Most (women and men) believe that given the right kind of funding, there are great ideas and great opportunities that can create great businesses. Innovation can and does drive economic growth in more ways than one. Funding is crucial to most businesses – these are often the kind of businesses that are started by those without access to any form of capital. They lack the kind of credentials banks look for – but they have a great idea that can make great business sense.
Enter crowdfunding. Overnight, via a virtual platform, would-be entrepreneurs with good ideas that make business sense, can seek and obtain funding from angels located all over the world. Granted, there are the occasions when crowdfunding is extensively sourced and obtained for social projects and those in the performing arts, charity and other non-business categories. But increasingly, more and more business start ups are obtaining the kind of start up capital that might otherwise not be available to them, thanks to crowdfunding.
Technology today has the ability to source, streamline, centralize and make available a transparent process that can make sense for both parties. Crowdfunding levels the playing field like never before, which is great news for women hoping to enter entrepreneurship but are not able to tap into any of the standard funding to raise capital. It must be stated however that crowdfunding does not support fancy projects, also-ran ones and those some women choose to engage in because ‘everyone is doing it’, like cupcake and baking craze that swept Colombo a few years ago. Everyone started doing it but how many in the end survived? These are serious business ideas with tremendous potential and must be undertake by those with financial prudence and insights.
According to figures found on Crowdnetic, which maintains an equity funding database on crowdfunding, only 18 percent of the companies raising equity through crowdfunding are women-led companies. Women-owned companies only make it to 16 percent on the same score. Women led companies share the same success rate of 23 percent, the same as other companies. Apparently, statistics are higher for women-led companies who obtain funding via crowdfunding platforms as opposed to others, in achieving high success levels.
Some of the women who obtained capital for their ventures via crowdfunding have gone on to build successful businesses. From Wendy Strgar who launched Good Clean Love, which markets all-natural, organic intimacy products, to Cynthia Schames whose company AbbeyPost developed an algorithm that with a few measurements, can provide well-cut clothing for plus size women, women led companies and innovating and breaking the barriers on standard funding processes worldwide.
Innovation doesn’t happen overnight – most women who come forward to launch workable business ideas have experienced the lack of such a service. Their business ideas are based on real-life examples, not on the assumptions made by a group of corporate executives dressed in expensive suits and seated in a highly coveted corner office.
The women who have entered into businesses based on everyday needs bring the kind of insights and information that big-time research agencies can only dream about. Their solutions are tailor made to suit the kind of needs that women everywhere, experience in one way or another.
Take the case of Laura Wagner who launched Digitzs, which disrupts the virtual payment processing industry with a service that meets the needs of freelancers and professionals such as accountants and lawyers. Or Sheri Atwood, a divorced mother who developed SupportPay, which automates and co-ordinates child support payments that make life easier for divorced mothers and fathers.
Connecting crowdfunding to Sri Lanka, it has also presented Sri Lankan entrepreneurs with considerable opportunities. It may also transform – it should – the funding landscape when it comes to supporting women-owned businesses. Not just because it is the fashionable thing to do, like some seem to think. But because when a divorced or a single mother without any access to bankable credit has a great idea that can make a great business and can match the figures with the financials, she must be able to give wings to her project.
There are many such women among us – it is our responsibility to become angels to these courageous women. Either in sharing our expertise or our know-how with them – if it falls short of giving her access to funding in one way or another. It is no longer a financial issue – it is a social issue. The more women there are owning companies and doing business, the more families are fed and children kept in school. Give a mother a fishing rod and she will fish. Chances are that she will not blow it on a new car, alcohol, gambling or any other pursuits than what it is meant for.
Technology has brought the much-needed access to capital within the reach of everyday women. Our hope is that the journey that has now become exciting for the talented women entrepreneurs of today will continue to build a much-needed platform for others.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at email@example.com)