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!
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.