Womentum: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries

A pay it forward crowdfunding platform that allows anyone in the world to donate to women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

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Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

September 3, 1996

Where are you located:

California: Sunnyvale (94087) | India: Coimbatore
Other countries: Ecuador, Ghana, Colombia, USA (New York), Uganda

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: http://www.womentum.io
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/givewomentum/
Twitter: @give_womentum

Date Started

5/19/2016

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

Link to blog on background: https://medium.com/@give_womentum/behind-the-womentum-2e9dd919df01

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

There are 10 million women entrepreneurs globally running micro businesses. These women face both financial and social barriers from a lack of funding and community support. Whether it's banks not wanting to provide capital due to no income or the women's inability to write from their families not being supportive because they are worried what the community will think, we need to support women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Womentum is a crowdfunding platform that raised funding for women in developing countries to start small scale businesses. Our model is much different than the typical crowdfunding platform because we operate on a pay it forward model. This means that all funds raised on our platform are donations and when the women become successful, they then pay it forward to support other women in their community.
We partner with nonprofits and NGOs that work on the ground to find these women entrepreneurs. These organizations oftentimes have entrepreneurial educational programs that support these women but aren't able to provide the funding for the women to start businesses. That's where we come in. Often, it's between $200-$400 that can help empower these women to start businesses.
To date, we've seen great traction with this model. In fact, an unexpected outcome was that the pay it forward was not purely financial and included an element of mentorship to support other women in the community as well. The women we have supported have gone on to primarily invest in their children acheiving their dreams, which is often the basis for them starting these businesses to begin with.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Prossy was the first entrepreneur we funded on the platform in April 2016. Here is her story:
Prossy comes from the Rakai district, and her dream is to work hard and save enough money to own a beauty salon. Her daughter, Jackie, is currently enrolled as an Engeye Scholar at Sydney Paul Primary School in nearby Kinoni. Prossy is commonly known by visitors and those around the clinic as Mama Jackie, because of the Ugandan custom to identify a woman by her children’s names. When she is not cooking for the clinic, Prossy works on crafts and she is trying to build an Artisan business with other women in the village to earn money to fund their children's education expenses and build opportunities for a better life for themselves and their families.
Prossy now has a successful business in her community and is able to support her children. She paid it forward to three women in her community.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

There are a couple organizations that are working towards empowering women to achieve financial independence, specifically Kiva, which provides micro-loans to small entrepreneurs around the world. The key things that make our work different than them is our pay it forward model. With Kiva, if you were donate $5, you would get that money back. Oftentimes, these short-term loans that Kiva offers constrict the entrepreneurs ability to make long term investments to grow their businesses. We aim to create communities of women supporting women around the world.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We have funded 45 women in 6 different countries, raising more than $36,000 from over 145 individual donors for these entrepreneurs. We've also seen multiple women entrepreneurs we've supported “pay it forward” which is the most exciting part of launching a new model. We have been featured in publications like NBC News and Huffington Post, which has helped us increase the profile of the women entrepreneurs we are seeking to support. Our Facebook page has touched over 38,000 individuals and our posts on women empowerment have been seen over 100,000 times. In fact, the story of each entrepreneurs we placed on our website has been read more than 20,000 times overall.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Expanding and growing Womentum is our big goal. We want to exponentially grow our donations to developing countries by bringing on new donors and new corporate sponsors to help support this growth. With this in mind, we will be able to expand to new countries by having a strong donor base and grow our reach to empower more women around the world.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

Funding is a big part of helping us acheive our goals. The difficulty with being a 501(c)(3) is that we can't be spending more on administrative costs than we are on impact. But we need more people to acheive the scale to balance out our financials. Therefore, we really need additional funding to help expand the team. Right now, I alone am managing all of our corporate sponsors and nonprofit partnerships and I cannot manage anymore. Therefore, this is the most critical element we need to address.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Donations over $10k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

Partnering with others has been critical for us. I just graduated from Babson College and being involved in the Boston community was evertyhing. Our classmates were constant advocates for the work we were doing and our school had an incubator that helped us grow Womentum. It's everything from thinking of us and sharing what we are working on to actively helping us make connections or finding us the resources we need. We benefitted so much from the Boston community and from young people who shared our passion for empowering women. We hope to continue doing so as well as supporting other changemakers in their missions as well.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Savitha Sridharan

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Team

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

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