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.
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.
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:
Passionate entrepreneur gets an awesome idea
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
Starts to run up credit card debt
Toils away for months, or even years, getting their product, website, and branding built….it must be perfect...all the while worrying about funding
Gets some beta customers - this is exciting!
Hopes & prays
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.
Hires a part time “Jane of all trades” to run social media
Burn rate goes up, entrepreneur goes further into debt
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!