When Alison Koplar Wyatt and Rebecca Minkoff co-founded Female Founder Collective in 2018, their mission was clear: to multiply the success of women business owners. So, they created the type of organization they wished they'd had when they first started out as business owners. Three years later, Female Founder Collective (FFC), has blossomed into a non-profit that connects and empowers female founders through community, education, and resource sharing.
Alison spoke with Squarespace about FFC’s membership community, providing a home for women in the early stages of building their businesses, and the importance of self-awareness as a business owner.
SQSP: How did your previous professional experience inform or inspire the decision to launch the Female Founder Collective?
Alison: I have had the great fortune of working for many explosive brands and companies where speed and resources were a make-or-break. Obviously, it’s impossible to get everything right, but you have to make the best guesses you can to keep advancing the business forward.
I found that those guesses could only be more educated — and have lower failure rates — by speaking with other founders. And not just any founders, but founders who had been there. Founders who were perhaps one step (or one mile) in front of me, so they had the recent memory of how to get through a similar challenge.
These like-minded founders are hard to find, however, when you’re in a bind and need the solution in an instant, So, with Female Founder Collective, we wanted to create a community that was searchable by stage, by industry, by geography — so you could reach out to other similarly situated founders in a snap to find the answers that you need. It’s about using our collective knowledge and experience to help us all achieve a much higher success rate.
SQSP: Can you share some examples of what members bring to and gain from the FFC community?
Alison: The biggest value proposition of the FFC and The 10th House, our new paid membership community, lies in our members. A lot of what people will gain is what they put into the community. Be it sharing resources that were game-changing for their business, or sharing problems that they have come up against that their fellow founders can help them solve, through each other they can fill crucial knowledge gaps.
We have also found that, in addition to a strong network, so much of what stands in the way of female founders and success is education around key terms, processes, and language — particularly when it comes to funding sources. There is a lot of overwhelm or intimidation when it comes to financial areas, and as such, women ask for less by way of loans, venture, and angel, which leaves many female founders falling short.
Perhaps most importantly, as a founder, you are forced to be an expert in most areas in order to operate in a scrappy, cost-efficient manner. We wanted to provide the education that founders need in order to build key skills: from social media management to IP development to raising a round — all from vetted experts in their field and on demand.
On the networking side, we wanted to create a network of mentors in the corporate space that could help provide unbiased, outside perspectives, while also providing peer mentors and ‘boards,’ which are composed of like-goaled individuals who do not have skin in the game and, thus, can give unbiased advice or feedback for a founder’s business.
In summary, FFC members bring and gain relevant connections, crowd-sourced resources, community problem solving, and education, all rolled up into one ecosystem.
SQSP: What new challenges and opportunities has the past year brought to the FFC community?
Alison: I think women are starting businesses at a faster rate than ever, primarily because they want to be their own boss. It is exciting that there are more women building businesses, and we love providing a home for them to get their start and continue to grow in the FFC community.
But the challenge that many women face is resources — by way of cashflow and funding — as well as support at home, particularly if they are mothers. We are excited to help provide pathways to capital in its various forms through partner programs with banks, venture firms, crowd-funding platforms, and angel networks — various places to help these women get their businesses up and running successfully.
The other opportunity lies in freelance working. Many have decided that they want a more flexible schedule, or that they want to be able to work from anywhere. This can be an excellent match for small and medium businesses that can’t yet afford full-time hires, or even businesses looking to fill talent gaps as their employees go out on parental leave. The freelance and small business economy is growing, and we want to be there to be their springboard.
SQSP: What has it been like to pivot your work to virtual settings over the past year?
Alison: In a start-up, you do not have the same corporate resources afforded by larger companies, so you learn to work from home, from cafes, from anywhere there is an outlet and Wi-Fi. So for founders and small companies, it truthfully doesn’t feel that different.
That said, as a business grows and scales, you need to scale your culture, your processes, your communication, and that can be inherently more challenging when virtual.
SQSP: What is one key piece of advice you would share with an aspiring or early stage entrepreneur?
Alison: There are two central things that I’ve seen make or break businesses.
One, if you do not commit and invest your time, your money, and your resources, there is a much smaller likelihood that the business will ever take off. Just like with anything, if you feed it, it will grow. If you do not, it will starve. But you can’t do it all by yourself, so at some point, you just have to place your bets and believe you are going to win. Hire teams, outsource key operational needs, and focus on what you’re good at.
The second thing is that so much of being a great founder is about self-awareness. It’s the self-awareness that you have a lot of strengths and a lot of weaknesses, and as such, you can’t do everything. You have to hire to make up for those weak spots. It is also the self-awareness of how you’re coming across to a potential client, a potential investor, a potential hire, so that you can cater your pitch or your sell to be something that serves them, not you.
And it’s the self-awareness of knowing when to not to listen to anyone else, because you need to forge ahead with your idea and trust that it’s going to work. Self-awareness will make you a great leader, and great leaders gain followers, customers, and create movements — which is exactly the sort of impact you want to make.