Interview by Alysse Campbell, Myriad Media, IR Funding Task Force
Crowdfunding is here to stay. From products and films to equity investments, crowdfunding has been accepted as legitimate fundraising strategy and a strong measure of viability for ideas across the world.
While it's simple to start a crowdfunding campaign, it's much harder to spread your message, keep up momentum and ultimately hit your goal. But iFundWomen is here to help. Concetta Rand, Chief Revenue Officer of iFund Women explains, “We consider ourselves the go to resource for women with brilliant ideas.” The Triangle cohort is providing coaching and tested strategies to help local women with great business and creative ideas raise money.
“There's an opportunity for everyone, every business at every stage, to get something out of a successful crowdfund. We see people everyday use it in new and different ways to generate awareness to drive specific new product launches.”
Concetta talked with me through rewards crowdfunding and a few local campaigns that are active now. To learn more about rewards-based and equity-based crowdfunding, join us at the Innovate Raleigh Summit on November 9th.
Tell me more about iFundWomen. What brought you to the triangle?
We are a crowdfunding platform for women-led startups and small businesses. We support early stage female entrepreneurs and creators raising money to launch or grow their businesses and consider ourselves the go-to resource for women with brilliant ideas. We started in November of 2016 and we'll drive well over a million dollars in funding for hundreds of female entrepreneurs in year one. We really are just getting started. Our mission is to close the funding and the confidence gap for female entrepreneurs.
Chapel Hill kept coming up on our radar, and the Triangle more broadly because of the incredible quality of life, the innovative startup culture, and really frankly just how collaborative people that we came in contact with here were. iFundWomen has done these local activations; we did the first one in Nashville. We bring together local leaders, like mayors, who care about the local economy of a region and the entrepreneurs and the people who care about their own local economy and the small businesses that make up those communities. We bring them together to create an actual local cohort of female-led companies. We are in the process of putting that together for the Triangle right now. We've had amazing partnership from Pendo and Red Hat, as well as HQ Raleigh and Mayor McFarlane's office to bring iFundWomen Raleigh/Durham to life. That cohort is active now.
Why does iFundWomen use crowdfunding as its funding model?
Crowdfunding is deeply embedded in our DNA. Our founder, Karen Cahn, is a former Google/YouTube executive. Her first startup actually did a crowdfunding campaign. They've been through the experience first hand. There are people on our team that are professional crowdfunders themselves. Coming out of that they felt like, "Wow. There really wasn't a lot of support along the way." There were some things about platforms that they felt like they could build more flexibly to really meet the needs of entrepreneurs. That's kind of how iFundWomen came to be. It's all about building and nurturing an exclusive community of female entrepreneurs and building a supportive entrepreneurial network.
You mentioned that iFundWomen provides a comprehensive strategy and services to support the women. When it comes down to it and you're actually executing the campaign, trying to rally investors and keep the buzz up, what are your go to best practices?
We really want to prepare people to go into a crowdfund with a realistic goal, with a well thought out strategy, with rewards planned and targeted to specific segments, interest groups and individuals.
We have a very detailed campaign guide on our site that maps out all of the ways in which you want to be thoughtful in planning your campaign. That starts with our story. What is your pitch? Why are you the person that is launching this campaign? What is the problem that you see and what qualifies you to solve it, and what are you looking to raise funds to do? What are you going to do with that money? That's your story. That's the pitch for your video.
We really want people being confident and telling their story and being unafraid to go out and advocate for what it is that they're building so that they can reach their funding goals.
Then there will be a plateau, some point in the campaign where things kind of level off. Just being prepared for that ahead of time, and reaching out to other women through our iFundWomen network to know you're not alone in this journey. We know first hand that entrepreneurship can be very lonely so we want to create resources in the form of peer coaches as well as our own coaching staff to help people through that process and that times. We see that it works. We see alumni stick around to encourage and advocate and share the stories of women who are crowdfunding now, even well after their campaigns are done. We're very, very proud of that.
Let's talk about some of the local campaigns.
The mix of businesses in the triangle is extraordinary. It's no surprise to us that we have everything from film to blockchain technology to day spas. It's an incredible array of companies on the site. Let's talk about a couple of them...
The Birds and The Bees
We have Benji Jones with her daughter Audrey Jones. They are doing a short film about a sixth grade girl and her quest to uncover the secret behind the birds and the bees.
It's our first mother daughter team. We are so, so excited to have them on the site. They have some incredible rewards right now where you can have producing credits on the film, director credits on the film, and really be a part of bringing that to life. We hadn't even envisioned how a mother daughter team could come to the site so we were very thrilled to have them be a part of our cohort.
We also have Sandra K Johnson, who's doing a blockchain app called geeRemit. We are incredibly, incredibly excited about Dr. Johnson's campaign, and excited to have a leader of her caliber and an entrepreneur of her experience on our platform.
She's one of the first African American women to earn a PHD in Electrical Engineering. She's a master inventor with over 40 issued and pending patents. She's the first African American woman to reach a technical leadership position and IBM, and part of the team that developed the prototype for Deep Blue, the world famous chess machine that IBM had. She has credentials and experience far beyond what I could list right now, but she's got 35 years of technology experience, 26 of which were with IBM before she founded her own technology company.
Tribe Maternity offers maternity sports clothes, and every purchase helps another mother in need worldwide. Lindsay MacDiarmada just finished the Ironman Triathlon when she learned that she was pregnant. She was working out and felt like really all of her workout clothes started to pull and chafe when she first got pregnant. Basically, three years later, nothing had changed. She tried to figure out her own way of building this business. A really critical part of the Tribe Maternity business model has been to give back. They have processes that are incredibly lean and free of waste that enable them to actually pay it forward and give their, share help with other mothers in need worldwide.
They have a campaign that's live right now. She's got all of her clothes available for sale right now. She's got their first line of pants, shorts, and capris. On the site, you're able to purchase rewards that will go towards either discounts off of the clothing, water bottles, t-shirts, and all kinds of amazing products and rewards that support Tribe Maternity's mission to grow their business.
Then we have Vivian Ellis. She is absolutely amazing. You were talking about how do you go to market smartly? Vivian is absolutely the template for that. She has been talking about her campaign weeks ahead of actually launching.
Her business is called Adayra. It's a nail salon that works with podiatrists to provide preventative pedicures for diabetics, cancer patients, people who need advanced level of care but still want to be able to enjoy health and wellness and beauty treatment. She has created a medi nail salon that specializes in pedicures and manicures customized to your specific need. She's been doing this for 25 plus years, has an unbelievable background and expertise in the space and there is nothing today that exists like Adayra.
She has a campaign running right now to get her first salon opened and you can go ahead and purchase manicures and pedicures on the site as well as pre-purchase discounts for a series of treatments.
These campaigns sound fantastic.
All of the businesses and all of the entrepreneurs on our site are just doing extraordinary things, and it's really humbling to get to be a part of their journey.
We really believe in the power of these local cohorts. We've seen their ability to create both immediate and persistent economic impact. We are incredibly excited to be bringing together entrepreneurs of this caliber and shining a light on the amazing work that the women of this region are doing, the businesses that they're building. We're really just getting started.