FinTech Female Fridays: Maya Brooks, Product Manager, iFundWomen
What made you pivot from commercial banking at JP Morgan to a crowdfunding firm that supports female entrepreneurs?
I graduated from NYU in 2015 with a degree in economics to pursue a career in finance.
I spent about four years at JPMorgan in the Government, Healthcare, Higher Ed, Nonprofit group, but I have always been entrepreneurial and wanted to create something that would allow me to drive more hands-on impact. I started to look for the next step in my career journey where I could do that. I bounced around A LOT during this time, trying to learn, gain experience, and find my passion in tech. I spent six months strengthening my technical skills by doing coding bootcamps at General Assembly, I spent some time as a freelance web and product developer, I briefly started my own business, and worked as an associate for the Techstars Fintech Accelerator powered by Barclays before finally landing my role in product at iFundWomen.
What influenced you to apply and pursue the TechStars program? What were your goals with there?
As I focused on transitioning my career from finance to tech, I was looking for a way to gain more experience with early stage startups to understand their challenges, needs, how they operate and scale. I was drawn to Techstars because I thought it would be a great opportunity to use my existing financial knowledge to benefit new startups in the program and gain experience with early stage startups as well. It was an eye-opening inside experience into the tools startups need to be successful, how mentorship is important to growth, how great teams work well together, and how companies raise their first round of venture capital.
iFundWomen started in 2016; you started working there January 2019. What drew you to the mission compared to other female focused and/or minority focused crowdfunding firms?
I met the CEO of iFundWomen, Karen Cahn, while moderating a panel on Alternative Financing Strategies for women. It was perfect timing. I fell in love with the mission, the action, and the growth opportunity at iFundWomen. One of the most unique things about the company is our holistic approach to closing the funding gap for early stage entrepreneurs by combining the power of crowdfunding, coaching, and connections. I was also drawn to our commitment to changing the economic landscape for women worldwide and the broader implications for the world when women-led businesses thrive.
Women make 80% of the household purchases in the United States. We drive the economy. Success to us at iFundWomen isn’t just about helping close the funding gap for early-stage founders, but creating more overall economic opportunity as women become a major economic force behind job creation and GDP growth.
Once women-led startups fundraise and get off the ground, they go on to hire female employees, buy from female vendors, invest, and drive a higher ROI on capital they've received. In terms of creating a more equitable society for men and women, economic power and opportunity is necessary to create the political and social equality that drives long term change. If we all participate, the virtuous cycle thrives.
I love working for iFundWomen because we are 100% committed to living and breathing our mission both internally and externally, as we grow our company.
What are the requirements for companies to work with iFundWomen?
iFundWomen is the first step in any early-stage entrepreneurs’ journey. Female founders come to iFundWomen to help them raise capital for their businesses through rewards-based crowdfunding that, unlike raising an equity round, allows them to keep 100% of their businesses.
We also support entrepreneurs through our coaching program, which offers 1:1 support and strategic advice on a variety of business topics and virtual workshops taught by experts.
For newer entrepreneurs, they may be more interested in topics like “Getting Your First Sale” or “Honing Your Pitch.” For our more experienced entrepreneurs, they may be more interested in topics like “Mastering the Pitch Deck” or “No B.S. Seed Round Coaching.”
iFundWomen brings together crowdfunding, coaching, and connections. What kinds of coaching is involved and what are the backgrounds of these people that deem them appropriate coaches?
Our coaching program is what sets us apart from other crowdfunding sites. As more and more entrepreneurs launched and grew their businesses on iFW, we realized we needed to provide a scalable method to support a variety of areas relevant to founders. By mobilizing our team and guest instructors with area expertise, we have evolved and grown our coaching program to include topics like monetization, branding, creating community, and branding.
Every iFundWomen employee uses their breadth of work experience to lead coaching sessions for our customers. This is a great way for all of us to stay connected to our customers, hear what they want, and provide enormous value to their businesses.
Reach out to Maya on LinkedIn.