HAPPY WOMEN'S EQUALITY DAY.
It was 100 years ago today that the United States passed a law granting all citizens the right to vote regardless of gender. This day, now officially deemed as Women's Equality Day, is a perfect time to reflect on the importance of getting the right to vote, and how crucial it is to send in your ballot and SHOW YOUR SUPPORT TO SMALL BUSINESS during these times.
Black women represented only 42% of new women-owned businesses started in 2020, according to Amex's 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report. Yet in the past decade, Black women–led businesses have captured just .0006% of the total venture capital funding to make their businesses work. We encourage you to take action and fund black women entrepreneurs this Women's Equality Day.
We sat down with Olivia Owens, the creator of IFundWomen of Color, to chat all about the important work she's doing to crowdfund for black-owned businesses. Olivia created a platform for women of color on the crowd-funding site IFundWomen that works to close the funding gap for women.
DYLAN LEX: Olivia! We are so excited we get to sit down with you for Women's Equality Day. You've taken the stage at the Women's March in NYC and have spearheaded amazing programs for women of color at IFundWomen. What does the meaning behind this day hold for you, personally?
OLIVIA OWENS: This day is a reminder that we must push past our fears, our anxieties, and our doubts to demand the equal rights we deserve. We deserve equal rights simply because we do. The facts that when our companies receive investments we perform better, or that the work we do inherently goes towards the betterment of our communities, or that we hold the spending power are just the gravy on top.
I feel very privileged that the work I do at IFundWomen, the go-to funding marketplace for women-owned businesses and the people who want to support them. IFundWomen is focused on creating equality for women in the funding space by providing access to capital through crowdfunding and grants, expert business coaching on all the topics entrepreneurs need to know about, and a network of women business owners that sparks confidence, accelerates knowledge, and ignites action.
DL: You wear many hats at IFundWomen, can you tell us more about your role and how you got started there? What is IFundWomen of Color?
OO: My mom crowdfunded for her business on IFundWomen, which is how I initially found out about the company. I had recently quit my job to switch career paths and IFundWomen was in its earliest days. I started as a freelancer and have moved from marketing to business development. Now, I’m the Creator and General Manager of IFundWomen of Color (IFWOC). IFWOC is a platform dedicated to supporting diverse founders launch and grow their businesses. My role currently consists of building the community and working with partners to create access for our members like our founding partner Caress who has invested $1M into the community.
DL: What is the best way to network and why is it so important to women's equality and empowerment?
OO: One of the reasons I launched IFundWomen of Color is because I know there is a wealth of knowledge and expertise within our community, but there’s also this pressure for founders to portray that they have it all together. Our community is a safe space for entrepreneurs to be open, honest, and vulnerable to get the support they need. Our male counterparts aren’t afraid to give each other a leg up and we shouldn’t be either.
My first tip for networking is to add value before you make an ask—that’s how you build strong relationships. It can be as simple as a podcast or book recommendation, or a productivity technique that works for you. The second tip is to be very specific and direct with your ask so the person you are asking has a clear understanding of how they can deliver for you. Make it an easy win for them.
DL: What was the most exciting business venture you've worked on? Any client shout-outs?
OO: Shannon Maldonado is an amazing founder in our community who has a retail space in Philly called Yowie. In the midst of the pandemic, she raised $77K for her vision of transforming the space into a dynamic place to shop, work, stay, and collaborate. The Caress grant was the first funder of her campaign and her community showed up with their dollars to get her the funding she needed to bring her vision to life.
DL: What advice can you give to our followers about starting their own businesses?
OO: Don’t go into debt funding the earliest days of your startup! We firmly believe crowdfunding should be the first stop on your funding journey because it’s a debt-free, low-risk way to prove demand for your product or service before you invest in supply.
DL: OK! Last but not least, TELL US. How did you feel wearing DLEX?!
OO: After six months in quarantine, this was the first time I got dressed up and it felt amazing. I felt confident, beautiful and ready to conquer the world.
With human to human coaching, network building, and a community of like-minded women who hustle HARD, the IFundWomen team works to support women on their journeys toward launching successful businesses. Want to donate? Check out their platform here to contribute to some truly amazing crowdfunds.