Business 22 May 2017
Ever had a business idea so good it hit you like a ton of bricks, because you realized there was no way you'd raise the money for this crazy venture?
You're not alone. There are thousands of women who've had the same thought - "I just can't gather that kind of capital." Business is so competitive and fundraising is one of the scariest things you'll ever do as an entrepreneur, so naturally people shy away from the prospect.
And of course as a woman, you're not approaching VC's on a level playing field. It's statistically proven women have a tougher time securing funding from investors than men, thus adding to that scary fundraising nature. Karen Cahn, CEO and founder of crowdfunding resource for women, iFundWomen, recognized the gender gap in the fundraising game and decided to do something about it.
iFundWomen is a useful resource and tool for women looking to start a business but not ready to begin reaching out to big firms for capital. Crowdfunding is an inexpensive way to navigate the beginnings of a new business and has been put to great use by many entrepreneurs SWAAY has featured since we began telling these incredible entrepreneurial stories. Below we talked to Karen about why it's vital to have such a platform as iFundWomen in today's business sphere and how women can get their pet projects off the ground with some smart crowdfunding.
1. What is iFundWomen and what problem are you solving?
iFundWomen is a crowdfunding platform built exclusively for women-led startups and small businesses. Our platform was created in response to the very real funding and confidence gap that female business owners are faced with. It's a massive problem that only 2-6% of venture dollars go to women and we are committed to doing something about that.
2. Are all crowdfunding platforms created equal? How does one choose?
If you are a female entrepreneur who is looking to raise capital for your business, iFundWomen is the right platform for you, plain and simple. iFundWomen is unique in very important ways. First, we address the confidence gap that women entrepreneurs face with crowdfunding coaching for anyone who needs it. Second, we help women tell the story of their businesses through professionally-produced videos. Women typically don't like to promote themselves, so we are helping them get their story across. Another way in which iFundWomen is different is through our pay-it-forward model where we directly reinvest 20% of profits from standard fees into live campaigns on the site, which creates a virtuous cycle of funding for all.
3. Many founders are afraid of crowdfunding. What do you attribute that to?
Crowdfunding is a lot of work and we know that first hand. Our team successfully crowdfunded for our startup last year and it was through that experience that we discovered just how laborious the whole process is. We also found that there was very little guidance offered as we prepared and carried out our campaign. I think women in particular are hesitant to crowdfund because they bear the burden of the confidence gap. As I mentioned, women don't as readily promote themselves or their businesses among their friends, family and followers (their “FFF's"). Having the support of your FFF's is crucial to a successful campaign.
You have to get out there and be the face of your brand or idea. Furthermore, you often have to make a video to support your crowdfunding efforts and that can be a really daunting task for many people. iFundWomen's mission is to provide all the services and guidance possible to help women overcome this confidence gap and successfully crowdfund for their businesses.
4. Does crowdfunding interfere with raising capital from VCS or investors?
Quite the opposite. Crowdfunding is quickly becoming the means to a future round of investment for your business. More and more VC's and investors want to see that you have a successful crowdfunding campaign under your belt before they will even consider investing in your company. They want to know that there really is a need in the market that you are fulfilling with your business.
5. What are some tips you have for women looking to crowdfund?
Our number one piece of advice to women looking to crowdfund is to round up those FFF's before you launch a crowdfunding campaign. It is imperative that you have a network of supporters lined up so the second your campaign goes live, you are inching towards your goal. The hard part is keeping that momentum up throughout your campaign, and that's where iFundWomen's coaching services can be immensely helpful.
6. What advice do you give a founder whose crowdfunding campaign seems to have plateaued?
There comes a time in every crowdfunding campaign where you are confronted with the trough. The period where all those donations start to taper off and you start to panic at the thought of not reaching your campaign goal. This can happen multiple times throughout the length of a crowdfunding campaign. As exciting as it is to celebrate the highs during your campaign, it's equally as important to anticipate these lows. It's all about preparation and posting, constant contact with your network through email and social media is an absolute must. This means you need to be prepared with content for your updates so, for example, having new rewards to roll out during your campaign is a great reason to reach out to your supporters.
There's so much to say about the trough, but just remember that the trough is temporary and tomorrow is a brand new, potentially great day for your campaign!
Personally, I am over the top excited that we are on the cusp of turning the page on not only a new year but also on a new 10-year window of opportunities and possibilities!
You may be thinking, whoa…I am just embracing the fall season…yikes… it is tough to think about a new decade!
Yet it is this groundwork, this forward thought that you put in place TODAY that will propel you and lead you into greatness in 2020 and beyond. Designing a new decade rests in your ability to vision, in your willingness to be curious, in your awareness of where you are now and what you most want to curate. Essentially, curating what's next is about tapping into today with confidence, conviction, and decision. Leading YOU starts now. This is your new next. It is your choice.
Sometimes to get to that 'next', you need to take a step back to reflect. Please pardon my asking you to spend time in yesterday. Those who know me personally, know that I created and continue to grow my business based on enabling the present moment as a springboard for living your legacy. So, indulge me here! True, I am asking you to peek into the past, yet it is only in order for you to bring the essence of that past forward into this moment called NOW.
One of the best ways to tap into what's next is to clarify what drives you. To design a new decade, ask yourself this question about the past ten years:
What worked? What were my successes?
Make a list of your achievements big and small. Don't type them, but rather use ink and paper and sit with and savor them. Move your thoughts and your successes from your head, to your heart, to your pen, to the paper. Remember that on the flip side of goals not attained and New Year's resolutions abandoned, there was more than likely some traction and action that moved you forward, even if the end result was not what you expected. Once you have a full list of a decade's worth of personal and professional accomplishments, think about how this makes you feel. Do you remember celebrating all of them? My guess is no. So, celebrate them now. Give them new life by validating them. Circle the successes that resonate with you most right now. Where can you lean into those accomplishments as you power into the decade ahead?
Now comes a tougher question, one that I used myself in my own mid-life reinvention and a question I adore because in a moment's time it provides you with a quick reconnect to your unique inner voice.
If it were 10 years ago and nothing were standing in your way, no fear or excuses to contend with…what would you do?
Don't overthink it. The brilliance of this question is that it refocuses purpose. Whatever first came to mind when you answered this for yourself is at its core a powerful insight into defining and redefining the FUTURE decade. Bring your answer into the light of today and what small piece of it is actionable NOW? Where is this resonating and aligning with a 2019 version of yourself?
Then, based on your success list and your answer to the above question, what is your 2020 vision for your business and for the business of YOU?
Designing a new decade begins as a collection of 3,650 opportunities. 3,650 blank slates of new days ahead in which to pivot and propel yourself forward. Every single one of those days is a window into your legacy. An invitation to be, create, explore, and chip away at this thing we call life. One 24-hour segment at a time.
While you have a decade ahead to work on design improvements, you have the ability to begin manifesting this project of YOU Version 2020 right NOW. Based on exploring the exercises in this post, begin executing your vision. Ask questions. Be present. Let go of 2019 and the past 10 years so that you can embrace the next 10. Position acceptance and self-trust at the forefront of how you lead you. One choice at a time.
Don't get bogged down in the concept of the next 10 years. Instead position clarity and intention into each new day, starting today. Then chase every one of those intentions with an in-the-moment commitment and solution toward living a legendary life!