My fundraising experience so far as a black female first-time founder
It can be challenging for first timers to ask people they know for larger sums of money to invest in their company if they did not grow up surrounded by family and friends that could write checks for $25,000 or more. That’s where I’m from. I was raised in Virginia by a very strong single mom who had her share of personal battles. She taught me a lot of things before she left the earth and one is work ethic. She never called out of work and she never quit. Growing up, my network was limited to people close to us and they were not well off by any means. No one went to college. No one bought property. No one started businesses. And no, selling Avon doesn’t count, to me. I was the first to go to college and during my first two years of school, I was on food stamps. The struggle was real. December 2003, I ended up in NYC living in Brooklyn working for a non-profit that housed us in a rodent-infested railroad apartment. I got out and rented a room from a woman that rented to taxi drivers with no lock on my door. I’m lucky to have made it out of that situation without a “me too” story. I met a recruiter for an entry-level job working as an admin on Wall Street and she told me to pull back my long hair and wear pearls. I did. I got the job. Made money but hated the work. In fact, I’d love to teach admins how to be good at a job they hate one day because I have some tips and stories, but I digress. Fast forward. I left Wall Street. I’m currently a landlord and founder of a real estate tech startup that I bootstrapped for 2 years. When my co-founder and I discussed fundraising goals for our “Friends and Family” round, in my heart it felt laughable, but not impossible. I had no idea whom I would reach out to for this so-called “Friends and Family” round. How laughable. Calling it “Friends and Family” was a queue from the past reminding me of the scarcity I left behind. I felt isolated, motivated, disadvantaged, advantaged, happy, fearful and ready to take on the responsibility all at once. It was an uncomfortable place at first, to say the least, and that’s how I knew I needed to do it. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is key to growth.
Over the years, I have been privileged to expand my life with rewarding experiences and grow a rich network outside of my family. I consider myself to be good at building and maintaining meaningful relationships. For that reason, I’m calling this round of fundraising my “Framiliar round” because it has allowed me to reach people that I’ve had the privilege of meeting, working with and building relationships. Most of these “frams” were mentors during some point in my career. Others are folks I kept in touch with during this process. Wanna know how I actually got started with this process? Well, I created a list, then drafted an email tailored to each one and hit send.
Here are some takeaways from what I’ve experienced so far:
- Get out of your own way. Leave no stones unturned when it comes to considering your options. If you stay open and willing to do whatever it takes, the creativity and resourcefulness you need to build your path will eventually come.
- Get help but don’t get stuck. Ask for help with things you don’t know how to do. There have been times where I’ve asked for help and when I didn’t hear back within a reasonable amount of time, I moved forward on decisions relying on my best judgment. Learning opportunities gained from those choices made me grateful for trusting myself even when it led down unexpected paths. Here’s the takeaway: Confidence in my own perspective grows exponentially when I can learn from my own decisions.
- Get the money. Since we are talking about fundraising, if you’re a first-time founder and you’ve been bootstrapping like me and you want to scale and grow faster, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need. Some people want to help and only need to be told what you need. Inform them. Remember: Regardless of where you started, you are HERE. So, craft your ask and continue to grow.
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