Many of today’s non-profits and social campaigns have ‘Ladies who Lunch’ to thank for at least some of their financial backing. While in popular culture, ladies who lunch may not be revered (see Company and SNL), in reality, women’s organizations and groups — and their luncheon settings — have been the financial catalysts for a lot of social action.
“The concept of ‘Ladies Who Lunch’, women who gather over meals, drinks or coffee to discuss and potentially fund worthy endeavors, be it nonprofit organizations or women/minority led-startups, continues to grow but in new and innovative ways,” said Susan McPherson, founder and CEO at McPherson Strategies. “No longer are these gatherings the purview of the ultra wealthy and no longer are they only in-person get-togethers. Rather, with online crowdsourcing, mobile technology and listserves of like-minded women, fundraising is happening in all sorts of ways.”
A case in point is Bankroll Women, an equity crowdfunding platform that’s specifically for products launched by women entrepreneurs. Both Bankroll Women and its parent company Bankroll Ventures were made possible by the 2012 passing of the JOBS Act, which opened the crowdfunding playing field to new sorts of entrepreneurs and investors alike.
“Between title III and IV, the JOBS Act is really opening up the ability [for entrepreneurs] to get funding not just from really wealthy people, but from people who are brand ambassadors who are helping you grow you your business at the same time,” said Tess Hottenroth, co-founder of BankRoll Ventures and chief executive officer of BankRoll Women LLC.
It’s not that Bankroll Women is building a crowdfunding oasis powered only by women. While the board is comprised solely of women, Bankroll cofounder Kendall Almerico has been a integral part of the platform behind the scenes, and Bankroll Women fully expects men to play an important role in championing women-led businesses. Still, Hottenroth maintained, women who “have succeeded in the business world and are passionate about creating opportunities for others are naturally going to be the strongest advocates and faces of that goal, as is reflected by the board composition.”
And so, unlike the traditional Ladies who Lunch, Bankroll Women is going after women entrepreneurs with social media. “Social media is an incredibly important part of how crowdfunding succeeds,” Hottenroth noted, but Bankroll Women is also sticking with actual P2P, or women to women, by hosting seminars and networking events that are geared specifically towards women.
The company hasn’t abandoned its original social fundraising model. The women’s arm of Bankroll had its soft launch at a dinner in May 2016, in which high-profile New York women were introduced to the concept of crowdfunding. So far, there is only one project up on Bankroll Women, though Hottenroth projects that in the next 6 months the platform will feature several more crowdfunding campaigns by women entrepreneurs. Since the SEC took a while to get the crowdfunding rules up, the whole process has been slower than the company would like it to be. But Bankroll Women hopes to involve more and more women in the crowdfunding process, from mentoring to entrepreneurship to investing, and it is in the face-to-face, and not screen-to-screen, where the firm is focusing its efforts.
It’s “very much [about] word of mouth and expanding the networks along the way,” said Hottenroth. For now, that means that alongside the powerful and traditionally male players in VC firms, angel networks, and other funding groups, the Ladies who Lunch (or Dine) are a growing force to be reckoned with on the fintech funding scene. Or, to quote McPherson, “Essentially, the ‘lunch’ model has exploded.”