post is for you. If you are a business owner doing any part of your business online, you will keep bumping into this word until either you or the internet dies, which is why we created Her Data Method.

Her Data Method is an online course that walks you through the steps of setting up your company’s data collection framework, and thanks to our successfully funded iFundWomen campaign, our plan is becoming a reality. We are hustling to start beta testing of the Her Data Method online course in July, and we are on track to have it live in August 2017!

You Are Not Alone

Author and behavioral economist Dan Ariely says it best: “Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.” If defining your customer profiles or connecting your website to Google Analytics has been low on your to-do list because you aren’t quite sure where to start, trust me when I say that you are already ahead of the game — at least you have those tasks on your list!

In short, you aren’t the only business owner who has no clue where to start with data.  But, if you are hoping to grow your business, you will need data — and a clue about what to do with it — in order to make educated and informed decisions. From how to spend your marketing dollars to where to put your social buttons on your homepage, having data that helps you understand your audience will show you where to focus your efforts.

Defining Data

Let’s start by defining what we mean when we talk about data. Data = Information. You can gather information from anyone and everyone who visits your website and social media accounts or opens the email you blasted out. Things like location, demographics, the amount of time users spend on your site, the first page they visited on your site, what page the user was on when they decided to leave your site … basically any interaction your clients/customers have with your business’s website is considered data.

The challenge is figuring out how to collect the data you need to help you make better business decisions. If you want to find a way to boost your online efforts, start paying attention to your data.

Data Matters

Your website is a portal to the land of free information, but did you know that websites should be built for people and search engines? A beautiful website is not enough to help customers find you online through organic search efforts alone. A website must be built to include the information that the search engines look for and value.

Maybe you want to run a paid ads campaign some day? Data matters even more once you start the paid advertising game — those clicks are costly, so you’ll want to have the right info in order to be confident that you’re choosing the right word(s) to invest in. If you aren’t gathering data from your website traffic, you will be playing an expensive guessing game.

It wasn’t until I learned how to code and built a couple of websites from scratch that I understood how things work from the backend of a site and that there are basic fundamentals that are non-negotiable. If you want to have a solid online presence that appeases your customers AND the search engine gods, you will need to learn what kind of information the search engines are looking for.

And no, you do not need to know how to code in order to start collecting data!  Three of the most important steps that lay the foundation for your data collection framework happen offline:

  1. Determining your value proposition

  2. Writing a clear mission statement

  3. Defining your customer profiles

If you only figured out these three things, you would be ahead of the game when it comes time to measure and test your assumptions about your customers.  

Have I made my case for data yet?

Before your eyes glaze over and panic sets in, I promised to tell you the single most important thing you need to know about data. Ready?

Start collecting data NOW. Period.

That’s it. The only thing that really matters is that you simply start collecting data. In order to use data, you have to have data. You don’t even have to know what it all means or what you are supposed to do with it — and you definitely don’t have to collect it all at once, but! You. Need. To. Start. NOW!

You’ve already done the hard part by starting a business! This is YOUR business! These are YOUR customers! Data collection is part of doing business, just like reconciling your bank statements. It’s part of what you signed up for when you started your company. So, go! Get busy!

We don’t want to get you fired up and then leave you hanging! Here are several topics that we cover in the Her Data Method course that you can start doing right now:

Does all this data talk still look and sound like Greek to you? Don’t want to go it alone? Here are two ways to join our data collection mission:

By Melody Jennings Bowers  VirtualCollective.io / HerDataMethod.com

You Are Your Brand

Being an entrepreneur has it's perks. You most likely make your own hours, report to yourself, and if you're like the women we know, you strongly believe in the mission of the company because, well, it's yours.

Your professional self has never been more authentic. So why does it sometimes feel uncomfortable to promote and market your company through your personal networks? You went into business to build your company, so why do we struggle to own being our brand?

In the latest episode of You're Not Crazy, entrepreneur & angel investor, Erica Duignan Minnihan gives us insight on how to position your personal brand and your professional brand on social media.

You're Not Crazy, Season Two, Episode 3: "Being Your Brand"

You're Not Crazy, Season Two, Episode 3: "Being Your Brand"

Erica also acknowledges that self-identifying with your company is not easy.

How do you manage aligning yourself with something that could be a wild success or possibly fail?

The truth is that there is no single solution to this existential milestone of building your business.  Every entrepreneur goes through this, so hopefully knowing you're not alone relieves a bit of the anxiety. As a founder & CEO, you just need to bite the bullet and embrace what you have created. 

You liberated yourself by carving your own professional path, so don't let a couple of Facebook posts stop you from throwing yourself into making your company succeed. Own your success, share your journey, and be your brand. 

The Big Bad Beta Test

Anxiety can fell like an early stage entrepreneur's constant companion. Building a business is an emotional journey as much as it is a professional one.  You are investing your time, money, and talent into bringing to life your vision - there's no doubt you are emotionally invested in the success of your company.  And while anxiety ebbs and flows amid the development of your product or service, it has the potential to peak when you ask whether or not your product is ready for market. How do you know? And can you mitigate your risk ahead of time? 

On episode two of iFundWomen's series, You're Not Crazy, BroadMic Host Erica Duignan Minnihan, weighs in. In her opinion, you have to take the leap and embark on the ultimate anxiety-inducing process of finding out if people really want whatever it is you’ve created.

By nature, beta testing is anxiety-provoking. I’m worried that I’m gonna create something, I’m gonna put it out in the world, and people are gonna be like, ‘I don’t want that.’

It’s called beta testing and there’s just no way around this integral part of building your business.  Emotions aside, a beta test is the best possible thing you can do for your company - and yourself. Beta testing gets you real-world feedback on your product or service from a small, trusted audience, in advance of mass production or significant time and capital investments. That feedback enables you to profoundly refine your product, generate buzz, and meet the needs of your customers.

The concept of a beta, although potentially very rewarding, can be incredibly daunting. As the entrepreneur who dreamed up this idea, you now are obligated to step out and share it with the real world, or at least a select portion of it. iFundWomen’s CEO & founder, Karen Cahn, got a taste of this entrepreneurial anxiety when she launched the beta cohort in November of 2016.  

iFundWomen's Beta application page: beta.ifundwomen.com

iFundWomen's Beta application page: beta.ifundwomen.com

20 female-led businesses were selected to raise money on the crowdfunding platform, but no matter how groundbreaking Karen knew her business idea was, there was no guarantee that there would be a big enough audience out there who believed in the power of this platform to help close the funding gap for female entrepreneurs. Eight months and over 100 campaigns later, after a successful beta, iFundWomen is gearing up to go to market with a supportive audience and an optimized business strategy.

The beta doesn’t lie and it will forever be the most efficient way to find out if there is a market for your product or service. So just how do you go about it? There are lots of different ways to launch a beta - focus groups, industry events, surveys - and crowdfunding.  Not only can crowdfunding be the perfect testing ground for your product or service, but you can raise money for your business at the same time.  A crowdfunding campaign forces you to get out there in the world talking about your business, connecting with prospective customers, and learning ahead of going to market. So, for the budding entrepreneurs out there, turn that anxiety into productivity and get to testing!

The Confidence Gap is Real

EA - The Confidence Gap_v2.00_00_18_00.Still001.jpg

If you're a female entrepreneur, you have most definitely heard of - and likely experienced - the phenomenon known as "the confidence gap." Those moments where you doubt yourself and your abilities, where you question how you will meet your goals, and wonder why you ever considered that you could accomplish something remarkable.  

Where does this self-defeating process come from? And, more importantly, how do we combat it?

Well, to start we're up against some longstanding, institutionalized barriers, and hidden bias. Within companies, the disparity begins at entry level, where men are 30% more likely than women to be promoted to management roles. For entrepreneurs, there's the reality that women have a harder time raising money, that when we do get funded, it's for lower amounts than men, and when women get small business loans, they're typically at higher interest rates. So how do we respond to these kinds of challenges? We internalize it. We start to believe it. We assume that the reason things are harder is because we're really not ready. Or good enough to make it happen.  And so we wait. We wait until we are absolutely sure we have what it takes. We wait for someone to tap us on the shoulder and tell us we ARE capable, we CAN do it, and we DESERVE to succeed. And of course by then, we are more than overqualified but still under-confident. 

Stand up comedian & writer, Ashley Gavin, uses the example of teaching kids how to swim as the perfect analogy for this issue.

The girls need you to hold their hand before they dip their toe in...but once they get in the pool they are focused and they follow directions. And the boys just jump in the pool.

So, how do we get out of our own heads and out of our own way?  How do we stop waiting to feel perfectly prepared, and realize NOW is that perfect moment? 

On the set of You're Not Crazy, Season Two (From left: Erica Duignan Minnihan, Ashley Gavin, Sara Armour, Sam Jay, Karen Cahn, Bea Arthur)

On the set of You're Not Crazy, Season Two (From left: Erica Duignan Minnihan, Ashley Gavin, Sara Armour, Sam Jay, Karen Cahn, Bea Arthur)

The crew at "Your're Not Crazy" set out to tackle that question by engaging some powerhouse women to hear how they bridge the gap.

Among the female entrepreneurs who participated in this roundtable discussion was Erica Duignan Minnihan, host of BroadMic and a managing partner at 1000 Angels.  According to Erica, the key to closing the gap is getting women to feel more comfortable not following directions.

Erica's advice is to avoid overthinking it and instead, dive right in.  Unfortunately, overthinking it is kind of "our thing."  Even when it comes to applying for jobs, women too often lack the confidence needed to take credit for and promote their own accomplishments. 

Men can learn on the job and a woman feels the need to have everything ready to go before the job starts.

Another stand up comedian & writer featured in this episode of You're Not Crazy is Sam Jay, who, as an African-American woman, deeply understands the causes of the confidence gap. Sam suggests that it's a lack of women prominently represented across all industries that makes it difficult for female entrepreneurs to make risky, career-enhancing moves. 

If you don’t see enough stories of the success, the success becomes more scary.

You're Not Crazy is a series dedicated to each and every woman. Brave and brilliant women who need that push to become BOLD. We are getting on our megaphones to tell ladies that they are not alone in the self-doubt and lack of confidence that all women feel, specifically when it comes to our careers. iFundWomen's hope is that, by hearing these comedians and entrepreneurs talk honestly about the confidence gap, we are building a bridge to self-confidence and endless opportunities for success.

Follow us on Facebook to catch this and future episodes of You're Not Crazy.

Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster of Crowdfunding

Anasa Troutman, CEO of Eloveate & SheStories

Anasa Troutman, CEO of Eloveate & SheStories

Anasa Troutman is no stranger to telling heartfelt, emotional stories through her work. In fact, that's what her company, Eloveate is all about. Her company is based in Nashville and produces high-impact media that opens hearts and minds to the power of love. Yet somehow, when it came to crowdfunding on iFundWomen for her newest venture, SheStories, she was confronted with unprecedented emotional challenges. 

The thing that surprised me most is how much I was challenged emotionally during the campaign. I really had to work with myself to stay focused through the ups and downs.

Anasa has made a career out of telling other people's stories through her platform, but once her crowdfunding campaign went live, she was forced to not only shift the focus to herself, but to also represent her business in a way she had never experienced before.  Other members of the SheStories team were by Anasa's side, channeling that crowdfunding courage. Leah Cevoli insists that you have to really be willing to put yourself out there in order to succeed.

Be ready to fly out of your comfort zone - be bold, be brave, be vulnerable - and be receptive to the support of your community.

Anasa quickly embraced being the face of her company online, making the most of strategic crowdfunding tactics like consistently thanking all of her backers on social.  She also knew that hitting the streets and engaging her community in person would be key to achieving her goal.

Anasa Troutman with Nashville's Mayor Megan Barry at iFundWomen's Nashville Marketplace

Anasa Troutman with Nashville's Mayor Megan Barry at iFundWomen's Nashville Marketplace

Crowdfunding can be a huge learning experience for the business owner(s) behind the campaign, and by the end Anasa and her team believed in their company's mission and future more than ever.

Doing this campaign made me more committed to my business. If I wasn’t convinced before about how important this work is to me, now am 100% positive.

SheStories is all about lifting the voices of women and emphasizing the value of their ideas. Through crowdfunding with iFundWomen, Anasa Troutman took her life's work to new heights and realized just how much she believed in her very own idea. 

We're so proud to have had Anasa and her team get successfully funded on our platform. Join us in supporting SheStories on iFundWomen.