We started IFundWomen three years ago to address the massive systemic inequalities that women face when raising capital for their businesses. Our mission is now more important than ever, as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the livelihoods of women-owned small businesses around the globe.
We know (because they told us) that generous institutions want to support women-owned small businesses but they need an end-to-end logistics platform to make it easy for them to not only give grants, but to provide the tools, resources, and education critical for women to grow their businesses. So we built it.
If you thought the funding and wage gap for women was bad before COVID-19, buckle your seatbelts because things are getting way worse. Moreover, corporations are increasingly more committed to helping women-owned businesses survive COVID-19 through their own marketing and PR efforts. We facilitate these relationships programmatically through our Enterprise Brokered Grants platform.
First, women are almost 10% more likely to get laid off from their jobs than men are, according to a recent HBR article.
Second, it’s going to be harder than ever before for women-owned businesses to get funding.
“For female-owned businesses, it will most likely be a struggle to access capital at a time when small businesses need more runway. Already, female entrepreneurs get roughly one-third less in small business loans than male entrepreneurs, so it’s no stretch to assume these numbers will not magically improve during an economic crisis. Women will have less access to small business loans and, if approved for loans, smaller amounts to keep their businesses afloat. Furthermore, the burden of family care usually falls on women, which means less time to dedicate themselves to business. Ironically in all of this, 76 percent of the health care workforce is female, putting many more women than men on the front lines to fight COVID-19,”
- Christine Tsai, Founding Partner & CEO of 500Startups, in Crunchbase.
Last year, we began beta testing this new product that would end up supercharging our core mission of driving funding into the hands of women entrepreneurs. Grants are debt-free money, given by an institution or an individual to a certain type of entrepreneur or startup that they want to support (e.g. women of color entrepreneurs, B2B SAAS startups, etc.). We love grants at IFundWomen because of our foundational belief that no one should go into debt funding the earliest days of their startup. Grants are non-dilutive capital that can be the boost an early-stage startup needs to launch or get through a difficult period. They allow founders to get cash in the door while retaining equity.
In our short beta test, institutions like Visa, adidas, Novartis, Unilever, and GingerBread Capital jumped on board to not only deploy grants through IFundWomen’s platform, but to also provide the coaching and community that are critical to launching successful businesses. We are solving a problem for these enterprises: they want to support women entrepreneurs, but need a platform to handle the logistics from end-to-end.
Though we are officially launching Enterprise Brokered Grants today, IFundWomen has been in the business of giving grants since day one. IFundWomen’s first product was a rewards-based crowdfunding platform where women could develop their ideas and get them funded. We reinvest 20% of our standard crowdfunding fee revenue each month back into women entrepreneurs raising capital on our platform. Since the Pay-It-Forward Grant’s inception, we’ve awarded nearly $80K to 120 female founders. Meet the recipients of the IFundWomen Monthly Pay-it-Forward Grant here.
When COVID-19 hit, we knew we had to act quickly to respond to the needs of our community, many of whom saw their revenues slashed in half overnight. We quickly started raising our COVID-19 relief fund. Meet some of the recipients here—from pilates studios to cafés, we focus on getting cash to Main Street businesses that have been hit the hardest.
Last month, we launched our Universal Grant Application to reduce friction for the many entrepreneurs who, in order to survive the pandemic, find themselves applying to an endless stream of grants. IFundWomen’s Universal Grant Database allows us to programmatically serve up entrepreneurs that meet the criteria specific to each institutional grant giver.
For example, for our GingerBread Capital • IFundWomen COVID-19 Relief Grant Program, we were able to hit the ground running with a pool of pre-vetted entrepreneurs who will be considered for one of the 25 $10,000 grants. This meaningful amount of money might cover a couple of months' rent or payroll, and can really make a difference for a small business.
Since we launched our Universal Grant Application, almost fifty thousand applicants from all over the world have applied, in business sectors ranging from tech B2B to healthcare to arts & entertainment. It’s not surprising we had such a large, organic response given what is going on in the world.
We thought we would share some early, aggregated learnings here, to not only paint a picture of just how great the need for capital is right now but how diverse the pool is for businesses to fund.
We are humbled to be able to do such critical work on behalf of women-owned businesses. If you’re a founder that needs funding to get started, or keep the lights on, make sure to head to our grants page and fill out our Universal Grant Application. If you’re an individual or institution interested in giving a grant, bless you. Head to IFundWomen and sign up to give a grant.