Name: Brenda Bazan
Business: MoolaHoop, a crowdfunding platform that helps women with small businesses reward themselves and their customers
Industry: Other — Capital Markets
Location: Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Reason for starting: I started my career in sales at IBM. Over my 25 years there, I spent nearly the entire time focused on helping the company to gain access to small businesses. My expertise was in understanding the problems of small businesses, what they needed to grow and how to leverage resources to support them. I had a relatively uncharacteristic technology career so it made sense that when I left IBM I went to lead development for a microfinance nonprofit because my passion was still based around helping people to start and grow small businesses. The model for international microfinance is well-documented and hugely successful, so my question was “why can’t we do this same thing in the US?” There are plenty of people who want to work with medium-sized, scalable businesses but what about the bread and butter of the US economy which are small businesses that support a family’s income and provide light to medium employment. How do those kinds of businesses get access to resources, capital and technology? I played with a few models for investment and loans but soon concluded that crowdfunding would provide the best and most innovative vehicle for small businesses to raise money and grow. So, I partnered with my former IBM colleague Nancy Hayes to start MoolaHoop.
How do you define success? For me success is when my career and my business begin to make a substantial change in women’s optimism and results for small business. It isn’t just about making businesses more successful, it is about creating another professional avenue for women.
When I was starting a business as a yoga teacher (after leaving IBM), a man wanted to partner with me to create online education for yoga and he made a business proposal to me that was really unattractive to the point of being insulting. He was extremely belligerent about the fact that this was a good offer and if I didn’t take it, I wouldn’t get it from anybody else. Though I knew I wouldn’t take his offer, I wondered how many women were in that place where people who were more confident and more experienced took advantage of their need and I wanted to replace that person with an empowering capability like crowdfunding.
Biggest Success: When you’re less than a year into your business, you get little successes every day. But our biggest success is when companies that are larger and more well-established want to partner with us to drive this same mission. If you’re a little wheel, it’s exciting when the bigger wheels see your vision and begin to move in the same direction. That’s when we feel like we’re really making an impact.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? I think the greatest challenge we face is a low level of awareness about what crowdfunding is and how it can help a business. When you finally reach a big audience of women but you have to spend twenty minutes explaining the term, it’s hard to keep the attention of busy professionals. How many average people knew what “equity” in a business meant before the TV show Shark Tank? Our job is to build a similarly pervasive knowledge of crowdfunding since it is certain to be a more common approach to business funding moving forward.
Who is your most important role model? My role model is Ariana Huffington. She feels strongly that we need to transform the definition of success to broaden the lens and include family, health and wellbeing. This new definition is liberating to women who are engaged in an international dialogue about work-life balance.
Edited by The Story Exchange
Posted: April 30, 2014