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!
Marriage can be a tightrope act: when everything is in balance, it is bliss and you feel safe, but once things get shaky, you are unsure about next steps. Add outside forces into the equation like kids, work, finances or a personal crisis and now there's a strong chance that you'll need extra support to keep you from falling.
My husband and I are no strangers to misunderstandings, which are expected in any relationship, but after 7 years of marriage, we were really being tested on how strong our bond was and it had nothing to do with the "7-year itch"--it was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who is a perfectionist, I felt guilty about not being the "perfect partner" in our relationship; frustrated that I might be triggered while being intimate; and worried about being seen as broken or weak because of panic attacks. My defense mechanism is to not need anyone, yet my biggest fear is often abandonment.
I am not a trained therapist or relationship expert, but since 2016, I have learned a lot about managing survivorship and PTSD triggers while being in a heterosexual marriage, so I am now sharing some of my practical relationship advice to the partners of survivors to support my fellow female survivors who may be struggling to have a stronger voice in their relationship. Partners of survivors have needs too during this process, but before those needs can be met, they need to understand how to support their survivor partner, and it isn't always an easy path to navigate.
To my fellow survivor sisters in romantic relationships, I write these tips from the perspective of giving advice to your partner, so schedule some quality time to talk with your boo and read these tips together.
I challenge you both to discuss if my advice resonates with you or not! Ultimately, it will help both of you develop an open line of communication about needs, boundaries, triggers and loving one another long-term.
1. To Be or Not to Be Sexy: Your survivor partner probably wants to feel sexy, but is ambivalent about sex. She was a sexual object to someone else and that can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and intimate relationships. She may want you to find her sexy and yet not want to actually be intimate with you. Talk to her about her needs in the bedroom, what will make her feel safe, what will make her feel sexy but not objectified, and remind her that you are attracted to her for a multitude or reasons--not just because of her physical appearance.
2. Safe Words = Safer Sex: Believe it or not, your partner's mind is probably wondering while you are intimate (yep, she isn't just thinking about how amazing you are, ha!). Negative thoughts can flash through her mind depending on her body position, things you say, how she feels, etc. Have a word that you agree on that she can say if she needs a break. It could be as simple as "pause," but it needs to be respected and not questioned so that she knows when it is used, you won't assume that you can sweet talk her into continuing. This doesn't have to be a bedroom only rule. Daytime physical touch or actions could warrant the safe word, as well.
3. Let Her Reconnect: Both partners need attention in a relationship, but sometimes a survivor is distracted. Maybe she was triggered that day, feels sad or her defense mechanisms are up because you did something to upset her and you didn't even know it (and she doesn't know how to explain what happened). If she is distant, ask her if she needs some time alone. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but acknowledging that you can sense some internal conflict will go a long way. Sometimes giving her the space to reconnect with herself before expecting her to be able to focus on you/your needs is just what she needs to be reminded that she is safe and loved in this relationship.
4. Take the 5 Love Languages(r) Test: If you haven't read this book yet or taken the test, please at the very least take the free quiz to learn your individual love language. My top love language was Touch and Words of Affirmation before remembering my abuse and thereafter it became Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. Knowing how your survivor partner prefers to be shown love goes a long way and it will in turn help your needs be met, as they might be different.
5. Be Patient: I know it might be frustrating at times and you can't possibly totally understand what your survivor partner is going through, but patience goes a long way. If your survivor partner is going through the early stages of PTSD, she feels like a lot of her emotional well-being is out of her control. Panic attacks are scary and there are triggers everywhere in society. For example, studies have shown that sexual references are made anywhere from 8 to 10 times during one hour of prime time television (source: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media). My husband is now on high alert when we watch TV and film. He quickly paused a Game of Thrones episode when we started season 2 because he realized a potentially violent sexual scene was coming up, and ultimately we turned it off and never watched the series again. He didn't make a big deal about it and I was relieved.
6. Courage to Heal, Together: The Courage to Heal book has been around for many years and it supported me well during the onset of my first flashbacks of my abuse. At the back of the book is a partners section for couples to read together. I highly recommend it so that you can try to understand from a psychological, physical and emotional stand point what your survivor partner is grappling with and how the two of you can support one another on the path of healing and enjoying life together.