For this profile, I connected with Jan Mercer Dahms, who works in business development at Plum Alley, a crowdfunding platform for women entrepreneurs. Crowdfunding is becoming increasingly popular among start-ups and nonprofits and I was curious to learn more about this platform that helps women fundraise.
What was your background before working with Plum Alley?
Prior to Plum Alley, I spent 20-plus years in senior level positions spanning operational and fiscal restructuring, strategic planning, business development, and brand experience management. I’ve served in in-house roles for companies as diverse as Teach For America, Estee Lauder, and Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation—and most recently, was the CFO for International Planned Parenthood. Additionally, through my branding and client relations consultancy practice, I’ve worked with B2B and B2C markets in financial services, airlines, apparel, and biotech. Two years ago, I launched 6-Figures, a networking initiative for highly accomplished women. My eclectic experience is the perfect blend for Plum Alley—I love working with female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses.
What was the impetus behind starting this crowdfunding site? What need did it come from?
Deborah Jackson, a 21-year Wall Street veteran, founded Plum Alley in 2012 as a platform for highlighting the innovations and contributions women were making in tech and also as entrepreneurs. Having co-founded Women Innovate Mobile Accelerator for women building new mobile technologies, Deborah quickly experienced how women are disadvantaged when it comes to raising money—no matter if it’s crowdfunding capital, angel, or VC funding.
Plum Alley is where women raise money to fuel innovation, spur job growth, and position their companies for growth. Simply stated, Plum Alley exists for two reasons: to get more money to women’s ventures and to increase the number of women and men who provide dollars to fund them.
We believe that this isn’t just a thing that is “nice to have.” We are convinced that this is the way that our economy will prosper.
What kind of response have you received from the crowdfund community? What is unique about Plum Alley’s aesthetic and the site’s capabilities?
The response has been overwhelming. We’ve been featured and recognized by the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, TechCrunch, The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Forbes, Inc, Mashable, crowdfunding.biz, and many others.
Plum Alley is distinguished from other companies for several reasons:
- We champion women who are building and using technology.
- We invest in women with our dollars and our expertise—our high touch, personalized crowdfunding services far surpass what our competition offers.
- We offer successful crowdfunding campaigns a e-commerce platform to increase their customer base once their campaign ends.
- We focus on the women’s market because we are women who represent many disciplines that we know are relevant for women’s success as entrepreneurs and creators.
- Simply stated, we are a company by women, for women.
Is there a certain personality type that will run a more successful fundraising campaign?
Plum Alley supports many types of entrepreneurial ventures and business models. What really matters is that the entrepreneur wants a crowdfunding campaign to just be the start of something much larger – whether she’s planning to quickly scale her business, raise Angel or VC monies, or to use crowdfunding as a part of her marketing strategy. She already has the network of supporters, clients, customers, or fans to tap into. About 80-90% of the contributions to a crowdfunding campaign will come from one’s own network—and that’s true on any crowdfunding platform. Having solid marketing and sales strategies in place prior to the launch of a crowdfunding campaign is key to its success.
Hopping off of that question: What is the most important skill that an entrepreneur (regardless of gender) must have to run a successful crowdfund?
The confidence and determination that the campaign will succeed. The assertiveness to not be afraid to pick up the phone and ask—and re-ask—your network for contributions.
What are some problems that women entrepreneurs face?
Sometimes we women feel like we have to be perfect, that we have to do it all on our own, and that money is a bad word. Sometimes women just don’t know how to ask for money—and this is true even beyond a crowdfunding campaign. A crowdfunding campaign teaches you that you can’t do it all by yourself—that you need “fans” to advocate on your behalf. We even recommend that a campaign creator create a “fundraising committee” to help with drawing people to her campaign site—to generate and excitement buzz for the campaign, etc. We work with female entrepreneurs to help them understand the “selling” process and how they can ask for money without feeling like they’re asking for money. We really demystify the crowdfunding process for women—that’s where we add so much added value.
What have your users said about their experience on the site?
We’ve outlined 6 stages to launching a crowdfunding campaign, which serves as a comprehensive roadmap for everything one needs to know to launch a crowdfunding campaign. Our users have been tremendously appreciative for the added value we provide in terms of guidebooks, checklists, and live people to talk to if they get stuck on something. Yes—we actually pick up the phone. We love to talk to our campaign creators—we’re always in awe of what women entrepreneurs are creating!
Do you have any examples of successful or particularly interesting crowdfunds?
We have many favorite, successful campaigns. Kathryn Moos, founder of Vrou multivitamin water raised money on Plum Alley to test market new flavors—and is now selling in Whole Foods across the country. We’ve also had very successful film campaigns, apparel, tech apps, beauty—even a reality TV show!
Interested in starting your own crowdfunding campaign? Find out more about Plum Alley on their website and tune back in next time for my profile with some musical entrepreneurs: Mortals, a Brooklyn-based metal band.
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