#SWAAYthenarrative

How We Raised $500M To Fund Other Women In Business

6 Min Read
Business

I'm a change-maker. There is a point in every change-maker's life when she decides that she's going to stop complaining about the current state of affairs and do something about it. I was fed up hearing statistic after statistic about the gap in access to capital for women-led businesses, so I decided to do something about it. Based on my passion, we were able to attract enough investors, team members, capital providers, and supporters to gather $500 million in financing for women-led ventures through EnrichHE

EnrichHER is a tech-enabled platform that provides training, resources, and business financing to help women-led businesses grow. In 2019, we launched the business financing platform component so that we could fund traditional women-led companies in both consumer products like dog treats, health and beauty as well as services such as salons and accounting. Within the first few months, EnrichHER deployed its first $3 million in financing and was ready to scale up to $50 million+ in 2020.

But before we launched, we had to get capital providers on board to finance women-led business. Our initial goal was to access $10 million for our first set of companies; but we were ecstatic to find that we could create pathways to so much more.
Our strategy included meeting with executive-level teams at tech-enabled business financing platforms to see if they wanted to work with us. They already had the data that corroborated women's lower loss risk as compared to our male counterparts. As such, we met with several tech-enabled companies, shared our statistics and mission, and they were happy to work with us.

This strategy took a while to implement, because EnrichHER's financing platform was still in pre-launch. This means that we didn't have any data yet. But what we did have was passion, purpose, and validity in the market. We were able to use these traits to secure meetings, partnerships, and the capital that we needed to grow. But we didn't stop there.

Our platform is regulated by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) and FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) to allow retail investors to lend directly to women-led ventures on our platform. But we wanted qualified everyday people to be the ones to decide if a business is worthy of financing. By doing this, we would open up small business investing to an often overlooked set of consumers. This means that communities could decide which businesses they would support, and those discriminated against by the typical financing ecosystem would have a new way to access capital.

It wasn't easy accomplishing this. Not only is it strategically difficult, but it's hard to find people who are willing to open up their mind to working with businesses that are not run by white founders. In my article, How Discrimination in Venture Capital Led me to Techstars, I share how when I presented myself to white male decision-makers, they would automatically assume I wasn't qualified. I would start off each meeting telling them about my Ph.D. in computer engineering and finance, that I was the youngest director at a consulting firm managing a staff of 50 by the age of 27, and that I had won numerous awards ranging from 40 under 40 to the Top Disruptors in Tech. However, more often than not, I was told that I needed the help of someone else to enact my vision—maybe a white male who just finished his undergraduate degree, someone more "technical," or one of their friends.

So although the industry acknowledges that change is needed, the belief persists that the only ones who can successfully create that change are the same type of people who created the problem. I accepted that this was and is still true even if people are mission-aligned. As such, I recognized that my path wouldn't look like anyone else's. I decided to use my superpowers to access the capital that we needed so we could get money into the hands of women in business.

One of my superpowers is being loud online.

With my 72,000 followers, I created a campaign to attract supporters of women-led businesses that would advocate for our mission. By doing that, we were able to attract qualified women-led ventures, investors, supporters, and media opportunities.

Another one of my superpowers is that I love public speaking.

I love being on stage and sharing my passion with others. I started traveling around the country speaking at events and pitching in pitch competitions to drum up support for EnrichHER. We received an investor and/or strategic partner from 100% of my speaking engagements.

Also, you'd don't obtain a PhD in engineering and finance without knowing how to impress people with your schoolwork. I used my straight-A superpowers to create compelling decks, materials, and email responses so that I had the best shot possible with people who made decisions based on the quality of materials.

Another superpower that I have is that I'm generally an excellent candidate for recognition through awards. With my history of awards, my intelligence, my educational background, and my likeness, I'm typically overqualified for external recognition. As such, for organizations that have a scoring rubric that matches what I'm about, I created a strategy to collect as many awards as possible. This additional validation opened up doors to potential strategic partnerships and capital providers.

All that I know is that I've been underestimated my entire life and no award, recognition, salary achievement, or external factor has changed how the masses will treat a black woman in FinTech. However, I decided to go around the masses and find my own advocates so that I could achieve my goals without them. This is the way that I've made everything in my life, and this is the way I will continue to win.

For other entrepreneurs, while it's good to learn about the journey of others on their paths to success, it's also important to remember that your way may or may not resemble that of anyone else. What this means is that it's best to look inwards and use your superpowers to get what you want.

This article was originally published in January 2020.

6 Min Read
Self

Why Women — Even Successful Women — Doubt What They Deserve

Self-care is not selfish.

What do you believe you deserve? That's a pretty loaded question, isn't it? In more than twenty years working as a women's life coach, I've asked it thousands of times, and I've received countless answers. The majority of responses I've received have been disheartening, and they've revealed a startling truth. Women - even very successful, accomplished women - doubt their deservingness.

Deservingness is not to be confused with entitlement. Entitlement is about believing you have a right to something. Deservingness is about how much you believe you're worth.

When you doubt your deservingness, what you're really uncertain about is whether or not you measure up. Are you good enough? (YES.) You've made some pretty big mistakes. Do those bad blunders make you a bad person? (NO.) Are you a good enough person to deserve good things? (YES. YOU ARE.)

Many women carry around a secret shame that impacts their feelings of self-worth and deservingness.

Our stories are individual, but our core experiences are very much the same.

At some point in your life, someone told you there was something wrong with you. This is inevitable, of course, because there's something wrong with all of us, but it gets to dangerous and disempowering territory through repetition.

If even one person in your life tells you over and over again that there's something wrong with you, well, you can start to believe them. Being rejected or criticized hurts, and it has a cumulative effect. Imagine every criticism you've ever received is a tiny little pin that landed right in your heart. (Seriously bad visual, right? Wouldn't your heart look like a pincushion if that was the case?) Beyond hurting like hell, a heart full of pins holds you back and makes you play small. YOU ARE NOT SMALL. I want you to stop acting like you are.

In life, you always create the results you believe you deserve. If you don't believe you deserve good things, you won't let yourself have them.

Tweet this!

You'll sabotage, procrastinate, and excuse the good right out of your life if you don't believe you deserve it. Happily, you can raise your sense of deservingness, and deepen your feelings of personal worth. I'm going to show you how today. It's time to start believing in you again.

Step 1 – Take good care of yourself.

On the face of it, you'd think this advice would be obvious and unimpeachable. Of course you have to take care of yourself. The problem with this truth is that there are whole communities of people who will try to convince you that prioritizing your needs makes you a selfish person. (And who wants to be seen as selfish?)

I've never encountered a woman who hadn't heard some version of this self-care-is-selfish-nonsense. The thing is, these messages are about control, and they come from people who are happy to keep you down and disempowered. (Which makes it easier for them to manipulate you.) Do not fall for this line of hooey.

Self-care is not selfish. Self-neglect is selfish.

Self-neglect tells you that you don't matter. It asks you to stuff your wants and repress your emotions. When you chronically neglect yourself, eventually, you turn into a repressed, angry, self-doubting zombie (or banshee depending on your anger level). Nothing about self-neglect is attractive. I want you to stop doing it. TODAY.

We need you in top form. There is purpose in your life. To make good on it, you need to connect with your SELF. The most fundamental way to begin that process is to take care of your physical body. When I'm working with a client, we practice four physical care basics. (I practice these guys too. Religiously.)

  • SLEEP: You need seven to eight hours of sleep. Every night. No exceptions.
  • HYDRATE: You need proper daily hydration. Water is energy.
  • NOURISH: You need to eat food that nourishes. Not just food that fills your stomach.
  • RELEASE YOUR STRESS: You need some way to unload your tension. Think working out, meditation, journaling, gardening, prayer, sitting in nature, cooking, or hot scented bathing. Let. It. Go. Girl. ☺

Notice I said, "you need." These are non-negotiable requirements. If you're tempted to argue against your ability to practice them, please pause. I've heard every excuse known to woman. And I don't buy a single one of them. We're in a no-excuses zone now. You don't get to argue against yourself and also be empowered. It doesn't work that way. You have to choose.

If you haven't taken care of yourself in a long time, this topic can feel totally overwhelming. I understand, and I want you to do it anyway. Remember, I'm your coach. A loving boot-in-the-butt will sometimes be required in our relationship. Consider this my velvet tipped toe, making contact with that booty of yours.

Take a deep breath and start tackling your care basics. You DO have time. You are NOT selfish, and there's no wrong way to do this except not to do it at all. Practice makes powerful. SO PRACTICE!

Okay, time to up the ante a little bit. This next step is harder.

Step 2 – Be someone you can count on.

You can't think your way into believing in your own worth, but you can act your way there. As it turns out, keeping the commitments you make to yourself increases your feelings of worth and deservingness, and strengthens your confidence too.

Think about it. You make countless commitments every day. The trouble bis that most of them are for other people. When you don't have a strong sense of your own worth, you agree to most incoming requests. Which means you're probably way overcommitted.

When your calendar is crowded, and something's got to give, you're the one who usually goes. Because it's easiest to break commitments to you, right?

WRONG!

Every time you break a commitment to yourself, what you're really doing is showing yourself, through your own inaction, that you don't matter. NO! Bailing on yourself is like giving your hopes and dreams a big middle finger. (Please stop doing it.)

It's time to start following through FOR YOU. Don't panic. I'm not suggesting you stop doing things for other people. As a woman, you're a natural-born nurturer. Of course, you're going to do it for other people. I just want you to add yourself to the list of people-you-do-for.

The best way to get a handle on showing up for yourself is to start paying attention to what's going on when you don't. What causes you to cross yourself off your own list? When you bring your triggers into your awareness, you'll notice a pattern, which will give you the power to make changes.

Take things one choice at a time. Whenever possible, choose to follow through for you. Every time you do, you remove one of those tiny little heart pins and strengthen your sense of worth and deservingness.

Now for the hardest part…

Step 3 – Stand up for yourself.

When you don't believe in your own deservingness, you become an earner. Meaning, you spend your time and energy earning love. This can show up in a lot of different ways. We'll talk about three of them here.

  • You could be a PLEASER. You say yes when you mean no. You do a ton of favors. You're secretly annoyed the entire time you're doing them, but you keep doing them anyway.
  • You might be a PERFORMER. You're the life of the party and an overachiever. You use material items and accolades like money, degrees, titles, and awards to prove your worth. (I used to be this girl.)
  • It's possible you're a DOORMAT. This pattern is most damaging because it means you're allowing other people to treat you poorly. On the extreme end of the spectrum, this could look like allowing people to demean, degrade, or disrespect you. Even on the lesser end of things, it means you allow people to get away with passive-aggressive comments, or take advantage of you. On any end of the spectrum, doormat behavior is toxic.

It gets worse. When you live as an earner, you attract users. (That's just as bad as it sounds.) There are unfortunately people in the world that will live at your expense without giving it a second thought. If you're willing to give it, they'll take it, and even talk themselves into believing they deserve what they're taking. These kind of people like to keep you small, scared, and doubting your deservingness. (Then you do whatever they want. Whenever they want you to.)

YOU MUST STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.

Start by catching yourself in the act of playing the earner. What and who triggers the earner response in you? What are you afraid of? What are you trying to prove? If you feel drained or bad about yourself after you're with a specific person or in a certain place, you need to think twice about being with that person or in that place.

I know this is easier said than done. It's possible the people who make you feel bad are co-workers or family members. It's not like you can just stop seeing them, right? If you find yourself in this position, there is only one path. You need to speak up for yourself. Stat.

For help, you can check out three of my other blogs. They'll show you how to stop living like a pleaser, set some boundaries, and say no like you mean it. Will you be uncomfortable? Yep. You will. Can you handle it? Yes. You can. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Speak up. Stand up. Stop accepting less than you deserve.

Every time you speak up for yourself, you remove another pin from your heart, raise your sense of deservingness and you deepen your own sense of worth. You also show other women what it looks like to know your worth and live like you know it. Which encourages them to do it too. (THAT is female power.)

You are good, and you deserve good things. You deserve acceptance, belonging, and love. There's no mistake in you, my sister. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Just as you are.

My mission is your empowerment. That's why I'm here. If you haven't already joined my community, please do it by entering your email (www.kimberlyfulcher.com). Until we meet again, know that life is happening for you.

You've Got This!

Kim

Originally published at www.kimberlyfulcher.com

This article was originally published November 25, 2019.