176 Eileen Gittins: Lifting Teenage Girls to Entrepreneurial Success
Imagine a growing pipeline of young female entrepreneurs, all with the confidence and connections they need to start, grow and sustain businesses. This is the mission of Silicon Valley 4X entrepreneur Eileen Gittins, who talks about how to change the game for women in business, and boost the number who crack the $1m revenue mark and land venture funding.
Melinda Wittstock: Eileen, thank you for joining us on Wings of Inspired Business today.
Eileen Gittins: So happy to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I love what you're doing with Bossygrl. Tell me a little bit more about what inspired you to start the app and the company?
Eileen Gittins: Sure. Well, as your listeners may know, Bossygrl is like a mobile starter kit that enables women to become entrepreneurs by building an actual real e-commerce business via their phones. It's amazing. The idea behind it is that we have all seen the numbers of funding behind funding of female entrepreneurs and it's not pretty. As you know, the numbers are terrible and in fact, last year in 2016 in United States, VCs invested $58 billion in companies with 100% male founding teams. Yeah. Women, all female founding teams received 1.4 billion. Okay? In total, almost 6,000 male founded companies were funded versus 350 women founded teams. Those numbers are just terrible and what happened was I was speaking at a conference in New York and a bunch of young women were asking me questions as they do afterwards about this and that question came up, “Are my chances harmed if I have an all female founding team?”
I had to answer truthfully and the answer was yes, and what ended up happening as I went back to my hotel room and started to do the research and really, I knew it was bad. I think I realized how bad it was and that was the moment when I thought, “Okay. What can I do about it? How can I create a world in which there are more competent, confident, skilled, ready women hitting the job market?” This is it.
Melinda Wittstock: It is really aimed at the Gen Z, the really young women, like teenagers even who could go with this?
Eileen Gittins: Teenagers. Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you're 15 or actually we're seeing girls under 13. Now, in that case, their parents have to own the account. You download the app from the app store and you set up the account because we need information for where to send you your profits, so your mom will probably enter her debit card, so that we can send profits that you make when you make sales through your web store, right? Over 13 and up, you can have your own account and we're seeing … In this country anyway, it's shocking. The number of young girls who watched Shark Tank blew my mind. I spent the last year really talking to all kinds of women aged anywhere from nine to literally 82 is the oldest and the number of young women who not only watched Shark Tank, but when I asked them, “Well, what did you learn from that?” They were amazing.
They said things like, “Well, that guy was never going to get funded.” I'd ask why? They said, “Well, first of all, he had no sales and second of all, he was asking for way too much money and the valuation was crazy.” I'm like, “What?” They're like 15 and saying this. I was like, “Oh my God.” They're all very interested in Shark Tank. The second thing is behind that, I started doing some research about this generation and unlike Millenials and Gen X, these kids are more like baby boomers in the sense that they've grown up with parents around the dinner table who are worried. They grew up post 9/11, post recession where maybe one or both of their parents lost their jobs or they know people who did, so they are very conservative in the sense of they feel that they need to be their own boss, they need to own their own financial destiny. The research behind this is shocking around how many of them already have savings accounts and are saving for college or even retirement. I am not kidding you.
This whole notion of whether it's a side hustle like you have your main job and then, this is something you do on the side creatively and to make money, or whether you're thinking, “Okay. When I grow up, I want to have my own company and be my own boss.” This generation is remarkably attuned to that. For those reasons, I really wanted to focus on, “Get them young before somebody tells them that they can't be this.” What I've learned since then and we can talk about that some more if you like is that it's clearly not just for young people, but when you start out as an entrepreneur and I've been one for a long time. I've run three other VC-backed companies before this one, you have to focus and you have to decide who you are for and build a product for that audience.
Then later, once you're off to the races and you've learned a lot, if you choose to expand your market, great, but know who you are for from day one and we are for Gen Z. If any of you listeners out there have daughters or nieces or neighbor kids or whatever who are teenagers, really anywhere from 13 to 21, and even younger and older but have not yet hit the job market, this is really designed for them.
Melinda Wittstock: I love this though because having gone through this, anyone as a teenager and then coming into the job market is going to have so much more confidence. All the things that we talk about on this podcast about manifesting confidence, connections, capital.
Eileen Gittins: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Right?
Eileen Gittins: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: That older women honestly struggle with.
Eileen Gittins: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: I love your approach because it just eliminates that acculturation right from the get-go.
Eileen Gittins: I met yesterday with a 14-year-old girl. Actually, she will be 14 on January 7th. Okay? In her mind, she's 14. I met her yesterday because I know her mother and she is making her store and it's all for her girl [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:15:51"] school and it was very fun and interesting, and I said, “Okay. Kylie, what is in this for you besides making money? What do you think you're going to get out of this?” She said, “Oh, I'm going to have a resume.” I'm like, “You're going to have a resume?” “Yeah. Yeah. For when I apply to college for my college education; I need to write an essay and I want to be able to talk about my accomplishments with my company.” I'm like, “Oh well, there you go. Okay.” These kids, I'm not kidding, at 14, are thinking about those things.
Melinda Wittstock: It's interesting too when you look at some of the research on how our economy is changing. It's becoming much more of a gig economy, so there's a stat out that I forget where this came from, but something like 40% of the American workforce will be gig workers by 2020. That's only two years away, 40%. These are people going freelance like they freelance or just going gig to gig or having side hustles or whatever. By definition, it's going to be vital for all ages and stages to be entrepreneurial in their mindset. I think that might explain why entrepreneurialism is such a fixture now in popular culture.
Eileen Gittins: Yes. I think everything you just said, yes, yes, yes. We're seeing the Uber economy, the gated economy, whatever you want to call… I think years ago, it may have even started with Etsy if you remember Etsy. You know Etsy?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, of course.
Eileen Gittins: In fact, when we started the company or before we had product out, we were asked by a lot of people, “Aren't you just Etsy freedom people?” I'm like, “No. With Etsy, you have to hand make products. Then, when you sell one, oh my God, you have to make another one because they're not available in your store anymore.”
Melinda Wittstock: It's not necessarily scalable.
Eileen Gittins: No. Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: For the creators.
Eileen Gittins: Exactly. Not only that, if you're 14, then what? You're going to package it up and drive … Oh, by the way. You don't drive yet to the post office and ship it. Then, you're going to deal with customers. No. We're not Etsy, but my point about Etsy is that Etsy's marketplace is hugely female both on the buy side and on the sell side, so the creator's enormously female. I think that whole thing started not just from that well spring of creativity, which is totally, totally there, but also from this point of view of many of these women had left careers and maybe were full time parents at home and just were feeling like, “I need something of my own.” Right? In other cases, it was, “No. I need to supplement my income here. I've got a job that's a little iffy or may go away or doesn't earn me as much as I look like and I need to supplement my income.”
I think the Internet and e-commerce in general and the expansion of it, this become just breathing now, a utility, really fostered a world in which no longer was your audience limited to the people that you directly knew or the people in your neighborhood. Now all of a sudden, your audience is the world and it is now possible to reach all those people. What is it that you can bring to market that will appeal to some sub-segment of those people? That becomes very viable. I think technology impacted it. I think the economy impacted it. I think just the general pervasiveness of online, everything social impacted it, but here we are and I think gaining these kinds of skills early on in your life is critical actually for economic and creative happiness as you grow older.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. We started talking about the appalling numbers for how many female founding teams get funded. How do you think Bossygrl is going to change that ecosystem?
Eileen Gittins: Yeah. That's a great question because that's the point of Bossygrl. It's like, “How can we create a pipeline, a tsunami of young women actually who really are prepared to go out and raise their hands and confidently get funded?” I think several things, in the app itself, there is coaching. There are 13 at the moment short videos in the app that are educational. For instance, if you're 14, you've probably never really thought about how to price a product. Not really.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Eileen Gittins: Yeah. It talks in the video for instance about, “Well, who's your audience?” We don't use this term price elasticity, but it talks about price elasticity. How conscious are your customers? Who are they? Are they going to buy from you because you know them and they'll buy because they're supporting you, so they're priced elastic. They'll pay almost anything, or are they people who don't know you and are going to say, “Gosh. That's an expensive phone case. I don't know if I love it that much.” Right? We educate them. All along the way, they're getting the one-on-one on how to actually be an entrepreneur, not just learn about it, but learn by doing and learn by experience so that when they decide on their business model, it's that kind of thing where when you're young, you don't even know what you're learning.
You don't even understand the implications of what it is that you know, but somehow all of a sudden, when you're 23 and you're graduating and you're building out your business model, you're just tapping into all that knowledge that sub-consciously you were taking on board all those years when you were running your little e-commerce company and I think that will manifest itself in a much better business model, business plan and understanding an articulation of who are you for and how are you going to reach these people and why is your product differentiated?
Melinda Wittstock: Eileen, how does your model work? How do all the girls source the product, do all that stuff? Take us through that process. Then, how do you make money?
Eileen Gittins: Yeah. Sure. Just prior to this company, I founded and ran for a decade as the CEO of company called Blurb, B-L-U-R-B, which is a self-publishing platform, and I mentioned that because I learned a lot from building out a worldwide network for Blurb that would enable people to upload a book file, a file of a book that they had designed or written. Then, we built out a network of print partners around the world who would print those books one at a time, as there was an order. Then, ship it directly to that customer. As I was thinking about, “Okay. What can we do for young women?” This model became very obvious because young girls don't have money upfront to buy supplies or inventory to make things. Forget it. Secondly, didn't want them to have to deal with transactions and the money and taking credit cards. That's not going to happen. Thirdly, wanted a world in which the customer would purchase the product. Then, that product would get manufactured and shipped directly to their customers, so they didn't have to deal with the shipping and fulfillment. Then finally, the customer service.
From a model point of view, it's the same model. Now, the products are different. We're not in the book business, or a magazine business and because of our focus on young women, but also as I mentioned, swag stores for older women. I mean, it's become obvious. The kinds of products initially that we're launching with and I'll come back to later, but right now, it's phone cases. It's t-shirts. It's hoodies. It's bags. It's tote bags, it's hats, it's pillows, it's posters, it's that kind of stuff that you can make inside our app because a lot of young women … Some were very and will want to design their own thing or use their own photos, but many won't. We have created a whole library of artwork in the app itself to choose from, that's logo and art templates that gross can modify.
They can edit and modify and make their own and then, use that artwork in these products or as I said, you can use anything you can get on your camera roll. If you're adept at other tools, awesome. Go ahead and have a big time. Just get it on your camera rolling and you can just [crosstalk [spp-timestamp time="00:24:39"].
Melinda Wittstock: You can knock yourself out on say, Canva or something like that and provide like a template or whatever?
Eileen Gittins: Totally.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Eileen Gittins: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: That's awesome.
Eileen Gittins: In fact, my favorite one for your listeners because believe me, I have become a student of all of them. Adobe, Spark Post: It's free; it's amazing. Check it out. Really truly professionally looking graphics for free. Yes, there's an upgraded version if you want, but you don't have to upgrade to do the kinds of things that will look fantastic on your coffee mug that you'll make it Bossygrl.
Melinda Wittstock: Eileen, when you go back to when you were starting out as an entrepreneur, so this is like three companies now, three exits so far?
Eileen Gittins: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: You got a Blurb to like a $70 million?
Eileen Gittins: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: That was a 70-million exit or a 70-million …
Eileen Gittins: No, no, no. It's still an ongoing company. We brought in a CEO about a year and a half ago. I'm still the executive chairman of Blurb. I'm just not day-to-day running it. As I said, I got it to about 70 million and it's continued onward since then.
Melinda Wittstock: That's amazing. I want to go deeper into your journey, but before we go there though, think of all the … What women have at their disposal now, young women, and how easy it is to start a startup compared to 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago? It's breathtaking, isn't it? The change?
Eileen Gittins: Listen, I'll give you a great example of that. Even starting this company, so I started Blurb a little bit … Well, more than 10 years ago and at that time, to build what we built, we literally had to natively build everything. There weren't the tools out there available to enable worldwide e-commerce and currency exchange and oh my God, the whole thing. We literally had to build everything.
Melinda Wittstock: Everything from scratch. I remember building websites that cost $300,000 to do what like a WordPress template can for like 99 bucks now.
Eileen Gittins: Oh, absolutely. This has been a fascinating journey for me. I will tell you. After being inside a company with ton of big teams, 70 million bucks, a global business, we grew it to the point where, Blurb this is, where we did more business outside United States and I'm flying all over the world, that kind of environment to one now where I have two co-founders. There are three of us, and we have some freelancers. Speaking of the freelance economy, people mostly that we know that we've hired on contract to help us build this product and the result is personally, I am having to learn so much, become adept at using so many tools that I didn't even know about before that are all there and it blows my mind what is now available to people to start their business. It's really incredible.
Melinda Wittstock: It's funny. It reminds me. I go back to a couple of startups before on my journey, and creating an iPhone app way back like 2010 and it was for crowd sourced content around news called News It, and I remember doing an investor presentations where I'd say, “Well, all these people are going to contribute content.” I got it up to about 500,000 users and people would say, “What makes you think people are going to contribute content?” It's like, “Well, they are in their Facebook and it's not …” They're like, “Yeah. Well, that's great. But you're banking entirely on mobile.” I'd say, “Well, yeah. Mobile's huge. It's going to change our lives.” People say, “What makes you think so?” Then, they'd say … These are like brainiac investors clearly. They would say things, but it wasn't 2010. Right?
Eileen Gittins: Sure.
Melinda Wittstock: Then, they would say, “Well, even if you have all this content, how are you going to manage it? It's like so much. How are you going to host all of that? That's going to be way …” I'd say, “Well, there's this new thing called the cloud.” Then, they'd say, “What makes you think that's going to be big?” When I think of what I was building back then and how hard that was compared to just doing that now, it will be like a no brainer.
Eileen Gittins: Yeah. I remember well … This is really going to take us back now. My first startup was called Personify, in 1997. We bet the company that people would give their credit card online. That was our bet. Well, people even give their credit card information online onto a website was like, you can imagine the busy conversations we were having about that one.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. I know. It's really interesting. I wonder whether just with artificial intelligence and with all these things, robotics, 3D printing. So much change so fast. It's almost like Moore's law. We were going even faster than Moore's law.
Eileen Gittins: Yeah. I'll add one other thing to this conversation, which is just amazing to me. We are now building Bossygrl, our company as a distributed company. What started to happen in the last … Well, you said so yourself. The gated economy, right? People are now … Whether it's a side hustle or that's their deal, people are wanting to have more flexibility. It's not always because they need a side gig. They want flexibility in their lives. They want to focus on other things just besides having the career at GE for 30 years or whatever. What we're seeing are people, talent all over the world who you'd love to have participate in your company and in the olden days, you'd have to move them from God knows where, out to your comp … Physically move them at great cost and expense and disruption to them in their families, etc.
Now, what we're doing and we decided this from day one, we all wanted to live where we live and we live in different places. That meant from day one, we had to become adept at using tools that really foster team, team communication, efficiency, etc., so we are now on Slack, we're on Trello. We use Skype. All these tools to create an environment where it feels like that person you're talking to is sitting next to you and I would say the world is not 100% there yet, but I will tell you, it is 85% of the way there. That kinds of conversations that we have, we have a founder team meeting every week online on video on Slack where we share screens in real-time like, “Oh, no. Let me show you what I'm doing and let me show you how it looks.” We're all seeing it the same time. In many ways, it's more efficient meeting to work that way because we're not trying to look at a white board together or we're not trying to look at the screen up on the wall, we're all intimately focused on this.
Also, when you're online, the meetings tend to be shorter because they're more efficient. You're just, “Okay. Are we done? We're good? We're good? Okay. Goodbye.” Right? Then, you won't move on. It's really a very different workspace.
Melinda Wittstock: I think so too, and I think it's interesting taking the friction out of people's lives, the commute. So many different aspects of that, so I'm just going to pick up … Hold on a second. I just want to pick up there. I had a little interference at this end.
Eileen Gittins: Okay.
Melinda Wittstock: This is such an interesting way of working too because it takes the friction out of people's lives, having to commute for instance, and then I think of women who are managing young children, say, for instance. That flexibility is vital. It really goes a long way to solving this … I hate this term. Work life balance because to me, it's all of the same party. It's like an integration, in a way, into your life, but talk to me a little bit about that. How you see these changes in Bossygrl as these bossy girls move on and they ultimately get married and have kids, how do you see the work life of women changing in a way that's really going to enable them to go and build and scale great companies?
Eileen Gittins: Well, this is a fantastic time to be a young woman. I mean that from a business and a career and a livelihood point of view, it is the best time ever and in spite of the national conversation that's going on right now or maybe because of that, so here's what's converging. Right now because of the Internet, because of technology, what is happening is that women can now live where they live and work the hours that makes sense for them. That may be when the baby's taking a nap or when the kids are down to sleep, or that maybe you cordon off one day a week for your husband as a family duty and you're off to meetings or your partner. However so that works, we are now enabled by technology to be able to work from wherever and whenever and that is a particular God send to women who historically have been disadvantaged and somewhat chained to the daily lives and schedule of children and family responsibilities.
Then in the evening when they maybe had some time, wears the job you're going to have from [spp-timestamp time="8:30"] until [spp-timestamp time="10:30"] everyday unless you want to work at 7/11, none. Now, that's all possible and also now, because of text and smart phones, you can throughout the day, be on deck to respond to customers without having to leave the kitchen table. Right? You can do all of that. I look at the world of work as it's progressing as being the best of times for women because we are now old no matter family, older parent, whatever obligations you have, you can now fit work into your life instead of trying to fit your life into your work.
Melinda Wittstock: Well said. Eileen, a question for you: What were you like as a teenager? Were you entrepreneurial very early on in your life? Did you know that that's what you wanted to do?
Eileen Gittins: No. It's like that's part of my motivation here for Bossygrl. I remember being 15, 16 and thinking, “Okay. I'm going to go to college. I knew that, but then what?” I didn't know what was out there. In a real way, I knew about, “Okay. I could go to school and become a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher. I could get an advanced degree and do those things,” but besides those sort of professional jobs that are well understood as a kid, the world of business, I had no clue. It's like I guess people own stores, I don't know or I was always very creative. I was interested in advertising, but I, at that time, thought that, “Well, to go into an advertising agency, you have to be a really great designer. That everyone who worked in an ad agency knew how to draw and illustrate and do that.” Seriously. When you're 50, you just don't have any context for all the different jobs there are and different careers.
One of the things we're doing with Bossygrl, it's not just an app. The app is the vehicle. The store is the vehicle for learning. It's not the thing. The thing is the coaching and exposure to the world of what's possible. One of the things I'm doing and I invite your listeners, I'm serious. I'm email@example.com. I'm looking to build out a network of women who agree to, on a pro bono basis, host a one hour, 75-minute Facebook live event with me.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, wonderful.
Eileen Gittins: Where all bossy girls will be invited to tune in and we'll record them and have them on our website, www.bossygrl.com and where we're asked women to describe from their 14-year-old self onward what was their journey and what is it that they do now, how did they get there? If any of the bossy girls listening are also interested to become that, what advice would you give their teenage self for preparing themselves to become a NASA astronaut, a roofing contractor, a UX designer, what is that?
One of the eye opening things for me in this journey in talking to a lot of girls was I was doing user testing with small groups and there was one conversation I realized that they never really thought about how an app, the app that they were looking at was actually built and I've stopped and I said, “You do realize that every single thing you do in this app, whether you swipe left or right or whether there's a drop down menu or whether it's a button versus a click or a link, somebody not only designed that, the literal thing, but somebody conceptually before the app was there, had to imagine how it was that somebody would want to interact with the app.” Then somebody else had to write every single word in the app, every word because the real estate is so precious that you have to be very economical in your language, how every word and they all sat there and they said to me, “Well, how do you get those jobs?”
I said, “Well first of all, I just named about eight different jobs,” and I went through with them. “All right. Let's talk about visual design. Let's talk about UX design. Let's talk about what a product manager does. Let's talk about marketing communications. Let's talk about content creation.” I named eight jobs and they're like, “Oh my God.” They had no idea. I realized right then, “Oh, a huge part of Bossygrl is just exposing these young people to the widest range of jobs and careers that I can find people willing to talk about how they got there themselves.” That alone will hugely help, I think young women understand where they fit in the world so that when they do enter the workforce, their first job may not be that, but maybe they've got a path because they know, “Okay. Yeah. I may start in the retail world of make this of Sephora because that's where I can get the job, but my real goal, Sephora is I want to be one of the people who decides how we use AI to help young women model what the makeup will look up on their face.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right. They can be entrepreneurial within a job or entrepreneurial if they're going to go out on their own. Tying it back though to this whole fundraising thing, which is interesting especially around this year and all the headlines around [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:40:59"] and sexual harassment or worse, in Silicon Valley, we hear all kinds of things that women aren't getting meetings. That actually in exposing all of these…that there's been a bit of a backlash around all of that. Eileen, because you have successfully raised money from VCs three times now, what are your secrets? What do you think is the best way to navigate for in this current climate, and where are we going wrong? Where can do we better? What's your take on all of that?
Eileen Gittins: Yes. The idea for Bossygrl came and I'll be brief, after I did a speaking up in New York at a publishing conference and afterwards, this often happens. People come up and talk to you and there was this group of young women who asked me all the questions you just asked me and they wanted to know, “How did you do this? What do I need to know, etc.” I'll now share with you what I shared with them. The first thing is you've got to understand what your product does and be able to clearly articulate, product or service. Very clearly articulate it like the elevator pitch. Bossygrl is we're a starter kit that empowers young women to become entrepreneurs by creating and growing real e-commerce business via their phone. I can say that in my sleep.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Eileen Gittins: Okay. Okay. That's number one …get really crystal clear on that. Then number two behind that is then you need to understand the market size that you're going after. This is nuts and bolts, but it's amazing to me how many people don't really go there and I mean, deep go there like really do the market research behind who exactly is your primary target market and how big a market is that and is it growing? Because if you can't define a growing sizable market, you're not going to get very far and especially in the venture world! The venture world banks on having an exit as their outcome.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. You have to have a credible claim to be able to 10X whatever they've put in.
Eileen Gittins: That's right. When you're showing up [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:43:33"] without are they there yet? I'm presuming there's not much there. You need to be able to first define what you do, who you are for, how big that market is and is it growing? Then, the next level, sorry, is how are you different? What is your point of differentiation? Then, the final thing and then far away here, Melinda, is how are you going to reach those people economically?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. What's your go-to market, and all of those things: Here's an interesting thing: There are so many women out there that do check all of those boxes and do it incredibly well and already have traction, already have month on month growth, evidence of scale and even they have a hard time getting funding. What are they doing wrong?
Eileen Gittins: Yeah. It's improving. That world is improving, and I'm going to tell you my own story because we're bootstrapping right now.
Melinda Wittstock: Smart.
Eileen Gittins: I'm going to be eating my own dog food here any second, right? We're bootstrapping because we can to an extent, so we've built our product. It took a year and out of pocket between the three of us, we were able to each kick in a third, a third, a third to build a product. However, we are now also facing a world in which, “All right. We can do a lot of things ourselves, but three people and a dog doesn't enable you to scale the business.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right. You'll take money to scale rather than taking money to develop, and the VC world is really more about that. If you can, you really want to … What I would prefer. You don't lose your company this way.
Eileen Gittins: That's right. Even so, I think the first thing we're going to do is do a little crowdfunding and the reason for that, and there's a site your listeners might not know about, but they should. It's called iFundWomen.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, iFundWomen. Okay.
Eileen Gittins: iFundWomen was founded by Karen Cahn who was … I think she ran all of sales worldwide for YouTube, for Google for several years. She is a very credible person to do this and the way she founded iFundWomen was very similar. It's like she knew there was a community of women who would like to support other women and that this has changed now in the world where women acknowledged and no longer are we fearing as much that it's scarcity. Meaning, I'm in competition with other women because there's only going to be one executive female on the board and I want to be it.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that is changing. Bless you; that's changing. It needs to. Yeah.
Eileen Gittins: It's changing. Yes. The shine principle is now starting to happen and the idea behind shine is, “I shine brighter if I surround myself with women who are smarter and more competent and bigger than me.” Right?
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Because it used to be that I think there were some women and certainly the early pioneers that were really quite happy being the only woman in the room.
Eileen Gittins: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Certainly my early mentors were all men. It was very difficult to find a female mentor. Now, I think it's very different. There are more women who are willing to pull other women up and again, that's the whole reason why this podcast is called Wings because it's literally lifting each other up and like, “Oh man. I love what Karen is doing because really my whole mission is to also foster that ecosystem where women are writing checks for each other.” Some of the research though is so curious that a lot of really wealthy women have no problem writing a big check philanthropically, like to a non-profit or a cause but then are resistant to writing an investment check to a female entrepreneur and I scratch my head on that all the time especially given that women are solving so many, almost like philanthropic type problems as entrepreneurs.
Eileen Gittins: Well, this is right. Now, I'm going to give your listeners hopefully a little bit of hope because I'm in the midst of researching this right now for Bossygrl. One of the cool things, and by the way, I have no professional affiliation, but I'm pitching Karen's company, but that's because I really like what she's doing and I'm probably going to do a small crowdfunding for Bossygrl on iFundWomen. The thing that sold me about, because I know Kickstarter may not literally know the Kickstarter people when I was running Blurb, but I know other … Indiegogo, other crowdfunding platforms. The cool thing about iFundWomen is that Karen built a Slack channel, a community of women inside iFundWomen. These are women who've supported other women. There are women who have raised money, have done campaigns on their site or are looking to and they all communicate. This is a supportive network that will give you feedback and help you get the word out about your crowdfunding all for women supported by women.
Now, anyone can donate and what's different about crowdfunding, it's not investment to your earlier point, Melinda. This is, “No. For 50 bucks, sure, I'll get the notebook or the t-shirt as a thank you gift,” but really what I'm doing, I just want this thing in the world. Women are totally willing to do that. They'll see something and they think, “That's cool. I'm going to write them a small check.”
Melinda Wittstock: It's not an equity crowdfunding platform?
Eileen Gittins: No. No. This is purely like a Kickstarter. This is just pure crowdfunding. The result is most of the funds raised are in the 25,000 to I don't know, $50,000 range. Although, there are some larger ticket one's running right now. What that does for your listeners is it gets them two things. It gets them this ability within a population of people who will then feel committed to your success and who may be helpful to you in terms of their social reach. You can reach out to your supporters and say, “Hey, we're now launching. I really appreciate it if you post about us on your Facebook feed or your Twitter.”
Melinda Wittstock: Well, it's nice. It's evidence of market traction too. If you succeed on any of those crowdfunding platforms, it also helps you secure investment because people obviously want … They like what you're doing. It's a great way of getting market penetration in that sense.
Eileen Gittins: Yep. Yep. Absolutely. It's also a forcing function because successful crowdfunding campaigns have a short video that in two minutes, three minutes max, kind of tells the story of what you're doing, for whom, why and why this is worthy of your attention and dollars to help support me? That alone, that forcing function, oh my God, if you get that right … First of all, then you have the video for your website in all kinds of other places, but second of all, boy, you've really nailed it. You've had to nail that it's your forcing function. Behind the crowdfunding, then what you can do. There's $25,000 for Bossygrl.
Listen, it's very nice to have, but it's not going to be the money that we really need but behind that then, we can leverage that community of people that we've met and to your point, the market traction, get some customers, etc., and then move into the world of … Will probably raise a seed round. Now typically, there's a thing called Pre-Seed if you can believe it. The seed rounds started to get big and they look like A rounds, but a seed or a smaller round is a million bucks or less. Somewhere in that neighborhood, million, million, five or less will go out and raise money. In that case, it will be equity investment, but here's the deal.
By the time we do that, hopefully this is … We'll see for my own company, but hopefully we will have a product in market, actual traction, real revenues, understanding of what our customer acquisition costs are with which to build a credible model and support it with real data and take that out to the venture community and say, “No. This is not hypothetical. This is actual.” Now, we can argue about the rate of growth in the future, etc., but this is based on solid foundation of data and an understanding of how to scale our business because that's the hard thing. It's like you don't know where to put your money, but if you can make small bets early on and learn and then double down and see that, “Oh, yeah. That one, forget Facebook for us. That's no good, but Instagram, oh my God.” Right?
Melinda Wittstock: Data, data, data test, measure, build. Build, test, measure? Right? You constantly need to be validating as you go. As we wind up the interview, Eileen, we talk often on this podcast of the right mindset you need to success as an entrepreneur. Are there any … I know because some of us, we get in our own way just in terms of our own limiting beliefs or fears or things like that. In this younger ecosystem that you're aiming Bossygrl at, what are a few things that you would tell young women or their mothers who may be listening as well about what the right mindset is you really need to succeed at this?
Eileen Gittins: Well, I think that you have to … Number one is know that there will be days that are desperately awful and there will be days that are fantastically wonderful, and that's normal. The joke is, “How's your company doing, Eileen?” The answer is, “Ask me in 10 more minutes.”
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. Oh my God. My whole life … Yeah. Every day. You never know. Elation, frustration, despondency all within the hour. Yeah.
Eileen Gittins: Just know that, and know that it's not you. That's normal. I think that's a big thing. I think women tend to internalize things and think, “Oh, it's me.” No.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. We can't take it personally.
Eileen Gittins: It's not you. It's not you. It's the nature of the thing you're doing. It's not you.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, there are so many things that we can't control, but the one thing we can control is our reaction on how we show up in those moments and who we are. It's a really wonderful way to grow as a person to become an entrepreneur. It's the best therapy.
Eileen Gittins: I love that you said, “Just show up.” I love that. That's actually a t-shirt that I've made from my own Bossygrl store. It's “Just show up.”
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, wow. That's awesome. I'm going to have to check out Bossygrl for Wings because I'm going to need a whole bunch of tchotchkes and all kinds of stuff for this podcast.
Eileen Gittins: Cool.
Melinda Wittstock: I will go check it out. I have a 14 and a half year old daughter who's a little bit entrepreneurial, so she's perfect for this. Anybody who wants to work with you, Eileen or contact you about anything or sign up for Bossygrl, how can they do that?
Eileen Gittins: Sure. If they want to contact me personally, it's firstname.lastname@example.org. There's that. Secondly, through the app itself, there's a community and so if you have any questions about how to use it or how does this work or where do I do X? Inside the app, there's chat and a forum where you can ask questions and I'm often … Again, to the point about like there's three of us. Yeah, I'm often the person actually responding to those questions right now, so that's another way to reach me.
Melinda Wittstock: Sounds wonderful. Well, thank you so much for such an inspiring interview as it should be on Wings of Inspired Business.
Eileen Gittins: Melinda, it's been a real pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.