Crowdfunding is in Favor of Women Entrepreneurs

Startups are rising and funding options for most entrepreneurs are growing. It is no longer just a banker who can approve a business loan with a high interest rate to decide the fate of a person with a brilliant idea.

There are plenty of funding options for startups.

There is a plethora of options for funding a new venture, and they need to be considered carefully. The new business owners can think of credit cards as an option, and based on statistics more than 65 percent of adventurous people are using them frequently (Murray, 2014). We also can’t deny the potential attractive benefit of asking friends and family who can lend a thousand or two to repay later without interest. There are venture capitalists and angel investors who tend to fund entrepreneurs who stick closer to the larger metropolitan markets, where the latest and greatest talent of their choice tries to launch businesses (Rowley, 2017). They would be willing to invest a small portion of their enormous wealth in exchange for equity and maybe a portion of decision-making power. The newcomers have access to crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, or Rocket Hub, that allow financing by an individual, business or another entity to invest money so an entrepreneur can raise funds in return for equity or an offer to take advantage of being the first tester of a popular video game (Abate, 2018).

Whatever the chosen approach might be, anyone who is thinking of starting a new business or investing in one needs to do their research carefully in order to determine what option is right for them. One misstep can lead an ambitious person to give up on the idea of perhaps curing a deadly illness or stopping global warming. Even after careful consideration, not every gender has the same chances to be funded. If you are a new entrepreneur, an investor, a banker, or a government policy decision maker, you want to tune in and pay close attention to discover the meaning behind the cacophony of many pained and frustrated voices of women entrepreneurs.

Why is it important now more than ever?

Despite having access to all the available options, women-owned startups in the U.S. are more successful with getting funds through crowdfunding versus business loans through banks, because of gender bias and lack of education.

In recent years, more women are starting businesses. That is truly great news that can become a norm in our democratic society! There were 11.6 million women-owned companies in the U.S. in 2017, which is 3 percent higher than in 2016 (Arora, 2018). Women have every right to choose any and all funding options, and they seem to try. But, what exactly do they favor based on their experience or, better yet, what favors them in getting funding? Women-owned businesses in the U.S. turn to crowdfunding but not at the same rate as male-owned businesses (Abate, 2018). According to Abate’s report titled "One Year of Equity Crowdfunding: Initial Market Developments and Trends", it is known that although crowdfunding firms raised over $30 million dollars, close to 83 percent of crowdfunding businesses had a male who was an Executive signer and only 17 percent were females. To make matters more complicated, lending through banks has a large disparity between male and female-owned businesses, which is $57,097, down from more than $99,000 in 2016 (Arora, 2018).

So, why are women-owned startups in the U.S. are more successful with getting funds through crowdfunding versus business loans through banks?

Women-owned companies are starting their own revolution and challenging the norms. They have struggled to get funding from banks, and they are looking to enhance their chances in getting capital on crowdfunding platforms. According to Pesce (2018), Kelley School of Business analyzed 416 projects and determined that women were more successful than men in getting funding from Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. Women are receiving the most funding launching capital raising campaigns, according to the university’s research (Pesce, 2018). A few women-owned projects were the fastest funded through Indiegogo and Kickstarter as well. Kelley School of Business discovered that, although the previous findings suggested that the reason why banks loaned mainly to men was based on the perception of competency, in crowdfunding women were seen as more trustworthy.

The discoveries on trustworthiness as a factor for crowdfunding success for women outlined by Kelly School of business are backed up by a scientific research conducted by Johnson, Stevenson, & Letwin (2018). Additionally, they indicated that various investor stereotypes and gender bias played part in making crowdfunding and banking loans decisions. What is interesting is that the researchers found no results for competence judgments in crowdfunding, and it is indeed trustworthiness judgments that foster a funders' support of women entrepreneurs.

We see the rise in women-owned startups turning to crowdfunding, and more women than men raise funds in donation and rewards, but women are still in the minority, representing 24 percent in business lending ecologies and 22 percent in equity crowdfunding (Langley & Leyshon, 2017).

What makes women turn to crowdfunding versus banks?

Maybe it is the fact that women-owned businesses only receive 4.4 percent of available dollars in conventional small business loans (Wood, 2018). Not only they are having difficulties in getting funding, but even when they receive a loan approval, women receive smaller amounts compared to men. The portion that is awarded to female entrepreneurs is 16% of the distributed conventional loans. A report issued by the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee confirms that even in 2018, the day and age when women continue putting up a fight to be compensated and treated equally, business owners are still struggling with having the same opportunities as males, when it comes to credit and business loans (Wood, 2018).

In order to look further about the experiences and the overall perceptions on how female business owners feel about crowdfunding vs. banking experiences, we’ve conducted two interviews with successful women entrepreneurs. During a conversation with Christina A., the owner of skin care products firm, she revealed that when starting her business, she only knew and considered a bank loan as a funding option but wished she was aware of crowdfunding first. Her experience with the bank loan application process sounded quite confusing and upsetting. She said, “It felt like they found every excuse possible to not give me money that I would be paying them back!”. When trying to probe her further in order to learn if she received any coaching from the bank to help with obtaining a loan, she stated that there was no offer for coaching. She felt frustrated and ended up getting some help from GoFundMe. She launched a successful campaign asking for donations with the promise of sending her products to the investors for free. Christina expressed that she hadn’t experienced any obstacles with raising initial funds using crowdfunding platform and raised several thousands of dollars to get her started.

Christina noted that she would try out an iFund for Women crowdfunding platform to grow her business further. Overall, she felt like crowdfunding worked best for her, and she wouldn’t consider going with the bank loans again in the future while continuing to expand her firm. She pointed out, I also think having a program for women would lend me some support.” Christina added that the crowdfunding platform offered a coaching service. She also felt that banks and government could do a better job to make the process of getting funds less complicated. Finally, it was intriguing to learn that her entrepreneurial husband got his business loan from a bank without any complications.

It appeared that in this woman’s experience, banks made the process complicated and confusing. Education for women business owners could be improved or the application process simplified. To look into the dynamics of crowdfunding versus bank loans further, another interview was conducted with Annmarie G. She is a serial entrepreneur and a financial specialist.

In the conversation with Annmarie, she brought to light an important point that was best described by her saying, The key for me was to prepare my business plan, and it had to be solid.” Annmarie shared her experience with loaning money from banks and her plans about raising funds using a Kickstarter and other platforms for the new film project. When she started her first business, she used a credit card and some personal savings, but later she took out small loans from banks, as she wasn’t aware then about the existence of crowdfunding or other options. Annmarie received several rejections from the banks during initial stages of looking to raise money. She shared that some of her clients raised funds using Kickstarter. In the case of a male owner, he wasn’t successful with crowdfunding but got a bank loan with Annmarie’s help and advice. Her female client raised a few thousand dollars to start her business using a crowdfunding platform called Women You Should Fund.

When asked about the obstacles in the application process that Annmarie’s female client experienced to get the bank loans, she stated, “Frankly, I don’t think she was fully prepared to show the banks how she can pay them back.” Annmarie felt that the reason she didn’t have issues with the banks, after initial failed attempts, was because she sought education from a friend and built a plan before asking for money. Interestingly enough, she didn’t get too much education from the bank itself. When asked about her thoughts on accessibility and ease of getting funding from crowdfunding sources compared to bank loans, Annmarie suggested that banks could do a better job at providing financial education to new business owners. Based on her client’s experience, she thinks it is possible to launch a crowdfunding campaign or get a bank loan when an idea is communicated clearly to investors. She encourages entrepreneurs to take advantage of the available resources and prepare, regardless of whether they choose using crowdfunding or banks.

Unequal Opportunities in Funding Women-Owned Businesses.