Julia Steele, IFundWomen
IFundWomen launched in 2016 to address the massive systemic inequalities that women face when raising capital for their businesses. Did you know that last year in the U.S., female founded companies raised just 2.8% of the total venture funding dollars? And for female founders of color, that figure is less than 1%.
Cut to today, when the pandemic has only accelerated the need for alternative funding sources for women-owned businesses. Case in point: quarterly VC funding for female founders in Q3 2020 was at a three-year low.
So, what happens when early-stage entrepreneurs can’t access VC (as is the plight of 99.9% of founders)? They end up bootstrapping, a.k.a. using one’s own funds—and, in some cases, going into debt—to fund their ideas. At IFundWomen, we firmly believe no founder should have to go into debt to fund the earliest days of their business.
IFundWomen’s online fundraising platform is the only place where women-led startups can reliably go to seek debt- and equity-free capital for their businesses.
Our first marketplace product was a rewards-based crowdfunding platform. Along the way, enterprise partners like Visa, adidas, and Unilever told us they too wanted to support women-owned small businesses, but needed an end-to-end logistics platform to make it easy for them to deploy both grants and resources. So we built that, too.
Now that our funding platform is humming on both the crowdfunding and enterprise grants side, we are seeing massive upside for our network of entrepreneurs. It’s a true 1+1=3 scenario.
A perfect example is Yowie: Yowie is building the future of dynamic retail: an (endlessly) shoppable space to stay, shop, collaborate, and explore. Founder Shannon Maldonado had been planning on using IFundWomen for her first online fundraiser on IFundWomen. Then the pandemic hit, and put her plans on hold.
Enter Unilever’s Caress brand, who is an IFundWomen Enterprise Grant customer.
Unilever invested $2,500 as a cash grant plus $1,500 in a coaching scholarship to Shannon (along with 250 other entrepreneurs), which served as the push that Shannon needed to get her fundraiser going. Through the IFundWomen Method Coaching program, plus mentorship from Unilever brand managers, Shannon’s confidence was boosted so much that she ended up raising $77,000 in funding for her innovative idea, and is well on her way to opening up her first space.
Pictured: Yowie Founder Shannon Maldonado. Photograph by Caro Ramirez
Another great example is black girls breathing, and its Founder Jasmine Marie, who creates space for Black womxn to manage their mental health via meditational breathwork. Due to the mental and emotional stress the Black community is currently experiencing, Jasmine wanted to be able to provide 100+ Black womxn a year of access to her virtual breathwork circles for free.
Through our Visa • IFundWomen Grant Program for Black women-owned businesses, Jasmine received a $10,000 grant, and an annual coaching scholarship to get expert business coaching that would support her as she strove toward her goals for black girls breathing.
Pictured: black girls breathing Founder Jasmine Marie. Photograph by Gerald Carter.
Lastly, Sweet Water Dance & Yoga is a wellness center located in the South Bronx that offers dance, yoga, fitness, and other classes to their community. Like many brick and mortar business owners around the globe, Founder Yosara Trujillo saw her revenues slashed due to COVID.
Thanks in part to Caress • IFundWomen’s COVID-19 Relief Grant program, Yosara was able to continue growing her business.
Pictured: Sweet Water Dance & Yoga Founder Yosara Trujillo.
Regardless of what the VC stats say, if you’re a female founder reading this, your time is now.