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IFundWomen gives female founders virtual space to learn and grow, while they raise money. It also gets them ready for their close-ups. Photo credit Karen Cahn
By Candice Helfand-Rogers
IFundWomen, a crowdfunding site for female founders, is doing more than just giving women a way to raise money.
The New-York-Based company also helps set up women in the United States and a growing number of countries to achieve crowdfunding success, with an emphasis on helping them make high-impact videos. The site’s founder, Karen Cahn, spent much of her career at YouTube and other online-video powerhouses. As a result, “video is in the bones, the DNA of IFundWomen,” says Concetta Rand, IFundWomen’s chief revenue officer.
Video production help is the star in a range of campaign-boosting resources that IFundWomen offers, which also include consulting and mentoring. “The launch of IFundWomen came from a critical need for advice from women who have been there,” says Rand.
Women entrepreneurs have a lot to overcome. “For a new business that wants to get started, capital is a huge barrier,” she says. According to a recent report from the National Women Business Council, women business owners raise smaller amounts of capital and rely more heavily on personal sources of financing than men do. And both facts conspire to limit the size of women’s firms.
So to help women thrive on its crowdfunding platform, IFundWomen is arming them with the tools for success.
The IFundWomen Approach
Like Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, IFundWomen hosts fundraising campaigns and collects a fee — 5-percent — of any money raised on its site.
But IFundWomen is more high-touch. Unlike competitors, every woman who runs a campaign through IFundWomen gets a free 20-minute consultation call. It also offers paid services that are designed to improve its crowdfunders’ odds of meeting — and exceeding — their money-raising goals.
Among those services is coaching from a mentor. The pre-launch service costs $150 an hour, but learning from people with experience “saves years in terms of the mistakes you can make,” Rand says. Or, for $49 per year, women business owners can join the site’s Founders Club, where they can access more limited coaching services and a community of other female entrepreneurs.
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It also spotlights the stories of its successful crowdfunders, who share their triumphs and challenges on both running campaigns and running thriving ventures. For example, Melody Jennings Bowers and Shannon Ware, co-founders of Her Data Method, which provides online courses in data collection, and former IFundWomen fundraisers, have offered tips for making data-driven business decisions on IFundWomen’s blog.
The IFundWomen crew shoots a crowdfunding campaign video in Boston. (Credit: IFundWomen Facebook page)
Then there are its extensive services for producing videos, which Rand says can be vital to a successful campaign. It has a production studio that offers several different packages of services including filming assistance, graphics, music licenses and editing. To keep costs down, the site uses a pay-it-forward model that reinvests 20 percent of company profits from crowdfunding fees into making videos.
Rand says several hundred women have taken advantage of IFundWomen’s support services and, on average, have raised four and a half times more money than those who haven’t.
The self-taught silversmith behind Merry Beth Myrick Designs generated over $20,000 for her Nashville jewelry business thanks to that assistance, she says. And the four-woman team behind The Coven, who together raised over $300,000 for a co-working space in Minneapolis, also received a boost from the site’s resources.
The History and the Future
IFundWomen’s founder, Cahn, is keenly aware of the value of video on today’s internet.
After working for Salon.com, Cahn in 2001 became an early employee at Google, and in 2006 transitioned over to YouTube, where she launched its branded entertainment arm. Then, she spent 3 years as general manager of AOL Original Video, where she launched an Emmy-nominated web series.
But Cahn wanted to start something new. After years in tech and advertising, she knew firsthand that more needed to be done to support female founders, Rand says. Cahn conceived of a site where a team would help women make the most of crowdfunding, which she saw as a “clear financing vehicle that allows women to easily maintain control and independence.”
Since launching in November 2016, IFundWomen’s expansion has been mostly organic. “Word of mouth from female founder to female founder really propelled the growth of the company,” Rand says. Cahn is also a contributor at Forbes, which has helped boost the site’s profile.
Going forward, IFundWomen is looking to reach more women by forging strategic partnerships. Rand says IFundWomen has announced collaborative efforts in several markets, including Philadelphia, Boston, Raleigh, N.C., and Newark, N.J. By working with local governments, chambers of commerce and business development organizations, IFundWomen is setting up dedicated fundraising sites for area female entrepreneurs.
Rand says these cohorts, like all of its efforts to help enterprising women, exist to make sure as many female founders as possible achieve their goals. The company does this by providing “a space for them to take risks and be bold, to think very strategically and suss out demand for their business.”