The Phoenix is Rising: Lessons Learned from 730 Days of Funding Female Entrepreneurs

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CEO BLOG

By Karen Cahn, Founder & CEO, iFundWomen

Last November, on iFundWomen's first birthday, I started a tradition of writing a "lessons learned" post to celebrate each year of our startup's life. Well, today is our second birthday, and I'm very proud and excited to share with you my learnings on what's happening in the world of female entrepreneurs.

As I look back on last year’s post, and I re-read the opening line, “2017 has been one wild year for women”, I have to laugh. If 2017 was “a wild year”, how do we even begin to describe what 2018 was?

I’m going with this: The Phoenix is Rising.

Inspired by an iFW Entrepreneur, Melissa Barker, who is building an app called Phoenix Rising, an on-demand healing tool for survivors of sexual assault, I started doing a bit of research on what the Phoenix symbolizes. It symbolizes rising from the flames as a winner, beating all of life’s challenges and defeating hard times. The Phoenix is a symbol of rebirth from the ashes of the past.

It’s interesting because what I observed from our entrepreneurs in 2018 was that the worse things got for women in the social and political realm, the more fired up to succeed financially we became. We aren’t afraid or ashamed to talk about money now. We are owning our earning power. We are getting prenups. We are choosing our own path. We are making the ask.

And, the women who are starting businesses on iFundWomen are raising more money. In fact, when we compare our average crowdfunding campaign raise from 2017 to 2018, it increased by over 10%, and the number of our customers has more than tripled. The Phoenix has risen, she’s good and pissed off, and she’s all about funding for herself, and her sisterpreneurs.

#2018Learnings

1. Women Are Finally For Women

2018 is the year women started putting our money where our mouths are. The power of the purse is happening. Women are spending more intentionally on products and services made for women and by women. Why? Because we are now hyper-aware about how much money actually matters, and supporting the everyday products and services that we buy has a direct relationship to whose wealth gets built.

Thanks to products like Intentionalist, Shop the Change, and Gender Fair, consumers now have more information than ever to inform our purchasing decisions.

I personally moved a sizable 401k from one investment bank, run by people I didn’t know, to Ellevest, run by Sallie Krawcheck. I’ve known about Ellevest since they launched in 2014, and I’ve been a huge admirer of what they are doing to empower women around investing, but it wasn’t until Brett Kavanaugh was approved to be on the Supreme Court, that I moved almost a million dollars from a bank whose values I had no idea about, to Ellevest.

Why? Because I know that Sallie’s values align with mine, and I would prefer that her company (shout out to Emily and Emily!) get the investment fees off my account vs. the other guys. It’s as simple as that.

2. Women Are Investing In Themselves

Last year, I talked about how women were reticent to invest in themselves, but oh have the tides turned this year! Women are signing up, paying for, and leaning into female-focused career development products and services in a big way. And they are seeing ROI right away on their investments. In fact, women who invest in iFundWomen’s crowdfunding coaching and professional video production raise 4.5x more money than those who DIY.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the business of female-focused communities, collaboration and co-working spaces is booming! Why? Because women are finally investing in themselves! From coast to coast, women’s communities like The Hivery, The Wing, The Coven, The Riveter, Hey Mama, Ladies Get Paid, Luminary, The Rowan Tree are opening, expanding, and thriving.

The investment in yourself pays itself back quickly after engaging with the tools, resources and connections that these spaces provide. Entrepreneurship is no longer about sitting in your home office trying to figure it out on your own. There is a whole world of partners, friends, and customers just waiting for you at female-focused communities!

3. The Funding Awareness Gap Is Real

After talking to thousands of entrepreneurs, we’ve learned that when people have a great idea, they’re not sure where or when to start, in terms of funding. Here’s how it typically goes down:

  1. Passionate entrepreneur gets an awesome idea

  2. Starts feverishly Googling everything from a domain name to web designers to setting up an LLC to business cards to sourcing fabrics and everything in between

  3. Starts to run up credit card debt

  4. Toils away for months, or even years, getting their product, website, and branding built….it must be perfect...all the while worrying about funding

  5. Gets some beta customers - this is exciting!

  6. Hopes & prays

  7. Runs some Facebook ads - this should be easy right? People will definitely see an ad for a new brand, click right away, and buy something on my website. This is how the internet works.

  8. Hires a part time “Jane of all trades” to run social media

  9. Burn rate goes up, entrepreneur goes further into debt

  10. Passionate entrepreneur realizes the business needs to grow or die

Notice what was missing from that very realistic startup journey? Proving demand.

People, we have been there! Truly! From bootstrapping to credit cards, we know that crowdfunding for cash is the best way to mitigate the debt that you will run up funding your idea. It also requires you to reverse engineer how you think about launching a business by proving demand for your product or service before investing your time and money.

To sum up, if the past two years were any indication, things are not going to get easier anytime soon for women. But the entrepreneurs on iFundWomen aren’t looking for an easy way out. We built this platform to create a space for female entrepreneurs to get the funding they weren’t receiving through traditional options. They continue to show up, do the work and get the funding needed to launch and grow their businesses.

Here's to the rising Phoenix, and Happy 2nd Birthday, iFundWomen!

How This Female Entrepreneur Knew When to Turn Her Side Hustle into Her Full Time Job

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GUEST POST

By Claire Wasserman, Founder & CEO, Ladies Get Paid

When I was about 8 years old, my grandfather said to me, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I remember that like it was yesterday. I also remember watching my parents sit around the dinner table, excitedly talking about what had gone on that day at work since they too, loved what they did.

It wasn’t a doubt in my mind that when I graduated, I wouldn’t have to trade what I loved for making a big paycheck. I could - and would - find something that I loved that also made money.

I now recognize that this is a privileged way of going through the world. The desire - even the expectation - that we should be happy in what we do, is not the reality for most people. A job is a job and a paycheck is all that matters.

As I traveled the country last year, hosting events for thousands of women to talk about work and self-worth, many of them had not been raised the way I was but had developed the itch to do something more. Something meaningful. Some had found what they loved to do but didn’t know how to monetize it, while others were still searching for something to feel passionate about.

Pretty early on in my career, I recognized that I was constantly connecting people and through that, had amassed a large network. I never considered it a job - or even a skill set - until a friend of mine told me it was. (We tend to be too close to ourselves so getting periodic gut checks by people who know us gives us both the perspective and the kick in the butt we need to get going.)

It was upon that realization that I discovered the Art Directors Club, a nonprofit that connected people in visual communications, and I applied to become the marketing manager and head of fundraising. It was thrilling that I could take something that came to me naturally - being a connector - and get paid for it.

From there, I moved on to Working Not Working, a curated network of creative professionals, orchestrating events and content to help people connect with each other and prospective employers. Instead of picking one industry to be part of, I had a birds eye view of many. I was particularly curious about company culture, discovering that it was not so much the job that made people stay or leave, but rather the environment. Did it feel inclusive? Were there opportunities for growth?

Perhaps the lighthouse in our career should not be what we’re passionate about but rather, what we’re curious about.

That realization, coupled with the fact that I was driven to help women succeed, was the spark I needed to start Ladies Get Paid. I began hosting events for women to come together to share workplace war stories. As more began attending, the question then became: can I make money from this? Could this be my full-time job?

Soon after I discovered what the business model would be, I quit my job. This was no longer a side project when I made a game plan for how I could make money and the benchmarks for success. I also created a timeline so I could track my progress and know when it was time to call it quits.

I was able to leave my job because I had no debt, children, or health problems. I didn’t have older parents I needed to take care of, and I was splitting my rent with my then-husband. I also had a number of people who wanted to hire me as a consultant so I could guarantee some side income. I quit because I could. If not now, I asked myself, when?

I quit because I could. If not now, I asked myself, when?

Figuring out when your side hustle can become your main hustle, is a personal question. It requires you to explore your values with money, dig deep into your finances, assess the amount of risk you’re willing to take (i.e. what makes you more anxious: staying at your job or losing financial stability?), and determine a game plan for not only how, but how long, it’ll take for you to make enough money to live without extreme anxiety.

When you take that leap, do it with your eyes wide open, a lifejacket nearby, and remember: you don’t have to go it alone, and you shouldn’t. There are platforms built specifically to help women with great ideas assess the demand for what they are passionate or curious about before investing in supply (and by supply, I mean wasting years of your life or investing your own money into an idea that isn’t going to work). Through crowdfunding, you can actually go out there and raise some cash for your business idea. iFundWomen was a great platform for LGP to step up and raise some capital when we were in need of cash following last year’s lawsuits. We turned to our community of Ladies Get Paid members and our larger audience of like-minded feminists, asking them to contribute to our campaign, all in hopes that they would see the value in what we were doing.  Turns out, they did. The point is that whether you are raising money to start, grow or save your business, it’s never too early to monetize and legitimize what you love to do.

 Ladies Get Paid iFundWomen Campaign, May 2018

Ladies Get Paid iFundWomen Campaign, May 2018

One thing to remember: if you go for it, and it doesn’t end up working, it is not a failure. By doing something self-motivated and risky, you’re probably going to learn more about yourself than anything else you do in your life. Imagine it as going to business school (and it probably costs less!)

If you decide to go back to work, don’t look at this time of entrepreneurism as a waste. It shows a character of courage and a belief in yourself. What are you waiting for?   

Join iFundWomen & Ladies Get Paid on October 9th for a Facebook Live discussing how to monetize your side hustle. Pro-tip: RSVP and post any questions you’d like answered during the live stream in the event.




Let's get funded, Seattle.

Calling all Seattle-area entrepreneurs! Apply now to crowdfund with the inaugural iFundWomen Seattle cohort. 

The funding deadline is May 15, 2019!

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iFundWomen is coming to Seattle!

As one of the top tech markets in the country, Seattle female entrepreneurs are poised to launch and grow hundreds of businesses in the coming year, and increased funding and visibility will allow better businesses to launch. So we’ve teamed up with the Riveter, the hottest Seattle-based startup that designs female-forward workspaces and a connected platform for entrepreneurs, remote workers, and freelancers, to host the first iFundWomen Seattle Crowdfunding and Pitch Experience. 

iFundWomen Seattle is designed to help the region’s female entrepreneurs raise the capital needed to make their business idea a reality, offering access to one-on-one expert crowdfunding coaching, professional video production services, access to a private network of Seattle-based entrepreneurs, and participation in a pitch competition. 

"Crowdfunding, coaching, connections, and pitch competitions have been our winning play for female entrepreneurs in a local region, and we cannot wait to bring iFundWomen Seattle to life", said Karen Cahn, Founder and CEO of iFundWomen.

All Seattle-area women-led startups and small businesses are encouraged to apply now.

iFundWomen will host 2 pop-up video production days on June 21, 2018 and June 22, 2018 for entrepreneurs to have a high quality video asset created for their campaigns and beyond. Entrepreneurs who crowdfund through iFundWomen Seattle will receive a 15% discount on video production services by using promo code “SEATTLE”.

iFundWomen Seattle is a one-stop resource for those who want to support and grow female-led businesses through financial contributions of any amount. Backers can discover businesses, choose unique rewards for their support, and track the financial progress of all campaigns featured.

Campaigns that are fully funded by October 15, 2018 are eligible to participate in the first-ever iFundWomen Seattle Pitch Competition, hosted at The Riveter. This pitch event gives select top-performing crowdfunders a chance to pitch their ideas and raise even more startup capital and visibility for their businesses.

All women-led businesses in the region are strongly encouraged to apply, and applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.  Applicants can register on the iFundWomen Seattle website until July 31.

Crowdfunding: The Grit Before the Glory

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The badass witches from The Coven raised more than $300,000 for a business idea they hatched over brunch. In less than a year, four women with a shared passion for diversity and inclusion brought their idea to life, and on International Women’s Day, The Coven, a co-working and community space in Minneapolis, officially opened its doors. Talk about #goals.  

We sat down with this incredible team - Alex Steinman, Bethany Iverson, Liz Giel and Erinn Farrell - to get the scoop on what drove them to become co-founders, how they crushed their crowdfunding goals, and where The Coven goes from here.

iFundWomen: How do you all know each other?

Erinn: We all met while working in the advertising industry in Minneapolis. We were part of an organization called MPLS MadWomen, which Alex is now the president of. The aim of MPLS MadWomen is to create content and spaces for women within our industry to connect.

It’s funny, now, being in this position that The Coven is a real thing. You look backwards and you can see all of the seeds that were planted along the way that you didn’t realize you were planting all along. For us, we were really passionate about the mission of MPLS MadWomen and we were committed to tearing down the walls between the different agencies and making meaningful connections for women at all different levels.

One of the things we find often here, in Minneapolis, is we don’t have an awareness problem. We have an action problem. The four of us came together to try and drive that change and help to organize it. Within that, again, there are all these seeds for The Coven that, looking back on, it’s so obvious that this happens to be the next thing. So that’s how we all know each other and now we’re all in a four person hetero-life partner situation.

iFW: A crowdfunding campaign is another full-time job. This team raised more than $315,000 for a business that hadn’t even opened. Tell us about the planning, the execution, and the delivery. What made this campaign work?

Alex: One benefit of working at an agency is two of us had done crowdfunding campaigns before. My agency had a whole crowdfunding arm, so I had worked on projects like a 3D printer that raised $3 million dollars. It was kind of amazing because we had this knowledge of, at least, how to do it and we had both been on the creative side of it before. We knew what needed to go into a crowdfunding video. We knew the types of rewards that we needed to offer.

But because of all of that experience, I was the person who said, ‘We are not doing a crowdfunding campaign.’ I had done six campaigns before and they are a TON of work. If you have never done one before, you feel like, ‘Oh wow, they’re just so turnkey. You just put your campaign on a website and then it sells.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a lot of work that goes into it.

Erinn: The merchandise game was something we were really scared of at the time. Early in our planning process, we had an idea but we didn’t know the value of it yet. There was that element of ‘Oh, we’ll give them pens and then we’ll give them notebooks!’ and Alex was like “We’re not getting in the merch game. I refuse to do that.”

Bethany: Here’s where we kind of turned a corner on the crowdfunding campaign. Our organization is totally a mission-driven organization, but it’s also business. Once we allowed ourselves to say the thing that we’re building is big enough that people will find an altruistic angle, [we agreed] we don’t need merchandise.

[Our community] believes in the idea and they think that there is a need for this in our city. We had a hunch. And we did the work to verify it. We talked to hundreds of women the summer before our campaign ever went live. We concluded there is a group of women who are both affluent enough and who will see the value of something like this, and they will fund it. And maybe dudes will fund it. Maybe dudes will fund it at like $100 because they believe that women deserve something like this. We then spent our time putting together packages that would allow us to give parts of The Coven experience without having to manufacture tchotchkes to send to people in the suburbs of Minneapolis.

Alex: Those focus groups became our pool of women that we built our email lists from. They became our ambassadors. There were women who were saying “Yes, this makes sense.” There were people in there who were like, “I wouldn’t use a space like this, but I can appreciate what you’re doing so I will send this to three of my friends.” We knew by July that we were going to do a crowdfunding campaign.

We had started collecting those emails. We launched our social channels in September. We soft launched in October for two weeks - pumping messages to those folks that we had talked to over the summer, which is kind of like crowdfunding 101. Getting the word out early and often to your closest community to establish momentum and demonstrate traction. We were so grateful that there was a soft launch option on iFundWomen. We raised $20,000 before we officially launched and then when we opened the gates within four weeks we raised $100,000.

iFW: Because your campaign was for a physical space that did not exist yet, how did you make people feel that The Coven is real?

Alex: We were intentional about who we reached out to early on. When we did our initial focus groups, we would invite five or six women that we knew, and we asked them to bring a friend that we didn’t know so that our network got extended. Behind every great woman are seven other amazing women.

We’ve been very intentional about growing our diverse population, so doing specific outreach to women of color, women from the LGBTQ community, women who are differently abled to really bring them into our space because they’re not just going to show up at our things. Actually, the last event that we had was extremely diverse and it’s because we built relationships with each and every one of them. And then each person of color then turned around and brought another person of color. Our spaces are becoming really diverse, but they didn’t start that way. Unfortunately, that’s typically where people stop.

Bethany: For our business, we don’t need a million people to buy into The Coven. We need 390 women by the end of year one to be members of The Coven in order for us to be a financial success. You can network your way to 390 women. It’s not an impossible number. When women are like, ‘How are you going to build a diverse audience or a diverse member base,’ we’re just literally going out and meeting them and emailing them and reaching out to them one-on-one. An investor would probably be like ‘this is horribly inefficient’, but for us we’re building a community and communities are built on relationships. I don’t know how else we could possibly do it other than the one-to-one.

iFW: Were there any surprises during the campaign?

Alex: The biggest surprises have come in how we communicate with people. First, it was just teaching people that it’s okay to invest in yourself. It’s okay to buy something for yourself. The second was probably that you don’t have to be a founding member to contribute to this. That was a huge thing for men in particular. Teaching men that this is how you can contribute to the community. Give at a lower level or gift a membership to somebody. You don’t have to buy it for yourself. It’s been just those education pieces that we wouldn’t have known starting.

iFW: What was your most successful reward?

Bethany: 95% of our money has come from founding members - we offered a discounted Founding Membership for $1,800 and let people know that after the campaign the cost would increase to $2,200. There was no way that we could take $50 or $25 donations and get to the amount of money that we needed to open The Coven. If we had only needed $20,000, we would’ve felt very differently, but we obviously are trying to raise six figures so you have to go high value with your rewards.

iFW: Now that you’ve exceeded your stretch goals, can you kick back? Where do you go from here?

Erinn: There’s definitely an element of, yes, we’ve had tremendous success but it’s still scary. We purposefully are not in an entrepreneurial mindset of ‘We got a ton of funding upfront.’ We’re incrementally building this thing. One of the things we learned really unintentionally, byways of our values and our qualitative figuring out between each other, is that we have less of an entrepreneurial mindset and more of a small business mindset. And that was a huge shift for us.

We want to change the lives of the women in this community. We’re building a legacy for the city. For the women of Minneapolis and St. Paul. There’s still a lot of fear and scarcity in our future and it is an incremental build, but it just feels so much more true to who we are.  

 iFW: What are some pieces of advice you have for female entrepreneurs considering raising a round through iFundWomen?

Erinn: There’s definitely a lot of ‘stick-to-it ness’ and working with three other co-founders helps ensure that. It’s funny, when we first started, and especially when we were talking to potential investors, everyone’s like “Oh, four people. Oh gosh, That’s gotta be tough.” The reality is we never would've made so much progress in such a short period of time.

We had this idea when we were at brunch in April of 2017. That was the first time we ever talked about building something like this in the real world. The fact that it’s moved this fast is because there are four of us. We can go in so many directions. Not that I would suggest that everyone who’s launching on iFundWomen have four co-founders. What I do think you need, is to build your community before you put it out there. Especially if you think of crowdfunding as community funding. Those relationships have to already be there. Then, when you go and make this ask, it’s not a surprise. Crowdfunding should feel like the next natural step. I’ve already bought into this because I have this relationship or connection with this person. I’m invested in their vision and I already feel a part of it.

Alex: Be open to pivoting and changing your idea. Yes, stick to your guns to what the true mission of your business is, but your members, your funders or audience are going to tell you what they want. Crowdfunding is as much about gathering product and market research as it is about raising money.

Erinn: And we should also say, we’ve had all of this success without press. Press is not something that has driven the emotional connection and the investment to what we are creating.

Alex: Honestly, a lot of the business press is like ‘Cool, prove it when you’re open.’

iFW: How did you find out about iFundWomen?

Alex: Our other founder, Liz, found you guys when I was like we’re not doing crowdfunding. She had done a ton of research. She came back with a deck and was like “This is why we’re going to use iFundWomen.”

Erinn: We went with you guys because of the alignment on values. At the end of the day, we are making choices. Every choice we are making is an intentional choice to further our vision and the values that we are trying to share with our members and iFundWomen was the [platform] that fell within that. For us, iFundWomen felt like the obvious choice.

 

It's All About Demand and Supply, Kid

 Source:  Sat Nam Babe.  

Source: Sat Nam Babe. 

One of the first concepts you learn in economics is supply and demand. For entrepreneurs, investing in the right amount of supply is imperative or you could find yourself drowning in product that you can’t sell. But how can you efficiently suss out if there is a market for your product without having the actual supply?

This is the genius of crowdfunding that nobody tells you about. Crowdfunding allows you, the entrepreneur, to assess demand before you invest years of your life, tons of your own money, or worse, take out a loan and go into debt, investing in supply that may or may not sell.

Crowdfunding turns traditional business economics on its head. It is an extremely efficient, low-risk opportunity for entrepreneurs to step outside of their comfort zone, test out their ideas, and best of all - generate demand before investing in supply while raising capital for your business.

Many of the startups on iFundWomen, our crowdfunding platform, are in the very early stages and their campaign is one of the first times they’re putting their idea out there to be judged. As we embark on year two of helping women-led businesses get funded, we’ve seen creative and compelling strategies from entrepreneurs, working to iron out their proof of concept, which can easily be applied to getting your idea off the ground.

  1. Build passionate customers by involving them in the product development process.

Deborah Owens, a financial services expert and wealth coach, is crowdfunding to develop an app called WealthyU. WealthyU is the Weight Watchers for paying down debt, saving and investing. It provides users with the tools and education they currently lack to take control of their finances. Not only has Owens raised almost $30,000 to-date, but she has also accumulated a community of beta testers that she can rely on for feedback once her prototype is ready. Tapping into her customer base to gather feedback ensures she is building a product that meets her customers' needs, and involving them in the product development process gives her consumers a deeper connection to her brand.

      2. Generate demand for your initial product with limited quantities

Sat Nam Babe is a socially conscious line of play and yoga clothing for kids - infants to age five. Founder Jennifer Coulombe set out on a mission to raise $10,500 to produce Sat Nam Babe’s first line and build the company’s e-commerce site. Coulombe built excitement for her brand by messaging her intent to launch through crowdfunding in the months leading up to her campaign. The focus on limited quantities created a feeling of exclusivity and curiosity around her brand. Her reward strategy smartly included letting backers be the first to get their hands on her products. Those early customers helped fund the launch of this sustainable clothing line and they’ll be her company’s first brand ambassadors.  

      3. Prototype a new production model with the funds from your campaign

Reid Miller Apparel wants to create a production model for U.S.A. custom-made womenswear and she’s using her crowdfunding campaign to test the process. Miller was tired of being unable to find clothing that fit, so she raised $15,000 to test the new model on five beta clients. Once the production model is perfected, she’s ready to custom make 100 riding jackets for customers. The genius behind Miller’s idea is that all of the data she’s been able to obtain from her campaign can be used to show potential investors that women truly want better fitting clothing.

The reality is almost half of startups fail due to a lack of product-market fit. Crowdfunding gives you the opportunity to fail fast and fail cheap. Learning quickly that nobody wants your product may be a difficult pill to swallow, but knowing when to pivot is a necessary skill for successful entrepreneurs.

2018 Women's March Posters!

2018 Women's March on NYC

Welcome fellow Women's Marchers! We are so excited to march in solidarity with you on Saturday, January 20th in New York City! Be sure to sign up here if you want to march with our feminist crew of all ages and genders. 

Here are some downloadable posters for your marching enjoyment. These are easily (and cheaply) printed at your local Staples!

RIGHT CLICK on the image below and save to your desktop. 


POSTER #1

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POSTER #2

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Why iFundWomen Offers Free Crowdfunding Coaching Now

 Karen Cahn, Founder & CEO of iFundWomen. Refers to herself as "Head Coach". Secret passion: getting women entrepreneurs to execute on one idea at a time.

Karen Cahn, Founder & CEO of iFundWomen. Refers to herself as "Head Coach". Secret passion: getting women entrepreneurs to execute on one idea at a time.

Why iFundWomen Offers Free Crowdfunding Coaching Now

Author: Karen Cahn, Founder & CEO, iFundWomen

2017 was a wild year for women, one which reaffirmed that everyone must work harder, must do better, to help women get ahead financially. As Ruth Ann Harnisch, investor, activist, and founder of  The Harnisch Foundation brilliantly put it, “The final frontier of feminism is finance."

The final frontier of feminism is finance
— Ruth Ann Harnisch

Women now make up 40% of new entrepreneurs in the United States, the largest percentage since 1996. Every woman I talk to has at least two or three business ideas that she’s keeping to herself. Many of these ideas are pragmatic, necessary products and services that people actually need.  Access to capital remains the number one issue that female entrepreneurs face in bringing their products to market.  That’s why my team and I started iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for female entrepreneurs - giving women a space to bring these dynamic innovations to life. 365 days later, we’ve helped hundreds of budding businesses raise startup capital and we’ve learned many lessons along the way.

Ok, so what are the top 3 things that we learned:

1. You must prove there is demand for your product or service before you invest in building out your offering

We started iFundWomen specifically to create a platform designed to turn traditional business economics on its head. Instead of supply and demand, iFundWomen gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to generate demand before they invest in supply. It’s a smarter approach to starting a business. Crowdfunding offers an extremely efficient, low risk opportunity for women to step outside of their comfort zone, and test out their ideas.

Instead of supply and demand, iFundWomen gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to generate demand before they invest in supply.
— Karen Cahn

 

2. Crowdfunding coaching and a well-prepared marketing plan are essential to a successful campaign

Crowdfunding is like skydiving (but with a much lower risk of physical injury) - if you’ve never done it before, you really have no idea what you’re in for.  The emotional rollercoaster that you will inevitably ride will likely make you want to vomit at times, but at the end of a successful campaign, you feel like you can do anything. And you can.

My team and I experienced the crowdfunding free fall first-hand before building our product, and we have identified the key factors that are essential to a successful campaign.  Most importantly, we know that coaching works. When comparing campaigns that have succeeded versus those that have struggled to reach their goals, the results show that entrepreneurs on our platform who invested in coaching raised 4.5 times more money than the ones who did not.  Data like this is why we’ve changed our product offerings to include free coaching for everyone who launches a campaign. We have built a toolkit and a peer-to-peer coaching system that has reduced the time to market for our entrepreneurs dramatically, while increasing the success of their campaigns.

Entrepreneurs on our platform who invested in coaching raised 4.5 times more money than the ones who did not. Data like this is why we’re offering FREE coaching for everyone who launches a campaign.
— Concetta Rand

3. You need to be legit to win

This is so basic, but it needs to be said. The support of your network is dependent on how you present your business through your campaign.  Your potential backers are going to expect you to have the fundamental markers of a legitimate business.  This means that you must have 1) a website that clearly states what your business or passion project is about, and 2) a professional video that tells the story of your company and efficiently explains what your campaign is all about.

There are very straightforward ways for you to successfully crowdfund and it starts with having a great idea, but ultimately you can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it. Prove that you’re serious about your project with a website, a video, your social handles on point, and a built-up audience of people who believe in you. You are what you do, not what you say.

You are what you do, not what you say.
— -Anonymous Wise Person

To wrap it up, after a year in the game, we feel more confident than ever that crowdfunding, coaching, and connections are the answer to getting women-led businesses off the ground.  So whether you are ready to grow your existing business or you are germinating on a great idea that’s ready to blossom, crowdfunding on iFundWomen is the lowest risk, highest potential opportunity to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality. No more waiting. Do it!

Lessons Learned From our First 365 Days of Funding Female Entrepreneurs

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2017 has been one wild year for women. iFundWomen has purposefully remained bipartisan and by and large out of the sexual harassment conversation that has inundated our news feeds. We have stayed true to our mission of driving funding to female entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground. We believe that finance is the final frontier of feminism and we are sticking to our mission.

And with good reason. Women now make up 40% of new entrepreneurs in the United States, the largest percentage since 1996. Every woman I talk to has at least two or three business ideas that she’s keeping to herself. Many of these ideas are pragmatic, necessary products and services that people actually need. My team and I started iFundWomen, a fundraising ecosystem for female entrepreneurs, to give women a space to bring these dynamic innovations to life. 365 days later - we’ve helped hundreds of budding businesses get funded and we’ve learned many lessons along the way.

Ok, so what did we learn? The list is long so I will try to distill it for you in three main points.

1.  The confidence gap is real.

One of iFundWomen's most promising new entrepreneurs, a STEM inventor in the baby products space, called me to ask if her boyfriend could run her campaign for her because "he knows more about my business than I do". I almost died, and not in a good way. My answer was "No, your boyfriend cannot run your campaign for you. You can do this. You are the inventor of the product and you are the mom who you invented your product for. I can assure you that you are more qualified to sell in the vision of your product to potential backers than your boyfriend is." My coaching staff and I have these types of conversations multiple times per day.

Research by The Atlantic shows there is a clear confidence gap between men and women causing women to be more averse to taking risks. Through our countless conversations with innovative women, we’ve learned that although women don’t take as many risks, they are better at assessing them. We started iFundWomen specifically to create a platform designed to turn traditional business economics on its head. Instead of supply and demand, iFundWomen gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to generate demand before they invest in supply. It’s a smarter approach to starting a business. Crowdfunding offers an extremely efficient, low risk opportunity for women to step outside of their comfort zone, and test out their ideas.

2.  Coaching works, and tactical information on how to crowdfund is critical.

Crowdfunding is one of those weird animals that if you have never done a campaign yourself, you really have no idea what you’re in for. The emotional rollercoaster that you will inevitably ride will likely make you want to vomit at times, but at the end of a successful campaign, you feel like you can do anything. And you can. Even if you don't reach your funding goal, you can still invest what you've raised, and you will have gained some extremely valuable feedback in the process.

We experienced the crowdfunding roller coaster first-hand before we built our product, so as a result, we embedded free coaching into the services we offer. We have identified the key factors that are essential to a successful campaign and we support our entrepreneurs through the entire process. The value of coaching is confirmed when we compare campaigns that have succeeded versus campaigns that have struggled to reach their goals. The results show that the entrepreneurs on our platform who invested in coaching raised 4.5 times more money than the ones who did not.

3. Early-stage entrepreneurs are reticent to invest in themselves (see confidence gap)

Even though we have the data to prove that coaching works, we have found that many women in the early stages of their company development are less inclined to invest in themselves. Women are conditioned to think we have to do everything ourselves and spending tons of time learning a new skill is better than spending a little bit of money outsourcing it to an expert. We don't value our own time. This is fundamentally a bad business decision. Here’s the deal, ladies. We cannot boil the ocean and solve every business problem that comes across our desks, so in response, we’ve changed our product offerings to include free coaching for everyone who launches a campaign. We have built a toolkit and a P2P coaching system that has reduced the time to market for our entrepreneurs dramatically while increasing the success of their campaigns.

In addition to coaching, we’ve learned a few other strategies that push campaigns towards success:

  • Multiple co-founders drive more money.

  • Unless you are a video creator, outsource that task to an expert.

  • Pre-planning marketing as far as 2-4 months out in advance is critical. Use tools to help you plan.

  • Create rewards for two audiences: 1) your personal network who want to support you, the entrepreneur and 2) your potential customers

4.  Private, honest communities matter, and those who engage in the conversation raise more money

We’ve been able to create a community for women that mentors first-timers, rallies in times of need and most importantly celebrates wins. We are seeing solopreneurs in similar geographies partner up, there are informal meet-ups IRL (in real life) happening. Entrepreneurs are feeling less alone and more supported. Our coaches are constantly communicating with our audience through this private network and the results speak for themselves. Entrepreneurs who engage on our private community have a higher likelihood of a successful campaign.

To wrap it up, after a year in the game, we feel more confident than ever that crowdfunding, coaching, and connections are the answer to getting women-led businesses off the ground. If you are harboring an idea, a dream, or a wild-ass notion for how to make the a world better place, then crowdfunding on iFundWomen is the lowest risk, highest potential opportunity to bring your idea to life.  

No more waiting. Do it!