Here’s a sobering fact about female entrepreneurship: only two to six percent of venture dollars are allocated to women, despite the fact that women-owned businesses grew 68 percent between 1997 and 2014. As is the case with many areas where women are up against men—for raises, for jobs, and for funding—female entrepreneurs have to work twice as hard to get their ideas funded. Enter iFundWomen, a Kickstarter-esque platform designed to support female entrepreneurs and help these women realize their dream projects. Through personalized coaching, production assistance, and a supportive network, iFundWomen is here to “equalize the playing field” for female entrepreneurs, lead by founder and CEO Karen Cahn.
“My mantra is all the money for all the women now,” says Cahn, who has developed a career around supporting the female economy. “The reality is: Money is power, and when women are financially independent…we can control our own destiny. That’s what I’m all about as a person and an entrepreneur.”
Cahn’s idea for iFundWomen came from a frustrating experience with her own crowdfunded project—she felt that she was not set up for success with the traditional crowdfunding model. So she created a platform that not only highlights creative and passionate female entrepreneurs, but sets up realistic expectations for their projects and ensures the most successful campaign possible. There are currently 28 approved campaigns live on the platform, about 40 at various stages of preparation, and roughly 80 that have applied and aren’t quite ready for campaigning (entrepreneurs do have to apply for the platform so that Cahn and her colleagues can vet whether the project is ready for fundraising).
We spoke to Cahn about the success of iFundWomen, projects she’s excited about, and how women can get their ideas off of the ground.
Other than being an all-female platform, what sets iFundWomen apart from other crowdfunding platforms?
We do three things: We do free crowdfunding coaching for anyone—that applies whether you’re accepted or not. We will get on the phone with you and talk about your business… prep work in preparing for a crowdfunding campaign is so critical. Second, we help women tell their stories through video. VProud Labs, our parent company, helps women make videos and do it for free. [This is an essential element of telling the story of a business on the platform, and is a valuable resource for young business-owners that don’t have the technology or knowledge to make this video for themselves]. Third, we have a pay it forward model. We take five percent of every transaction [typical for most crowdfunding sites], and at the end of the month, we tally up our fees and take 20 percent of them and directly reinvest into a live campaign on our site.
Tell us about the community that has emerged on iFundWomen.
We launched November 2, and in our first month the entrepreneurs raised almost $200,000 on an unknown site across campaigns. The movement spread really quickly because people realized, “We have to band together now more than ever.” It’s a really great community where all the entrepreneurs are trading press contacts and tricks of the trade. They’ve all donated to each other’s campaigns. I believe in the power of women—we are at rock bottom in this country right now, and there is no better time for women to want to help each other.
What projects are you really excited about?
There is a landscape architect from Atlanta that has been in urban development for 20 years. She has been working on a prototype to repurpose shipping containers into affordable housing and creative office spaces. She only needs $20,000 to create her prototype. [The project is called Plug-In Pods: Shipping Containers for Social Good]
I think another great one is No.Gifts. It’s a three-click platform that allows you to donate your special occasion—your wedding, your birthday—to a charity you love. It’s high-end—for affluent people who say “no gifts” [on an invitation] and has the slickest user experience ever.
What’s your best advice for a woman who has been thinking about an idea she’d like to pursue?
If you’ve got the domain name and you’re obsessed with your idea, you need to do it. Don’t wait. That’s what crowdfunding is for—it’s not for the fearful. You need to ask or survey people you don’t know.