Deborah Jackson spent 20 years on Wall Street, raising money for clients.
Now, she’s helping female entrepreneurs raise startup capital via Plum Alley, the crowdfunding platform she launched last fall. (The name is a mash-up of “plum” assignment and Silicon Alley.) Jackson says she was inspired to create Plum Alley after getting involved in New York’s startup scene and meeting “passionate and intelligent” women who needed better access to funding.
Edited interview excerpts follow.
The Story Exchange: Tell me about the reasons for launching Plum Alley.
Data shows that women’s projects and companies are underfunded and women still experience a much harder time raising funds than their male counterparts for comparable opportunities. This is true across all sectors — women entrepreneurs, women in the arts, women in academia and the media.
The consequence of underfunding women’s ventures is that women’s voices, their unique perspective and values are often not reflected in the products that are made or the companies that are built. Plum Alley is changing that by providing a way for women to raise the money they need to create and innovate.
The Story Exchange: What are the basics that someone should know before launching a crowdfunding campaign?
There is a lot of preparation work to be done for a crowdfunding campaign — although in my opinion, it is not much compared to seeking grants or funding through angel investors or other more institutionalized methods. The team, the project idea, the presentation and the rewards are all essential. For most successful crowdfunding projects, a large portion of the funding comes from the project team’s network. Thus the team should have a large network, have a clear marketing plan, and be prepared to invest the time to rally up and excite people to fund the project. A project should be appealing or emotional so individuals are moved to fund the project. The project goal and motivation behind it should be conveyed articulately in the written and video pitch of the project. Good crowdfunding campaigns also have valuable and desirable rewards that can appeal to a large array of people and reach new audiences.
The Story Exchange: Which campaigns on Plum Alley have been some of your favorite or most memorable?
I really am impressed by all the campaigns that run on Plum Alley, from successful movie projects, to projects that offer pre-orders for clothing or water for women, to the mobile app created to help the environment. The Bella Minds project does particularly stand out, however, because it involves teaching technology to middle-aged women in rural areas, and I think it can create great impact and change.
The Story Exchange: We’re all about role models. Who is your role model?
Hillary Clinton because she is a fabulous mother, has weathered the storm being a first lady, and came into her own being the secretary of state. Mostly, she is a great champion for women. Also Meryl Streep because she is so cool.
The Story Exchange: What’s your best advice for female entrepreneurs?
Figure out a way to make money, what your customer wants, and your value proposition. And don’t give up.