Kate Anderson, co-founder of IFundWomen, defines female entrepreneurship with a metaphor well-suited for our Mama Glow community: “I think for a lot of people, it’s like getting thrown into motherhood. You get thrown in, you’re expected to have all the answers, you have a hard time finding the mentors and friends you want to align yourself with, and you have to make decisions on the fly and make a lot of mistakes and find your path in that way. And I feel like, at least the stage that our company’s in, it’s a lot of that. It’s almost like the toddler years of, like, your kids expect you to have the answers and you don’t but you have to act like you have the answers, which is challenging too.”
Before Anderson, Karen Cahn, and Sarah Sommers founded IFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform that raises capital for female-owned businesses while offering coaching and support for those women through their startup journeys, they experienced a failed company launch of their own. While they were unsuccessful in seeing their first endeavor through, what they learned by living through the unique challenges of female entrepreneurship helped birth IFundWomen. Anderson said that they realized a company like IFundWomen needed to exist after they “realized that crowdfunding is a great way to raise capital for your business, but there was nobody in that space that was talking specifically to women and the unique challenges that they face. So after that campaign, we took a beat and thought ‘You know, maybe this is crazy but let’s design a crowdfunding platform designed specifically for female entrepreneurs that’s going to meet their needs.'”
As they proudly explain on their website’s homepage, unlike other popular crowdfunding sites, iFundWomen is a one-stop shop for women to raise capital, get coaching, make connections, and fund startups. “For women with big ideas,” they say, “we’re here to make them happen.” They encourage women to get their ideas out there, gauge interest, and generate capital, scaling sustainably overtime. Nobody’s getting their first client without getting out there, telling people about it, getting them super excited about it. The same is true for crowdfunding.”
In celebration of Women’s History Month, read on for more of Kate Anderson’s thoughts on female entrepreneurship, the importance of women supporting women, and how IFundWomen can be a pivotal resource to launch a dream business of your own.
MAMA GLOW: What unique challenges do you believe female entrepreneurs face, and how is IFundWomen working to not only even the playing field but elevate it for women to own and operate their own businesses?
KATE: “So, women face a lot of challenges. I think, first and foremost, it’s access to capital. Women have a harder time getting loans for their businesses. When they get loans, they’re at higher interest rates and smaller loan amounts, and in some places men still need to cosign on the loans. Women only receive 2-3% of venture capital financing, and the reason is people invest in people who look like them. There are algorithms that are saying ‘These companies have performed well in the past, companies with founders that look like this,’ which removes founders that look like me and you and Latham, who have great ideas and are wanting to scale but they need the capital to be able to do that. If you don’t have capital, it’s very hard to scale a company that needs to be scaled. But really it’s not just about the funding, the other barriers that women say are contributing to their lack of success in business or their lack of being able to elevate themselves is a lack of mentors and a lack of a support system. So people who have been there before and people who are kind of in the same space as you at the same time… It’s really those three things. Capital, mentors, coaches.”
What does “women supporting women” mean to you, and how can we all do a better job of lifting one another up in the world of entrepreneurship?
“To me, that’s such an easy question. I think, first and foremost, understanding that you yourself have a voice and have the power to make the world a better place for women. And the easiest thing to do is buy women-owned. And to start really going through all of the things you purchase and being a little more mindful saying ‘Is this a woman-owned company? Is this store owned by a woman? Are these shoes from a company that’s a woman-led company?’ It’s what Rebecca Minkoff is doing with Female Founder Collective is really actually trying to create a directory of all women-led products. We moved in July, and when you move into a new house, you’re buying so many things. I really tried, to the best of my ability, say ‘I really want to buy something that’s made by a woman.’
The next thing that we can do that’s in that same vane is promote and support women on social media. Right? So we all have social media accounts, and it’s boring to just post pictures of yourself and what you’re doing. What’s less boring is to promote other women, is to say ‘I bought these awesome flowers from this flower shop owned by this person.’ And really make that a habit and a practice of every day shouting somebody out. If somebody asks for a recommendation, be sure to recommend the person that you know that does that. I’ve made an effort myself to do that over the past 6 months, and I would say it takes 5-7 minutes out of my day to be promoting other women… It’s way easier to push someone else’s services than your own, and it pays off in spades. You’re a person that people will want to do business with, that they’ll want to know, that they’ll want to be supported by because you are supporting other people… It’s something men have been doing for years.”
Aside from raising funds for female entrepreneurs specifically, what makes IFundWomen different from other crowdfunding platforms?
“We are the only crowdfunding platform built by women, for women. That might be obvious, but I think it’s worth stating. We are our own customer, we have crowdfunded before, we know what it’s like to work in a startup and have that kind of anxiety of putting yourself out there and asking people for help. We’ve been there before.
“But beyond that, we are both a crowdfunding and a coaching platform. We utilize our coaching platform to really help women start and grow better businesses, and we know that that comes from coaching. You can’t be successful doing anything in a bubble, nobody builds a great business from their bedroom. You need to get out, you need to talk to other people, you need other people to really help you formulate your company at the earliest stages and as you’re growing. So that’s really all part of our coaching platform, and when people get coached on IFundWomen and go through what we call the ‘IFundWomen Method’ before starting a crowdfunding campaign, they raise more money. Because they’re putting in the work, they’re getting prepared. They’re not just launching something and hoping that as we call ‘The Magical Money Elves’ come. They have a plan, they have a marketing message, they have a strategy, they know how they’re gonna get there, and that’s super important.
“We have a pay forward model at IFundWomen. So every month, we pay forward 20% of our revenue from standard crowdfunding fees into live campaigns on the site each month, which is so awesome. We’ve had it from the beginning of IFundWomen and it’s a great way to really spread the love around and to get people excited about IFundWomen and what we’re doing, and also just to get more capital in the hands of female entrepreneurs… And it’s fun for us! It’s our favorite day of the month to be able to do that.”
What piece of advice would you give to a woman who’s been dreaming of launching her own business, but is overwhelmed or uncertain about where to start?
“The first piece I would say is find a tribe, don’t go it alone. Find and connect other women who have been there before and ask them for advice, but be thoughtful about asking questions and about people’s time. Do your research beforehand. My cousin owns her own jewelry business in Washington DC and she said the other day someone said ‘Can I just pick your brain about starting a business?’ So they got on the phone and she just said ‘So, why did you start a business and what would be a good business to start?’ instead of being strategic. It doesn’t take that long to google somebody, but if you wanna leave a good impression, do you due diligence… So the person has some idea, some framework around this, they don’t feel thrown off, and also you make good use of their time. But truly, just connecting with people before you do something I think really, really helps.”
Statistically its more difficult for women of color to receive capital to build their businesses. How does your platform help marginalized women achieve their funding goals?
“We launched IFundWomen of Color as the leading platform for women of color to raise capital through crowdfunding, grants, coaching, and the connections needed to launch and grow successful businesses. It is the go-to funding ecosystem designed specifically for diverse entrepreneurs who are early-stage entrepreneurs.Think of IFWOC (IFundWomen of Color) as a bonus pack to our existing program. IFWOC provides a safe community of women of color founders, bonus programming and group coaching.”
You are an birth advocate. Tell us about why you’re such a mouth piece for the birth movement.
“I wish more women didn’t approach the pain of birth from a place of fear. When my husband was a medical student, he got an excellent lecture about childbirth by Whitney Pinger who ran the Midwifery Program at The George Washington University Hospital. She is an advocate for evidence-based practices that result in the best possible outcomes for birth. After that lecture, he was buzzing and walked me through all of the slides (I was not pregnant. We were just married at this point!). I became completely hooked and knew when I got pregnant, I would go the midwifery route. I know that we are all so influenced by what we see/hear in the media and as a result, the story that women are told is that birth is stressful, scary and painful. Using midwives opened me up to different stories of birth that were not scary. I had three easy pregnancies and births which came from following evidence-based preparation thanks to Whitney and her team. I wish more women had more education of all of the different paths that could happen during birth. I love to see women like Latham and Rebecca Minkoff sharing positive birth stories and would love to see more of them being shared. Pain is a natural part of life that we should welcome, not be scared of.”