Apr 21st, 2020
Kate Anderson is a leader in generating change and gender equality within the private fundraising space. As Co-Founder and Operations Director of iFundWomen, she has driven millions of dollars into the hands of female founders. The flexible crowdfunding platform combines a pay-it-forward model, expert startup coaching, professional video production and a private community for its members, all with the goal of helping female entrepreneurs launch successful businesses.
Learn more about The Passionistas Project.
Passionistas: Hi and welcome to the Passionistas Project Podcast. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and today we're talking with Kate Anderson, a leader in generating change and gender equality within the private fundraising space. As co-founder and operations director of iFundWomen, she's driven millions of dollars into the hands of female founders. IFund Women's flexible crowdfunding platform, combines a pay it forward model, expert startup coaching, professional video production and a private community for its members. All with the goal of helping female entrepreneurs launch successful businesses. So please welcome to the show Kate Anderson.
Kate: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so happy to be here.
Passionistas: What's the one thing you're most passionate about?
Kate: I have a lot of passions but I think one of the things I'm most passionate about is representation of women. I'm seeing women represented in boardrooms, seeing women represented in movies, seeing women represented in books. I think the more we can see ourselves in women in media and on television magazines too, the more we can imagine that we can be there. And that's really one thing I find women is working hard to do is promote more women's businesses, help women to elevate their businesses more so that we can see more women in boardrooms and more women as CEOs and more women on the cover of Forbes and fortune.
Passionistas: So talk about how iFundWomen came to be and your role in that.
Kate: Yeah, so um, iFundWomen was a pivot. My two co-founders, Karen Cahn and Sarah Summers. We worked together at another company, our CEO, Karen Cahn was the, uh, was the CEO. Then Sarah and I both worked there and it was a conversation platform for women. Karen had built it and did kind of a lot of the things that we now realize are mistakes, mistakes for start-ups. So we built it without talking to a lot of people about it, without getting a lot of feedback, being really precious about the idea. And we realized after making mistake and all good growth comes from making mistakes, that that's not the right way to start a business. The right way to start a business is to get a lot of people onboard to, to beta test to see if people are interested to build an MVP, which means minimally viable product. It's creating a product that is not perfect, but they get the job done.
And um, so anyways, we had this old company, um, and as a last ditch effort we did a Kickstarter campaign and it was through there that we realized that crowdfunding was a great way for women to raise capital for their businesses to not give away equity did to tap into their own, um, their own great networks and their own ability to be good storytellers. But there was no platform that was speaking specifically to the needs of women that was coaching women through the process of, it's giving them the tools they need to prepare. And that was creating a community. So we decided as a beta to see if people were interested in it. We sent out surveys to various communities that we're all a part of saying, is this something you'd be interested in and what would you look for in that? And we launched in November of 2016 with a beta of about 25 campaigns. We had hundreds apply, but we accepted 25 for the first beta to test it out. And that is a way better way to start a company.
Passionistas: So what were you doing before you started iFundWomen?
Kate: So we are working together on this, on our other startup and then prior to that I worked in commercial real estate development. So really like pivoted my career but, but um, I worked for a company called Heinz, which is a major uh, premier real estate development company. Worked there for about four years right out of college. And it was such a great place to come up because, um, it was really old school and I think that there's a benefit in starting your career at a place that's really old school and established and has a clear guidelines and clear protocols and uh, and it was not casual. I think that the, it really taught me a lot about how to be a great operator, how to be a great employee and less how to be a great manager. I'm learning how to do that now, but it taught me a lot of those things. And I think that there's a real benefit in starting at a place that's um, that's really corporate versus a place that's really good casual.
Passionistas: And what's the vibe at IFund Women? What's the culture like at that company?
Kate: We're a startup so it's way more casual. Um, it's at, uh, Heinz where I work. Nobody talked about personal lives at all. Like you kinda didn't, if you heard about someone's personal life, it almost felt like seeing your parents naked. Like it was so personal and intimate. Um, and, and IFund Women and I think this is true of many startups. Um, you know, everything about the people that you're working with. And I like that. I like that. Um, that is definitely more my nature. It, um, to be open with people, to tell people what's going on in my life. I don't like kind of feeling like that's not something to be able to talk about. But then you have this like fine line of, um, what to share and what not to share. And when Karen, Sarah and I started at the company, right, three people that are great friends, we can share everything. But then as you bring more people in that you can't share everything, just the three of us can.
Passionistas: So what's the mission of iFundWomen?
Kate: Our mission is to close the funding gap for female entrepreneurs. We really want to provide access to capital, coaching and community. That is our core mission. That's our North Star and that is what we work day in and day out to do.
Passionistas: How is iFund Women different beyond that from other crowdfunding websites?
Kate: Yes. So we're the only crowdfunding platform, first of all, speaking specifically to women, but beyond that, um, we are the only crowdfunding platform with expert business coaching tied into our business model, with a network of women business owners that work together to accelerate knowledge and ignite action. We have a pay it forward model that you were talking about that, um, at the end of every month, we, uh, invest 20% of our standard crowdfunding fees back into live campaigns on our platform. So we're actually paying for the revenue that we're making from campaigns. Um, and then we also are offering sponsored grants. So we broker grants on behalf of generous partners who really want to put their money where their mouth is by supporting women entrepreneurs raising capital on our platform.
Passionistas: Talk a little bit more about why that's so important. And the current state of funding for women owned businesses.
Kate: The current state of funding for women owned businesses is not where we want it to be. Um, and I think people are familiar with these stats, but women received 3% of venture capital financing and women have a harder time getting loans. That um, when they do get loans, they get smaller loan amounts and higher interest rates. We know women are starting 1500 net new businesses every single day in the US right, too. You're a woman in the US you have a great idea. You're starting a business. Well, what do you do? How do you get funding for your business? The first thing most people do is they bootstrap and bootstrap means spending your own money to grow your business. And that works r really well if you have money to spend. But if you don't, how do you get your business off the ground? And um, we are the place where women could do that.
We don't think that you should go into debt funding the earliest days of your startup. Um, and even if you do qualify for a loan, that's what you're doing is you're going into debt funding the early days of your startup. And the fact that the matter is most startups fail. And it's important that when you're growing it, you do it in a way that's smart and you're smart about the capital that you take on so that you don't have a failing startup. And then loans to pay back or debt to pay back, credit card debt, whatever it is.
Passionistas: So what makes a successful campaign on iFundWomen? Are there elements that you find that help people succeed?
Kate: Really, first and foremost, if I had to just say one word, it would be grit. And that's probably what makes any successful entrepreneur and business, right? Anybody can have the best idea for something, an amazing idea that's going to make everybody's lives better and everybody is going to be so happy about it. But if you never tell people about the idea, if you're not ready to like put it all on the line, if you are not constantly promoting what you're doing to people, no one's going to find out about it. The specific type of person that's successful on iFundWomen is a person with drive, with commitment and a person that really won't give up, that continues to promote their campaign, continues to get the word out there. And um, and won't stop at anything until their campaign gets funded or their business gets moved to the next phase, whatever that might be.
Passionistas: Let's take a little step back and just explain to a crowdfunding is for someone who's listening and doesn't really understand the concept.
Kate: So crowdfunding is when an entrepreneur raises small increments of money from lots of people that they know in their personal professional social networks. That adds up to just enough money to get their project off the ground. So crowdfunding formally as we know it has been around for about a decade, which is the idea of raising money online from lots of different people. But historically crowdfunding has been around for a long period of time. Um, the Statue of Liberty is a project that was crowd funded. Bringing the base of the Statue of Liberty over was crowdfunded by many people contributing pennies to see something happen. And I think that people really liked that story because it resonates with the idea that lots of people can give amounts of money that feel comfortable to them to create something that's awesome and spectacular and has lasting value, right?
Like I think we all wish that we could contribute to see the statue of Liberty or whatever that kind of iconic project is for us. But crowdfunding, there are two different types of crowdfunding. There's rewards-based crowd funding and equity crowdfunding. Equity crowd funding is a newer concept that came out of the jobs act where you can raise, um, you can have people contribute to your business in exchange for equity. So that's ownership in your business. IFundWomen as a rewards-based crowdfunding platform. Um, so, so people are funding your campaign in exchange for physical or digital reward that they're getting. And the reward is really can be your product, services, unique skills. It's really your opportunity to thank people for contributing to your campaign but also entice them to back your campaign and support your campaign. But because you have awesome rewards that you want to take part in,
Passionistas: What do you find, or do you find, there's a common reason that women hesitate to do this kind of thing? And how do you help them get past that?
Kate: We don't necessarily see that women hesitate to do this. I think in general, people feel uncomfortable asking other people for money. I think that that is kind of a, um, that can stall people, right? I don't want to go out and ask my network and, and what I always pushed back on that I'd say is, well, what happens if somebody else does this idea? How passionate are you about this idea that if somebody else did it, would you feel okay with that? And, and with scaling businesses, and this isn't true for all businesses, not all businesses need capital to grow. Some can be generating revenue from day one and be fine with the revenue that they generate. But many businesses do need capital and you will always have to ask people for money, right? So maybe that's a banker, maybe, um, a venture capital firm, maybe that's uh, an aunt, maybe that's a spouse.
Kate: Um, you don't have to ask a credit card company, but at some point they will ask you to pay the money back. Um, but, but what I think is so empowering, powerful about crowdfunding is it allows you to continue to hone your pitch and your messaging every time you ask people and continue to change it, right? So you might practice your pitch on lots of people and tell them and they say, you know what? I didn't totally get what it is you're raising money for. So then it allows you to say, Oh, you know what? Maybe I wasn't so clear. Let me try to rephrase this so it makes sense to a broader audience and being able to kind of alter and pivot and adapt your pitch in real time is really powerful.
Passionistas: What's been the highlight of iFund for you so far?
Kate: We have been around for over three years so it's been really exciting to see those initial beta campaigns to see what they've done now. We have been one of the premier crowdfunding platforms for co-working spaces, female-focused co-working spaces and it's so cool to see coworking spaces that raise money on iFundWomen open up. Like that to me is like, you know, you kind of feel like that's your baby taking their first steps that you facilitated them being able to do that. It has been a million little things. I wish I could say. There's like one great thing that's come out of it, but it's so many. It's getting handwritten thank you notes in the mail from entrepreneurs that we've helped on iFundWomen. It is getting feedback when I've coached entrepreneurs say you really helped me get on stock and it's seeing products launch I support a lot of the campaigns on iFundWomen and it's supporting and then getting a product in the mail that you supported maybe a year ago and saying, Oh my gosh, I love LOHO tights or Mini Lila or fem power, beauty. I love all of these brands and now I'm getting their products and, and now I'm a lifelong user of it.
Passionistas: Is there a story of like one woman in particular that you've helped or you personally have funded that stands out to you?
Kate: There are so many women on this list. Um, uh, one campaign I particularly love is Lauren Beasley who is an entrepreneur out of Nashville. She, uh, has a company called Move Inclusive Dance. She wants to create a dance studio for children with special needs or a dance camp for children with special needs in Nashville. She put up her campaign and within a week or less it was funded. And then about a year later, her audience said, okay, a dance camp is great in the summer, but what about a dance studio? What about year round dance classes for kids with special needs? So she came back to iFundWomen to raise $100,000 for a dance studio.
She raised about $45,000. And at that point she had gone through, I've been IFundWomen's coaching program and one of the things we tell entrepreneurs to do is list out everybody in your network or people that you know, you might have six degrees of separation. One of those people was Carrie Dorr, who's the founder of pure, uh, Pure Barre, which is a fitness studio. And Lauren reached out to her and said, I'm a Pure Barre instructor. I love your company. Would you check out my campaign? Uh, Carrie Dorr wrote back and said, yes, can you fly out to Denver? Long story medium, she flew out to Denver and Carrie Dorr contributed $50,000 to her campaign and funded her campaign. And why I love this story is Lauren's doing such good. She's creating lasting change, which is so awesome. She's creating something that not a lot of people maybe thought that there was a need for, but there was a huge need for, she made the ask, but she also had data to back it up.
Right? So she wasn't cold emailing this person and she had $0 million in her campaign and zero back. Or if she had $45,000 or $42,000 in her campaign and hundreds of backers and she emailed that person then to say, look at what I've done. She, and she told me she was expecting like $50 from her and got a magnitude more than that. But I love that. I love that that's like so forward facing. So public and obvious. I think that that's just like, and I love what she's doing to make the world a better place. Follow her on social media, Move Inclusive Dance. It is really, really inspiring.
Passionistas: So you mentioned this earlier and like to talk a little bit more about it. You mentioned that iFundWomen reinvests 20% of your fees into campaigns on the site. So talk about why you made that decision and what kind of campaigns you guys back.
Kate: When we started iFundWomen we knew that we wanted to have a give it back model. We knew we had this idea of lifting women up constantly. So if one campaign gets funded, we wanted that campaign to help another campaign get funded and create this virtuous cycle of funding and supporting female entrepreneurs. The way we manifest today was we take iFundWomen takes a 5% fee on any amount of money that you raise. And then at the end of the month, we take 20% of the revenue from those fees and directly reinvest them into live campaigns on the site that are actively raising money. We do not pick them algorithms, pick them, but um, but it's been awesome to see, and it varies every month from maybe one campaign that will be picked or five or six campaigns that will be picked. But those campaigns that are way more, um, way more likely to get funded and it's a great opportunity for them to say that their networks, like, my campaign is so good that the iFundWomen team believed that I should be the recipient at this. And then the money just gets them that much further to their, um, or that much closer to their mark. It's a, it's everybody's favorite day of the month.
Passionistas: How can a woman that's listening to this podcast take advantage of all the iFundWomen has to offer?
Kate: If you head over to, iFundWomen.com and you will see a big suite of resources that we have to offer to people. We have a lot of free resources. It is important to us to educate entrepreneurs before they launch a crowdfunding campaign. Until we don't ever want us to someone to launch a campaign and say, Oh, I thought it was this. Or I thought I would just put a campaign up and magical money elves would come and back my campaign. We wish there were magical money elves, but it doesn't seem like they've really exist. We want people to know that you have to put the work in, that you have to have a plan, that you have to have clear messaging and a direct ask. So we have bundled that all into a free crowdfunding eCourse. It takes about an hour and a half to watch that you could watch on iFundWomen. We have a free webinar every Thursday for an hour that really talks about what crowdfunding is. And then for people that want more hand holding and really are looking for personalized coaching, we have a coaching program. It's a monthly coaching model where you pick the topic of the calls that you want and can get help with anything from your crowdfunding campaign to marketing, to social media, to sales, so that you can really not only elevate your crowdfunding campaign, but at the same time elevate your business.
Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington and you're listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Kate Anderson. To learn more about crowdfunding for female founders and get experts, startup coaching, visit ifundwomen.com now here's more of our interview with Kate.
Do you have a daily routine or is it always different?
Kate: No, it's always different. And you know what, honestly, I kinda like to operate that way. I have, I start off my day at work every day with the same thing. I have a checklist of things that I go through and then the day starts and um, I really have a lot of calls throughout the day. Then I block. So maybe I do, I block out time. Like at three o'clock I've have an education block and that is a time for me to read. Like those articles that people send me or um, things that I saw online that I haven't had a chance to read. I have a 30 minute block in my day to do that. I close out my day between 4:30 and 5:30. So I tried to do that as much as possible. But then I need to get better and having a daily routine cause I think in every other aspect of my life that helps to optimize and helps to just not have to make decisions.
Passionistas: That's such a good idea. That education block, I love that. I need to do that. I'm gonna work that into my schedule now.
Kate: And I think the best thing to do too is to copy the links of, okay this article I saw or this one someone sent me copy the links into the calendar invite. So you open it up and you say, go ahead. This is what I'm reading right now. It's 30 minutes and we all have that time in our day to do something like that. And if you're not, I am kind of maniacally focused on being curious, growing, acquiring new skills, reading. Interesting. And if you don't kind of block that time and then sometimes it gets lost.
Passionistas: Do you think you have a particular personality trait that has helped you succeed?
Kate: I am very skilled at putting myself in other people's shoes and, and that really comes from how I was raised. That was always the position that we were taught is, you know, you never know what someone has going on at home or in other aspects of their life. And that has really helped me in dealing with people, right? All jobs are dealing with people, it's dealing with customers, it's dealing with your team. Um, and if you don't have good skills with that, if you don't have the ability to, to put yourself in other people's shoes, you kind of can't grow. And then I think in addition to that is self awareness and it's a quality I really like in people is really being self aware about what you're good at, what you're not good at. And um, and being honest about that I think is really, really huge.
Passionistas: Is there one lesson that you've learned on your journey so far that really sticks with you?
Kate: Working at a startup is, is really challenging. There's no roadmap of what you're doing. You're constantly having to change. I think like a great lesson is really just being open to change and being curious and not being fixed in your thinking and knowing when to ask for help. And knowing when you can figure things out yourself. But working at a startup is really, there's just a constantly moving target. You constantly change, adapt, learn new things. And that is, I think can be hard for some people. But for me it's been, it's been exciting and I feel like I every damn like have a new skill set that I'm working on.
Passionistas: So what is the most rewarding part about working at a startup?
Kate: I think the really, the most rewarding part from coming from like a corporation is making, like having a suggestion that gets inputted in real time. Like saying, okay, I think we should do this. All right, let's do it. And now our website looks different because of someone's that guidance and advice that is so powerful. And I think if you never had that before, then you're, you're so surprised when you do have it and really appreciative of it. That's been really, really an awesome thing to, to do and see and be able to just see how your suggestions can, can really form, can improve people's lives, can streamline the process, can make things easier. I've been really grateful for to be able to be in a position to do that.
Passionistas: When you were a girl, what lessons did your mother teach you about women's roles in society and what do you want to teach your own children?
Kate: I grew up with a mom who stayed at home until I was in middle school and then she started working and now has her own company and works entirely too much. Um, but my parents were equal partners and, and even though my dad worked, it was very much both people were equal parents. And I think that it's sometimes hard to say what are specific things. I think sometimes you can comment on things that you didn't like. But like one thing I loved my parents did is we would occasionally just be kind of jerky kids and would say something like, that's dad's money. We're just such a jerk thing to say. Right. And it's so, I don't even know where we came up with that, but it was always clear in our household. Like my dad worked and my mom stayed at home and this was the family's money. Nobody was, there was no hierarchy between my parents at all. And that like largely impacted most of my thoughts about relationships.
I worked, both me and my husband work. So that was different than my experience was growing up. But it never felt like that was something I couldn't do because I didn't see that behavior modeled. I saw a relationship between my parents that was, um, that was largely, uh, based on respect and that has been what my relationship has been based on and it has made it easy to be easy enough to be a working, uh, team, raising kids and trying to grow our careers.
Passionistas: Did you have other influential female role models when you were growing up?
Kate: I have so many. I have so many aunts that are absolutely phenomenal. Um, that I'm very, very close with. All my grandmothers are still alive and they are so influential for me. I feel really lucky to always have had like strong women figures in my life. And the idea of like a meek female, that archetype would never existed. And any woman that I've ever had a relationship with but really like the people that had the biggest impact of light my life for my family. And I am so lucky to have three grandmothers that are strong, very funny, very witty, opinionated women who had cool lives. Um, and, and same with, I have amazing aunts and I still have amazing aunts and I'm really fortunate for all of them.
Passionistas: What about professional mentors? Have you had professional mentors and what do you admire about them?
Kate: Yeah, so I've had fewer professional mentors. That's definitely something I am like kind of seek out. I have a lot of people on the same level of careers, me or maybe a few stages ahead and being at a startup and not kind of having like a, um, you know, it's not a big corporation where you have a bit, a huge hierarchy. It's something I definitely seek out, but I have a lot of women that are at the same stage of my careers, like great friends and people who have become great friends who have helped to kind of sir like solve, uh, that mentorship role. And to me, mentorship is not like, Oh, will you be my mentor and guide me in the process. It's having somebody to gut check things.
Like really, as I said, I live in Boston, my best friend in Boston is, has been such an amazing asset for me. And gut checking, um, career questions and kid questions. But, but having kind of people serve in that role of, uh, being advisors to you. I think that can come from just having great friends and not just having one person in a mentorship role. It's surrounding yourself with amazing women and men that can provide guidance for you. That to me is kind of how I, um, how I fill that role.
Passionistas: What's your proudest career achievement?
Kate: There's an organization I love, uh, a media company called Rebel Girls and they write children's books called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. I love them. I've been such a fan of theirs and we had partnered with them on iFundWomen and I got two for international day of the girl, uh, speak publicly on a panel to, to young girls about representation of women. And my daughter got to see me speak and it was my first paid speaking engagement and that was like my proudest mom moment. My daughter thought I was crushing it. I felt like I was crushing it and she got to watch it. And that really just made me feel like so proud of, of being able to be in a position to do something like that.
Passionistas: What's your dream for women?
Kate: My dream for women is to not have to work so hard to get what we deserve. I kind of, you know, those signs from in the women's March that said like, I can't believe we're still marching about this stuff, is to not have to work so hard is to just be able to exist. And I'm not up to pipe for things that I think that we deserve to have and I think that we deserve to have like 60 years ago. And I think that's largely an inefficient use of time. I would love to see more women in positions of power.
I went to a speaking engagement the other day at Harvard, a male physicist was speaking and a woman introduced him and they said, she is the first tenured physics professor at Harvard. And I turned to my husband and I was like, it's 2020, like you've gotta be kidding me. And we kind of had like a discussion about it and I said like, I find that so problematic that it's 2020 and she's the first tenured physics professor at Harvard and it seemed like she was recently tenured. I would like that to not be the norm. Um, that I would like there to stop being the first woman. Right. Like just not the first woman president, not the first woman, you know, anything. I would just like it to be that's expected. Um, and I think that we're getting there and I think that progress is really slow and I wish that it wasn't so slow.
Passionistas: What's your secret to a rewarding life.
Kate: Balance. Having interests surrounding yourself with interesting people? Um, measuring success not by one metric. Right. So I think when people, their success is just tied to their job that it's not, that's not how I view success. Um, being outside to me solves most problems of life unless, unless there's um, fires happening and we're experiencing global warming. But I think that that can solve a lot of things. But to me it really is, is balance. And then choosing what that balance is for you. I think that work life balance is a term that's overused and misproperly used. But it is to me it's having different things that fill your tank. It's getting up every day and having different things that will get you jazzed to go. So that might be worked. It might be an exercise class, it might be coming home to your kids. It might be like for me it's like reading a really good book but having different things that get you excited and going. That to me is, is like the most important thing.
Passionistas: Thanks for listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Kate Anderson. To learn more about crowdfunding for female founders and get expert startup coaching, visit ifundwomen.com.
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