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!