Insights from a Startup Coach at iFundWomen w/ Virginia Almendarez

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Plotting a path for growth and success can be especially tough for women-owned startups.

They have to deal not only with the usual hurdles of starting a business but also with challenges unique to women entrepreneurs.

Virginia Almendarez, a startup coach and Senior Entrepreneur Success Manager at IFundWomen, stops by in this episode to discuss how women entrepreneurs can build the confidence and support necessary to overcome these challenges.

Some topics we discuss:

  • The unique challenges women entrepreneurs face
  • Ways to approach fundraising
  • How to hone your pitch to potential investors
  • The startup landscape in 2021

Check out these resources mentioned during the podcast:

This discussion with Virginia Almendarez was taken from our show Startup Success. If you want to hear more episodes like this one, check us out on Apple Podcasts.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, you can find every episode here.

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Welcome to start up success, thepodcast for startup founders and investors here you'll find stories ofsuccess from others in the trenches as they work to scale some of the fastestgrowing startups in the world stories that will help you in your own journeystart up. Success starts now welcome to start up success. I'm really excitedabout the guest who is joining me today. Virginia almanderaz is a Startup Coachand senior entrepreneur success manager with IFUND women. They provide start upfunding for women, entrepreneurs and Virginia welcomed to the Shell. I waschecking out your website last night and I have to say I was extremelyimpressed with your organization, and I thought we could start if you couldgive an overview yeah absolutely well. Thank you for having me. I'm reallyexcited to talk to the community about startups everything startup. So forsome background, I fund women is the go to funding marketplace for women, ownbusinesses and the people who want to support them with access to capital,coaching and connections. So we like to kind of couch it in those three topics.I like that, that you break it down to those three, because those threecapital coaching and the third was connections. Correct MM, so importantfor entrepreneurs and especially important for women. Tell me so I lovethat part of your title is startup coach. Can you tell me a little bitabout what that means? Yeah absolutely so I really guide our members and an womenentrepreneurs towards the results that they're looking to achieve in theirbusiness right. So givein my background and expertise. Ihelp them navigate the business challenges when it comes to theirbusiness, pitches, everything and anything actually around the nonprofitsector, because that's where I actually...

...came from raising money through crowdfunding and the ever important goal setting process. So one of the greatestparts of my job is the ability to support women entrepreneurs and makingsure that they don't feel like they're alone, okay and I'm guessing that'skind of a theme that comes up sometime because there's not a lot of supportnetwork out there right, yeah, yeah and I think with many women entrepreneurs,their solo, preneurs, right or all startup founders start off that processas solopreneurs, so yeah right and that's one of the things I wanted todelve into what are the particular challenges for women and do they kindof go around those three topics that you brought up? The capital andconnections I mean: is that what you're finding or what are they yeah? Soreally we have found the majority of our women. Entrepreneurs found capitalas being the largest right, the largest challenge, the largest hurdle to beingan entrepreneur. The two other kind of components is having a mentor right sohaving somebody that they can turn to. That has done this before and thenreally community, so other people that are in this with you that are canunderstand this process that can empathize with you and again just notfeeling alone. So really those kind of three areas we found are the biggestchallenges for women entrepreneurs. That's so interesting! You say that,because I've been spending time on club House lately that new social mediaaptyou've heard of it and I've been I popping in and out of the startup rooms-and everyone keeps going back to that for entrepreneurs that it's, you need amentor, and you need kind of like that founder circle, that community and yourchances of success are so much higher. If you have that and so many of what'salready out, there is around kind of...

...like men and the groups that theybelong to and kind of partnerships that have already made that have been aroundfor a while. So it's just to hear you echo kind of the same sentiment thatI'm hearing from these founders- I was just listening to this last night- isso interesting. So what are kind of do? You have a story: You can sharerecently of kind of an entrepreneur who was facing these kind of challenges andhow you helped her reach success. Yeah absolutely so. Obviously we saw a manychallenges last year with covid right and many of our especially people ofcolor women, of color really being hit hard by Covid. So we had oneentrepreneur that came to us collective Oakland, so they were looking to growfrom an ECOMMERCE book store to an actually Brickin mortar out in Oakland.They really promoted black authors as well. They came to US wanting to raisethirty five sand dollars for this brick and mortar. She was Super MichelleWalton love her she's one of Mour, coaching members. She was reallynervous at the start of the process and she just really didn't feel like. Can Ireally do this? You know: Can I really fun raise this money? This is a lot ofmoney and really like. We helped her get her crowd, funding, campaign up andsuccess story. She achieved her thirty five housand dollar goal and she wasone of our grant recipients with American Express and it was great tosee her push through, like even in those moments where She'as, like Idon't know, hiy could do this right. It was like regrouping restrategizinghelping her and cheering her on together to reach her goal, so we werereally excited about them. Oh I like that story, that's a good example andinteresting that she was going kind of for the brick and mortar bbecause. Ilike that. It's like investing back in...

...the community as well and that she wasable to reach those goals and during a tough year so women of Color, I'massuming you guys, are doing a lot in that arena as well, because that issomething we saw come out of the last year. Is You know the challenge? Is there? Canyou talk a little bit about that yeah? Absolutely, so I think to put it incontext right, so women's startups receive about right in two thousand andnineteen. They received two point: eight percent of the venture capitalPie and two thousand and twenty. It went down to two point: Three Right: apoultry two, hun three black and latinx founders receive less than one percentof the bedow. Okay. So right that says it all right there. We should justpause there for a moment and think about that. Okay right, you know, and Ifund women we actually, we are not only trying to close the funding gap, but wereally saw this as a huge problem right, so we launched Iphun women of coloractually on stage at the New York City, women's March, on January, twentieth oftwo thousand and twenty. So it really came at a perfect time, mant to reallyife on women of color as a platform dedicated to advancing blackandigionous people of caller women entrepreneurs through access to capital,coaching and connections specifically for diverse founders that want tolaunch and grow their business right. And so we were really excited to launch this program with one of ourfounding partners. Carress to help our diverse entrepreneurs bring theirdreams into reality through raising capital and providing grants andcoaching that is so great, and I love that you launched that just the yearbefore, because it was so timely and...

...you didn't even know what was ahead sonow we're headed into March. Here we are again so do you have somethingplanned for this March yeah? Actually, we are launching thedreams to reality, virtual summit with our founding partner Caruss and I fundwomen of Color. So actually, on March eighteen, we are going to have a fullday of programming for startups on all different types of topics to helpbusinesses continue to grow and launch and scaler business. Oh Neat, and so this is virtual. It isa virtual summit, so okay can join wherever you are, so is it open toanyone? Is there so they can go to your website and get Imfo or what absolutelythey can go directly to. I Fund women, forwards, Iphon Womencom forardsworkshops and find some additional information on it. T I like how you'vegone the virtual route as well, because, even though we can't get together rightnow in person for large events, there's still questions out there supportneeded, I'm feeling like- and this is what I've been hearing. Entrepreneurscan feel even more alone right now, because there's less of thesenetworking events and opportunity for founder circles and meeting withmentors. So I like that you're offering this virtual event that sounds yeah,teck, absolutely and honestly, when covid hit, we opened up all of ourworkshops for free and all of our live workshops continue to be free. So it'sat I fund womencom forward workshops, and we have a plethora of events thatwe do every single month, everything not only about crowd funding funraisingI do making the ask. That's always like Oh yeah. I do that's always like a bal...

...anxiety, provoking topic. So that'ssuch a huge piece of it anything you can share about that part of it thatyou work on making the ask yeah, I mean really it's the underlining beliefsthat make it so hard right. I think, as women in general, we want everything tobe perfect and we want to make sure before we go out and we don't want thisfeeling of disappointment either right, as opposed to maybe our malecounterparts that are like hey, let's go whatever it, we make a mistake:Let's go, let's do it, so I really try to help coach my entrepreneurs toreally understand, like one don't make the choice for your potential funderright, so don't go in there saying like well, they don't want to give to me.They don't have x amount of money, don't make the choice for them, askthem and allow them to decide for themselves. So that's one of the bigthings that I tell them and secondly, as an entrepreneur, you need to askthroughout your journey, so the more practice you get with asking forsupport. Sharing a campaign funding your campaign, the faster you willscale your business right and move forward. It's part of the journey. Wecan't now everything by our yes right right. That's really good advice,especially the second part really resonated with me, because it's got to be part of your process.You've got to become comfortable with that. So that's good. I like that. Doyou find that that's a lot of times where the women you're working withstruggle like just getting over that hurdle? Absolutely absolutely. I think thereare so many different nuances that come...

...with it right. It can also be culturalthere's this stigma of like I don't want to hand out. I don't want charityso, and it's really about changing that mindset of the reason why you're creating thisbusiness is because you are creating a solution to a problem like you want tobe the next wi somebody's slice of white bread. Right like you, want to beable to say, like Iam, going to make your life easier through my product. Sowhen an doubt focus out, it's really not about you, it's about what you'rebringing to the market and how you're making someone's life better. I want topoint that out because what you said really resonated with me, because I'veheard this before and entrepreneurs always tell me later, that it wasreally helpful for them to hear that you're creating a solution to a problem.It's not like it's not personal, it's a solution to a problem that you'representing and, I think that's their dream and when they frame it that way,then the ask becomes less personal and I don't know if easieris the right word,but maybe more manageable in terms of a hurdle. I like that. You pointed thatout, because I've heard that a couple times- and I know that Resonaes withpeople. That being said, I had another question that popped up. How is the askchanged with covid because you can't meet in person anymore? So what? How isthat? Looking for the entrepreneurs that you're working with yeah so entrepre I mean funraising isstill funraising. We tell our entrepreneurs continue to connect likeright now, obviously we're not meeting in person, but we are still havingphone calls. We are still texting people. We are still dming people, somany different ways to stay connected. So if you are having conversations with peoplethrough text like ask them through text...

...really, funraising is about one on oneoutreach, I think one of the hardest things that entrepreneurs also need tokind of get over. Is it's not just about putting out your campaign andsharing it on social and hope that the magical money alves come and give toyour campaign? Fundraising really is about relationship, so you want to beable to connect with them pick up the phone go to your friends and family andshare what you're doing anytime and any chance that you get so they're still.You know just because we're not meeting one on one many times that fundraisingdoes happen over the phone over text over email, but it is one on one, okay,okay, that makes sense. I like how you said to ask them, be a text if that'show you're communicating or maybe it's a social media APP or that's, I thinkthatis good advice, yeah. I think the other thing too right is like we're allon webonars right now and Throv in your campaign, or if you are looking forsomebody to be on your team or need a specific expertise. That's our new kindof networking place so introduce yourself introduce your business. Havethem follow you on social. We constantly hear how do I feel mynetwork Owdo? I don't have a huge network, but yet we're on hours andhours on so meetings. Virtual meetings put it in there. That's the new kind ofnetwork and yeah is that kind of wone of your go topieces of advice for women who ask you how t y to build their network becauseI'm sure you get that question a lot absolutely and right and now, with therise of club house, that's also another opportunity. You get A it's almosteasier right because when we're at events- and some of us are introvertsand Shire, so they don't want to go up...

...to somebody right now you can like typein and here's the link- and you don't see my face- only hear my voice right.So it's very important to really have your communication, susinctand concites. Now Right. I like that, and so do you help them with that storythat they have how they explain their business and what they want to do,because I think you just hit on something really important there. Youhave to be to think and you have it really well organized if you're puttingit out on a Webnr or club house or social media right. Absolutelyabsolutely so that's actually one of my expertise. That's one of the coachingtopics that we coach on is pitchhoding right, so going back to our frameworkis what's the problem. How are you solving that WHO's, your targetaudience, and we take that and we consolidated into two sentences, so youknow how to talk about Your Business, an to sentences so that it's like yourtarget audience will say. Okay, tell me more, I want to know more, so we haveincluding myself a couple of coaches that help our entreprenrs do that. Ilove that as a marketing person, two sentences, Twu sentences, I wish yeah. I think that is brilliant. I wish somany people could do that because I do think so. Many people are long. Winded,they're passionate about what they're doing which I get, but they go on andon and I'm sitting there thinking. Okay, get to the point. You've lost me thedetail, I'm impressed with what you've done, but now you're winding me down apath and that's the flipside of I being on these new channels. You can't theresthere just isn't time or patience for that yeah. Absolutely that's one of thethings that we tell are entrepreneurs like you, don't want to lose yourlistener. You are talking to your...

...listener. We love to talk aboutourselves, but you also want to be cognizant of how who's listening to youand the time you have to say what you have to say, and I bet that's a fun exercise to getthem to that two sentences because they really have to drill down on what's thesolution and how their solution is unique. Right, absolutely absolutely Imean I have a lot of fun on those calls because we do go through reallypinpoint the problem right really pinpoint. What are your top threeproblems and then, as we figure out the solution, how are you addressing eachproblem? And so it's really interesting because as entrepreneur sometimes wewant to go directly into the solution, but we haven't really thought about.What's the bigger picture and and really through a process of likecollaboration and free writing, we really get to a place where it's likehow dod we just get there before they'll come in with a pitch just kindof saying, I'm business x here all my features. This is how we do it kind ofgoing on and on, but we really get to kind of take some of the phrases andthe adjectives and the verbs and we get to like put it all together, so that itis an engaging fifteen second elevator pitch. That is such great insight. Ithink everybody listening is ig down because I think you've just hiton something so important right now I just especially in this new world ofvirtual everything and, like you just said, start with defining the problem.I think that's really important. That's great! That's fantastic advice! So,okay! So, let's talk about the startup landscape, really quick, because I dowant to get your take on that, because you're on the front lines of it we'recoming. Hopefully out of this covid...

...were making progress. I feel like wreunning up swiing. Finally, so what are you seeing for two thosand and twentyone challenges? Opportunities were right in the midst of Q, one foreverybody listening. I think your insight would be valuable, yeah. Absolutely so clearly, we saw alarge influx of businesses right that were launched in t wo thousand andtwenty, and I think, what's really wonderful is that, even through aperiod of crisis, it brings on a period of innovation right. So we've seen alot of growth in wellness and fitness work from home right, tella health. SoI think if now in two thousand and twenty one, it's about keeping thebusiness going, it's about scaling. It's about launching, I think fundingwill always be an issue. I think crowd funding actually gained a lot ofvisibility and people used it a lot during the last crisis in two thousandand eight right, and so here we are again. I think people are discoveringthat there are innovative additional ways to raise money to scale theirbusinesses than just like this one equity funderrope. So I think whatwe're seeing is that they don't necessarily have to go that route. Theycan maintain ownership of their company. Their funding can be from a lot ofdifferent sources right. So that's like the funding piece, I think also whill,I'm saying yeah. I think what we're also seeing is building authenticconnections with your supporters and your potential customers to continue tohelp you to grow your business. I think that is something that we speak a little bitmore about that yeah. What do you mean by authentic connections? I haven'theard that term, but I think I'm going...

Ta like it yeah. I think right. So in two thosand and twenty we saw a lotabout buying local right about. How can we support people that are in our ownbackyard and with this demand for our financial resources and everyone makingsure that their own financial stability is set? I think the businesses thatreally show that they're pinpointing and honing in on your problems, butthen also caring about who you are in this world. How are theycontributing like it's not just about the product? It's not just about theservice, but really is like how in touch are you with everything at Thetelse? That's going around right and like how are you connecting with youraudience? So I think that's really what it is it's about, like these authenticconnections that theire founders are really talking from a place of caring,honestly right and like kind of like we're all in this together to try tomove everybody forward. Okay, I was right. I do like that term and it'sinteresting. You bring that up, because we just one of our CFOs just wrote apiece about that that now that we've kind of come through covid. That'swhere we're moving like more of the authentic real concern wanting to makereal impact with your audience, who you're targeting, I think that's greatand I and just to go back to the funding part we're seeing that as well.Just because there's different platforms now to that you can raisemoney than just the typical ways. Any examples you can share. I mean I don'twant you to give away secrets of maybe another entrepreneur or that you'reworking with right now or just kind of an example of something like that. Thatwould be great yeah I mean...

...so, and I fund women right. We providethe crowd funding platform. We've had tons of crowd funding campaigns where this istheir first stop. This is their first top on the funding journey, as Imentioned with Collective Oakland, they also received a grant right, and so we partner with the number of brandsthe way we do with coress the way we dod with American Express we'repartnering with Visa. So those are additional. Opportunities are able toget grant money from crowd funding on our platform right, they can beconsidered for it and then also entrepreneurs have then gone on toraise their seed round right. It is a journey, so sometimes we think that asa startup, I'm going straight out the gate I'm going to get that venturecapital right, but have you proof traction? Have you raised any money?Have you done like an angel round or friends and family or even crowd,funding right? So people investors want to see that traction, so we've had hada few businesses that have gone on to rais million dollar seed rout or havegone on to get angel investment after crowd funding because they see like hey.This is something that the market wants and you've proved that demand. So Ithink for for US crowd. Funding is not only about thefunding. It's also about building your base. It's about proving the demand foryour product. It's about testing it out right, and so I think we've had a lotof different businesses that have been able to move along the funding spectrumas a result of kind of crowd, funding being their first op. That's soexciting that you shared that I was hoping you would, because it kind ofjust validates that crowd funding is a good first step and it can just leaddown the road to that seed round. That...

...gets you to the next step. So I'm gladyou can share that you've seen that again continue to be so impressed withifund women. How do you work with like? How do you choose womento work with or how does that whole process work? Yeah? Absolutely so, Ithink, what's beautiful about Ifun women is that we provide a spectrum ofresources, everything from free to Pai Premium Services Right. So, okay, Ihave our freeworkshops. We have access to recorded sessions. We have ipunwomen of Color, so any women entrepreneur, Latin black women, Obusinesses can apply to be part of ifun women of color. It's a rollingapplication process. If you want one on one coaching with us, we also havemonthly coaching plans that you can buy into as well as an annual plan where,basically, you are getting one on one coaching for your business based onover fifty topics that we have to coach on sounds like a lot of differentoptions that you can kind of choose based on what you need, and solisteners can find. All of this at I fund womencom. I that correct, yes,okay and just we're coming up on our time anything else you want to promoteor talk about before we wrap up for listeners yeah. Absolutely so.Obviously you can find us on any of our socials right at Iphun women. So oninstagram on Facebook, on Linkedin on club house, our CEO Kar Kan is veryactive on there and we have a number of our team members on club House that aredoing that, but also today or on Tuesdays every Tuesday. We have a liveshow now, so we just R fun. Yes, it's called theIphon women show and it' streamed on social platforms, and it is Ur, CEO andcofounder. Karen Kan with an...

...entrepreneur going, live solving one oftheir helping to solve one of their business problems, so it is treame liveevery Tuesdays at one pm that is so cool. It's live and that that's aperfect example of somebody who's in the trenches doing it and then gettingadvice and talking about clubhouse. I keep hearing over and over againfounders, say those kind of events hearing the stories of other peoplethat are in the trenches going through it at the same time seems so valuable.What a great concept for a live? Shell, it's so great, we've already gotten alot of great feedback and, like you said it's it's about real situations,it's about real challenges and watching that process to right, like what isthat problem solving process and who else then to connect with somebody whois like building a phenomenal company right right there in it. I am reallyimpressed by ifun women. This has such a good conversation because you guysare really on the front lines of what's going on, and I think you shared a lotof great insight, real practical advice that listeners can take today and thenresources that sound so helpful. I definitely want to check out thatlivestream sholl. That sounds fantastic everything you mentioned, but I meanthat just seems so relevant and timely. This woal happen o life on VirginiaYeah. This is really really fun. Thank you so much for being here today. Thiswas a very fun and informative conversation. I really enjoyed it, I'm so glad. Obviously we do have a lotof fun with what we're doing. I think we are allall constantly inspired bybeing able to help entrepreneurs, or...

...especially early stage startups andreally, like I said, B, be your champion, be your cheer leader when youneed to as well as well as be your strategic thinking partner like that'swhat we do too. So it's really great working for the amazing team that wehave. We all come with really great different skills and so many differentsectors that it just really works, and it's really wonderful to see all of ourentrepreneurs continue to succeed. I like that. I like how you use strategicthinking partner too, because I think that's so important when you're goingthrough this process. You need like that third party- that's neutral, thatdoesn't know you from before different baggage, but just that strategicthinking partner. That has that insight. That's great! I definitely am going tobe circling back with you in the future. It was great to have you. Thank you. You've been listening to start upsuccess to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes subscribe to theshow in your favorite podcast player. Like would you hear cap the number ofstars you think the show deserves an apple podcast for more tools andresources for your own start up. SUCCESS CHECK OUT, Berklandassociatescom! Thank you so much for listening until next time.

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