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 /

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.

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:

iFundWomen's Beta application page:

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.

Startup Resources We Live By

BroadMic Startup Shortcuts Podcast: Get candid advice. Be inspired. Take action.  How many times have you seen or listened to an entrepreneur profiled in the media who is a white male, hoodie-wearing, Stanford engineer? For me, it was constantly…until now. Like many entrepreneurs, I was hungry for startup resources, specifically tactical advice from accomplished entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders who looked and sounded like me. I know if you are reading this, you feel the same way.

As entrepreneurs, we are constantly looking for advice, mentorship, and inspiration from other women who have been there done that. A few years ago, as I was beginning my startup founder journey, I was fortunate enough to meet entrepreneur & investor Sara Weinheimer, who right off the bat, gave me #realtalk advice on how to think about running a startup. She was candid in her advice, and it was a breath of fresh air.

Sara was one of the first big sponsors of my crowdfunding campaign because she believed in me as an entrepreneur. So when Sara launched the podcast series, BroadMic Startup Shortcuts, I was not only all ears, I was all-in on supporting her right back. So, I guess technically, by the laws of the interwebs, this is a sponsored post, however, I have been listening to every episode of BroadMic long before Sara supported iFundWomen, so it’s important for our readers to know that we only partner with products we actually use. We take our reputation as entrepreneurial coaches very seriously, so we would never suggest using a product we don’t rely on ourselves.

BroadMic’s mission is to inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurs to think big, unleash new market opportunities, and to give us the “picks and shovels” we need to lead startup companies. Sara and I both believe deeply in coaching, mentoring, and strengthening women through shared experience and expertise. Together, we can change the narrative for female entrepreneurs.

My team and I are dedicated listeners. I subscribe to BroadMic and listen to new episodes in my car during my commute. It’s a positive and inspirational respite for me. IMO, all of the episodes are required listening, but in the spirit of curating, here are my top picks for the iFundWomen community:

Majora Carter on Investing in Local Communities: “How do you show that with the right care, feeding, support, and just a basic level of infrastructure you can show that folks can be the economic generators of their own community?”

Heidi Messer on How to Network Effectively: “I don’t want to mislead people and say, ‘Okay, you just walk into a room with a bunch of great people and they’re going to fund you.’ But if you have the right network in place with the right audience, and you remove some of the unconscious biases that I think happen when women pitch businesses, the path gets a lot shorter to success.”

Kathryn Finney on The Real Unicorns of Tech, Black Women Founders: “So my role and what I look for are great entrepreneurs. I look for people who have a vision, who know what it is that they want, who understand the markets, who have a domain-level experience, meaning they have experience in doing what they actually do, in terms of a company, and they have the ability to complete it.”

Yuli Ziv on Bootstrapping: Delegation Tips for Solo Founders: You really have to give people a chance. No one is going to do it as good as you do. They don’t have the same passion as I do, it’s my child, it was my 401k, it was 1 shot, so you can’t expect from other people the same and you have to forget the word perfection.  I wish I didn’t waste years trying to perfect things.”

Susan Lyne on how to Pitch Your Business to an Investor:  “I’m going to try to dig deeper in all of those areas that are part of your pitch deck to make sure you really understand all parts of this business.  Having confidence that you are building something, understand who that end user is, and why you are really going to resonate with the end user. Believing that you can build something that is not just as good or that isn’t just a cool idea, but that it is actually going to make their life better and that you are not going to stop until you genuinely can prove that to them, delight them, and make them a customer for life.”

Olga Videsheva on Building a Cheap Minimum Viable Product, Testing the Market, and IteratingI was kind of convinced at the time that I’m going to start Shoptiques and so the first thing that I needed was a website and I literally had $10,000 in my bank account. I just graduated with $200,000 in debt from Harvard Business School (HBS) so it was kind of not an ideal opportunity to be starting a business but I think it was a blessing because it helped me kind of prioritize the right things. And so got to Indonesia, and in between my maid of honor duties, literally asking everybody, “Oh my God, do you know any agency that can build me a website for cheap, whatever, whatever?” So found these engineers down there that could build me a website for $10,000 and I could launch a private beta.”

Find the Podcast Here:




Twitter- @Broadmic



How This Yogi Prepared For Her Crowdfunding Campaign

It's all about prep, prep and more prep.  Brooklyn native, Jennifer Coulombe was loud and proud about her upcoming crowdfunding campaign on iFundWomen long before it launched.

I consistently posted on my personal Facebook page for a few months leading up to my campaign, essentially getting people really ready and excited for our campaign!

Jennifer is the founder and CEO of Sat Nam babe, a socially conscious line of play and yoga clothes for kids under five and babies. She set out to raise money on iFundWomen to support her first round of production for her product.

When prepping for her campaign, she knew it wasn't just about when you tell people, but also who exactly you tell.

Make sure your friends and family are ready to support you when you do launch. Tell your company’s story as events unfold so people feel inspired and committed to wanting to support you.

Now, looking back on her successfully funded campaign, Jen realizes that there are certain things she didn't see coming no matter how much preparation she did beforehand.  The crowdfunding campaign road is long and, for Jen, she had to work extra hard to compensate for "the trough" she experienced along the way.

The trough was rough to get through, i.e. trying to keep up that momentum for weeks at a time. I found offering quick 48-hour blitz ‘campaigns within a campaign’ opportunities to raffle off product worked great.
Sat Nam Babe Trough iFundWomen

Jennifer understood that in order for Sat Nam babe to meet it's goal, she needed a crowdfunding platform that offered dedicated coaching and shared her appreciation for thoughtful preparation before launching a campaign.  She did her due diligence and chose iFundWomen as the right crowdfunding platform for her.

As I was doing my research, I thought iFundWomen really stood out from the crowd. I liked the fact that they were much smaller than Kickstarter, so I felt that I would have a greater chance at visibility by being able to live on their homepage for the duration of our campaign. I also liked the individual coaching they offered. So many good reasons to go with iFW!

Thank you to Jen Coulombe for paying it forward! Check out Sat Nam Babe on iFundWomen and now on Etsy.