Note: This article is part of a series. Check out the full series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 12, Part 13.

Launching a new business is not easy, never mind bringing to market an entirely new product or service.

In this series of articles, we gathered 100+ successful female entrepreneurs to share their stories and tips on building a business from scratch.

Suzanne Barker

Co-founder of When I Shop

Suzanne Barker

Q: What inspired you to found When I Shop and what were the main challenges you faced?

It was Instagram that inspired When I Shop. As a user of the platform, I was frustrated that I couldn’t discover brands in a deliberate way despite it being the favored place for brands and shoppers to connect. I was inspired to come up with a better way for users to purposefully find new brands.

We’ve had several challenges in getting to market. Firstly, we spent too much time focusing on the supply side, thinking that bringing brands on board should be our priority. While that was a great information-gathering exercise that helped us better understand what brands were thinking, it took us away from where we should have spent our time which was on the demand side.

We also struggled to figure out how to deliver, with our limited time and resources, a bootstrapped MVP to market that would be interesting to a user. For a while, we thought we needed funding to pull it off. In the end, we focused solely on aggregating supply to drive demand, and we didn’t need brands or funding to do that. Looking back now we are really glad we were able to figure it out on our own.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

I started When I Shop with my husband, Max. He’s a software developer and so is the perfect partner for a venture like this. We worked the problem together right from the start and he really resonated with it. We did a deep dive into the E-Commerce space over several months to help us come up with a solution to make brand discovery more efficient and interesting.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We are using an affiliate business model right now. Revenue growth is coming from improved liquidity of brands on When I Shop and driving demand via Search Engine Optimization.

Liquidity is essential on a platform like When I Shop because we need to make sure users can find exactly what they are looking for and they feel encouraged to return for other brand searches.

Laura Kleiman

Founder - Reboot Rx

Laura Kleiman

Q: What inspired you to found Reboot Rx and what were the main challenges you faced?

When my mom was fighting cancer, I learned that many promising cancer treatments are being overlooked by pharmaceutical companies because they wouldn’t be financially rewarding. These are generic drugs that were originally FDA-approved to treat non-cancer indications and later were also tested as cancer treatments. Repurposing these existing drugs may be the easiest and fastest way to help cancer patients live longer and better. I immediately knew that this was the problem that I wanted to devote my career to solving. My mom could have benefited from additional treatment options, but she ran out of time. I’ve made this my life’s work so that millions of cancer patients around the world can access the best care possible and stand a better chance.

In the beginning, we thought the main challenge was figuring out how to fund definitive clinical trials testing generic drugs. Then we realized how much data there is on these drugs. With hundreds of non-cancer generic drugs already showing promise for treating cancer, and data from thousands of published studies to review, determining which drugs are the most worthwhile to test in clinical trials would take decades. We are solving this challenge by building technology that uses AI and machine learning to quickly sift through large amounts of data and find the most promising repurposing opportunities. Then we can bring together the various stakeholders to develop new models for funding clinical trials and for adding the treatments to the standard of care for cancer patients.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

I began developing the vision, establishing collaborations, and gaining traction on my own at first. Then I found amazing co-founders, Pradeep Mangalath and Catherine Del Vecchio Fitz, who have the right expertise, passion for solving this problem, and belief in our solution. Bringing them on was transformative. They have been instrumental in building Reboot Rx, developing our strategy, and advancing our science and technology.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We are a nonprofit organization. This allows us to focus 100% on our mission so we can keep patients at the center of our work. Being a nonprofit means we can maintain an objective perspective on which drugs are most promising, as their potential profitability isn’t a factor. Generic drugs are cheap, and we want to keep it that way. As a nonprofit, we can also convene all of the stakeholders - doctors, researchers, patients, regulatory agencies, pharma, healthcare payers - for the collaboration needed for our ambitious effort to succeed.

Our revenue comes from philanthropic donations. We grew our revenue in December when we received $1.5 million to develop our technology. In the future, we may generate earned revenue from our datasets or technology. We are also exploring the use of innovative funding models for clinical trials, such as outcomes-based financing.

Viktoria Mikhailova

Co-Founder - Sensemakers

Viktoria Mikhailova

Q: What inspired you to found Sensemakers and what were the main challenges you faced?

7 years ago I sold my shares in different businesses to my ex-business partner and decided to start my consulting firm with no partners, no employees. Like most business consultants and coaches.

Within a couple of years my activity grew up and I could continue to run it the same way.

Despite the satisfaction of tributing myself with the benefits of my work, which is a great satisfaction, the work as an independent consultant is synonymous with loneliness and probably an unconscious resignation of finding satisfaction within an organization.

Quite strange for someone who is dealing with organizational psychology and people processes, isn't it?

I love challenges and the fact that many colleagues who came into organizational consulting and coaching from companies were fed up with work in corporations triggered both my curiosity and also my dream about an OK-OK society that I believe starts with OK-OK organizations and OK-OK families. OK-OK world means less of this. Less bullying, less tension, less harmful conflicts.

OK-OK means an internal mindset and external behavior based on the position that I am worthwhile and you are too. And we are equally worthwhile.

When we have this wonderful feeling, we are motivated, energized, we access all our internal abilities and can cooperate in a highly performing way.

Sometimes reality shows us that despite the fact that we try hard, organizations are full of a fake OK-OK. People pretend and do not walk the talk.

Statistics show that despite the fact that corporations pay attention to people, frequency of workplace conflicts is on the rise in recent years. According to Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, only 25% of employees in the US faced rough treatment at work in 1995; the figure reached 55% in 2011 and 62% in 2016.

Recent studies further confirm the increase in workplace tensions in recent years. In a survey of 1,016 US employees conducted by Skye Learning, it was discovered that 23 percent of the respondents claimed negative and toxic culture in the workplace. 14 percent reported conflicts with their bosses, and 38 percent said they didn’t have enough time for personal life. According to Skye Learning, 74% of the employees see burnout at work as one of the main causes of conflicts in the workplace, and 17% face this problem on an ongoing basis.

A 2019 study by found that almost 94% of the 2,081 employees had been bullied to some extent, a 19% increase from 11 years ago.3 51.1% of the respondents reported that they had been bullied by a manager or supervisor. As for the possible formats, the most widespread ones were aggressive tone in emails (23.3%), rumor mongering (20.2%) and raising voice (17.8%).

Most of my friends' organizational consultants were explaining to me that they feel much better since they quitted their companies and felt free again.

At the same time everyone was complaining about feeling lonely and not having necessary resources to do marketing or build new products. And I thought that this is exactly why organizations are created: putting together ressources for better life and results.

From another hand since 2017 I started to work with Gor Nakhapetian, the Emeritus professor of practice at Moscow School of Management Skolkovo on a theory that seriously challenges the precepts of leadership. After having conducted two hundred interviews with successful leaders we ended up with a conclusion that most of them were successful NOT ALONE, because they have been working «in tandem» with a person of trust.

This theory «Tandemocracy» gave birth to the homonymous course at «SKOLKOVO», we worked hard on building the methodology of how to create highly effective pairs and through this quality of connections to build «Tandemocracy» - a network that makes organisations resilient, performing and great place to work.

On the other hand I came to a strong conclusion that the most efficient way to work with a business client was demanding the skills coming from artificially separated fields of organizational consulting, coaching, psychotherapy and business education. We talked about it a lot with Gor and decided that there was a need for a new profession, a sensemaker.

A sensemaker is a professional that holds the knowledge and incarnates himself the project. I guess that we found a beginning of a solution how accelerate the process of this personal and professional growth for individuals and organizations where they work.

So, I decided that the time came for me to get back from a quite comfortable position of lonely  but successful expert to a partner in a successful organization that unites sensemakers. With Gor Nakhapetian and two other partners Oxana Razumova and Dr Eyal Ronen we started this project and we are happy that several talented wise people have joined and are still joining us now.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Our work on tandems has clearly shown that working alone is very often what people see, because our social roles and even legal structures put under the spotlights one person called a leader. But this person is backed by his «partner in crime» a tandemee, or by a team of tandemees. We have examples in rowing on how a boat with several rowers goes faster compared to a lonely one.

When we started the venture all together, we knew that we’ll need the time to learn to be partners. Giving trust and getting out of our failure patterns is not an easy task even for experienced people. As a consultant I see it in several start-ups that can not take off because

people stop talking to each other or get so distressed that they let down their dreams or they try to please the investors and end up with projects with which they do not resonate anymore. Our goal is to create a great organization and to bring more people into it with a fair sharing and open communicative culture. And it demands some work. Mainly on ourselves.

How do we do that? Basically we talk a lot. We have no taboos. We speak up when we see or feel that there is an issue.

One of our goals is to take care of each other and of the partners who joined us. We pay attention to that and we open up.

It makes a tremendous difference, because every conversation does ignite a change. It is an opportunity to understand and to grow up as people all the time. And as an organization as well.

Of course, we are quite equipped with tools and knowledge. As Process Communication Model® consultants, as specialists of Organizational health span, we know how to do it.

And I love this wonderful feeling of lightness and pleasure.

Of course, a lot of challenges are there. Like any other company we need a clever strategy, to manage our resources and to onboard the people who want to join us. And to satisfy our customers. And to do it within 24 hours days.

In this sense COVID helped. With the lockdowns in different countries where we operate (Russia, France, Israel, UK), we had more time to sit in front of our screens, to make decisions and to move on. I am thankful to my different partners for what they do and also for how they did that.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Sensemakers are about putting wisdom into action. And how much are you ready to pay for this in your company ?

Wisdom is about how with very intangible «things» we can create sense and great value. In that consideration wisdom is more than money and that’s why it is priceless.

However we have quite tangible assets such as methodology, tools, holographic vision and also the discipline. Wisdom is acquired through practice.

But in the material world our business model for the moment is the one of consulting-training- coaching companies.

We encourage our customers to get more wisdom in their organization by helping them to develop internal culture of sense making and to have internal sensemakers. We transmit them all the knowledge that we have, we provide them with the tools and we follow up the changes that they create with that. On the top of that we provide them with data through specialized services we have.

An integrated «school» for sensemakers is a part of our strategy and our business model and today we certify new professionals coming both from the corporate world and from the other fields.

But it is just a beginning and we have in mind how to put wisdom into the sharing economy. To be continued.

Francesca Polo

Founder - Curated Success

Francesca Polo

Q: What inspired you to found Curated Success and what were the main challenges you faced?

I've always worked for myself and before Curated Success I was managing operations at a tech company in the heritage sector, which I co-founded.

After 7 years in that role, I realised that the part of my job I was truly passionate about was the professional development of my team.

At the same time a combination of not being able to fully focus on what I loved most, and pressure to accelerate growth in a notoriously old school market meant I was fast approaching burn out.

Meeting other funders at networking events and accelerator programs, I realised I wasn't the only one in this position.

So I thought, what's the point in working for yourself if you are not going to be truly fulfilled?

At the beginning of this year I decided to launch Curated Success: a coaching practice to help business owners, founders and freelancers to align their professional and personal goals, introducing structure in their companies to generate the results that they want both in their business and their lifestyle.

My mission is to help founders be more intentional in choosing their business objectives, and in doing so become more resilient to the inevitable pressure and stress as their personal and professional goals and values are aligned.

Whilst I had experience in building a business from the ground up, having Covid hit in my third week of business meant a lot of re-thinking. I've found though, that there's arguably an even bigger need for qualified business coaches at the moment, and if you can frame your offering correctly there' a lot of opportunities you can capture.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

I did!

In my previous business I had a co-founder and investors, whilst this time I knew what I needed was complete freedom and ownership of my venture.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

I offer a number of packages (customised on the client's needs) which include different combinations of 1:1 business coaching with me to set goals and track progress towards achieving them, plus tools to strengthen the foundations of the business and streamline operations, which can be used independently by the client.

These tools with a small degree of customisation apply to all businesses and are definitely where I see the biggest potential to grow my revenues and being able to serve a wider audience of clients than I'll ever be able to do on 1:1 basis since there's only 24 hours in a day and only one of me!

Destinee Berman

Founder - Destinee Berman LLC

Q: What inspired you to found  Destinee Berman LLC and what were the main challenges you faced?

Coming from a Southeast Asian background, I always accepted things like reincarnation and talking to spirits. As I got older, my love of the metaphysical expanded to include everything from yoga and meditation to astrology and personal development. I cultivated my own daily practices, attended seminars, and worked 1:1 with respected spiritual teachers and mind-body healers. Fast-forward to 2014: I found myself at a crossroads. The company I worked for at the time was being acquired, and I had the opportunity to move into a bigger role. But something inside of me knew it was time to make a change. I worked with a career coach, took every assessment and aptitude test I could find, and consulted my team of spiritual advisors (which included astrologers, tarot readers, and intuitive). I felt clear that I wanted to start my own business.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. I have had many people mentor me over the years.  But honestly, as funny and strange as it may seem, the person that helped me the most during some of the more trying periods of my life - it is me. I started by myself.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

There are as many types of business models as there are types of business. I am helping holistic coaches and spiritual teachers with bringing their work online, reach global audiences, and make big money without selling out.

Denise Walsh

Founder - Dream Life

Denise Walsh

Q: What inspired you to found Dream Life and what were the main challenges you faced?

I started the Dream Life personal development program after working with hundreds of women around the world, who all told me the same thing: "I want change in my life, but I don't know how to go about it."

I find that so many people are staying in jobs or relationships that are unhealthy and draining, or have poor health and financial habits and choose to stay in the dysfunction and negativity because, hey, at least they understand it. Change is difficult, I know. Stepping into the unknown is hard, and often people need support to take the steps they need to say yes to what their heart desires. My role is to support those who want to make a life change, start a business, or step into the unknown by giving them the confidence, courage, and roadmap to do so.

The main challenge has been prioritizing all my ideas, following-through, and executing in a way that makes sense to my audience. I have found I want to consistently create and launch programs and products, but I know that doing too much at one time will overwhelm my community. I'm now learning to choose one thing, stick with it until the end, and launch it well.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

My husband and I saw a need, and we decided to fill it! After working with women all over the world, both one-on-one and in groups, we created a curriculum that would allow people to build the skills necessary to take the steps needed to change their life. My husband has a strong background in marketing and technology, which helped us navigate the online marketing world and get us off to a quick start.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

My business model utilizes a variety of different techniques. I'm active on a daily basis via my podcast (Dream Cast) and my YouTube channel in an effort to genuinely connect and build that much-needed trust. YouTube is a searchable platform so I work to answer commonly asked questions about time management, staying motivated, money mindset, and more.

I also reconnect and remind my audience that I'm there by advertising on social media - often giving away access to my courses, books, and free reports. My husband often says, "In this day and age, getting the first sale is the hardest, but getting the second is the easiest." So whether I'm selling books, my online course, or access to my live events, my first goal is always to make sure my followers trust me 100%. And after that happens, the sales just come along naturally...

Abigail Murer

Founder of the Fiercely Female Foundation

Abigail Murer

Q: What inspired you to found Fiercely Female Foundation and what were the main challenges you faced?

My inspiration in founding the Fiercely Female Foundation came from my journey through Alpine Ski Racing. As I had been chasing the extremely competitive sport since age six, I have seen the inner workings of the sport and what it takes to be successful. I have traveled to all corners of the globe competing, and thus have been a first-hand witness to all walks of athletes doing their best to succeed. In my travels, I have encountered numerous female athletes from all realms of extreme sports; and have seen the immense financial burden each carries on their shoulders. The attrition rates in female athletics due to lack of financing have been rising with alarming rates. My goals for the Fiercely Female Foundation are to provide financial support for female athletes whom partake in sports that do not have a pipeline to the top. These are the athletes that truly risk life, limb, and their entire incomes for sports that cannot provide them with the support they require.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

The idea of the Fiercely Female Foundation has been in the back of my mind for years. I was consistently seeing female athletes drop their sports; a lifetime of achievement, training, and dedication, simply due to their inability to cover rising costs as they progressed further into the sport. The higher you climb the ladder in athletics, the more financial cost. I realized through my own journey and a bit of research, that nothing in the realm of female extreme athletics had been done before. The Fiercely Female Foundation began with recognizing a problem and trying to find a solution. I am very thankful for the interest, advice, and guidance I have received from a small group of insightful people in my life. Going from full-time athlete to now founding a non-profit organization has been a challenge no doubt, however I am very excited to keep moving forward in creating a support system that is desperately needed for extreme sports female athletes.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Fiercely Female is a charitable organization rooted in creating awareness and educating people on the present issues for female athletes, specifically in the extreme sports world. We have created a new and modern approach to fundraising. Fiercely Female Foundation will pose unique opportunities for people and donors to truly get to know our athletes through experiential marketing, which will not only progress these women, but ultimately progress their sports as well.

Julia Chung

Founder and CEO - Spring Financial Planning and Admin Slayer

Julia Chung

Q: What inspired you to found Admin Slayer and what were the main challenges you faced?

Admin Slayer was founded by me, Shannon Cassidy, and Krysten Merriman. Shannon had been working as my virtual assistant, and Krysten had set up the systems and the marketing to run my business. Our operations were so seamless and so professional that many business owners wanted the same thing - and many administrators we knew wanted a similar job.

Challenges are many of course! These include managing a remote team from day one, back in 2015, determining what the market is really willing to pay and how to teach them about working with our team, differentiating ourselves from other virtual assistants, agencies, and international teams, and developing the unique culture that we have. As well, there are challenges between balancing what clients are willing to pay and what we really want to pay our team members (and ourselves).

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Nope! As above, with my partners Shannon, Krysten and very soon after launching, Tracey Yurkin joined the team.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We work as a team of outsourced contractors. Rather than matching an individual “slayer” with a business owner, we build professional teams of great people who can run just about any company, and “crowdsource” these so that small and medium enterprises get access to expertise, and management, that they could not otherwise afford. We remove the requirement to be an expert in business operations, allowing the business owners to concentrate on their unique ability, the place where they have the most expertise.

We have grown our revenues through word of mouth, client referral, and active business development.

Orianne Collins

Founder of OC Jewellery

Orianne Collins

Q: What inspired you to found OC Jewellery and what were the main challenges you faced?

I have always had an underlying passion for design, and I collaborated with Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier on a charm bracelet and some necklaces, as well as some pieces for Bédat and Co, a jewelry and watchmaker in Switzerland. I loved the work but wanted to create my own designs, so I founded OC Jewellery in 2007 to showcase my heritage and travels around the world and what I learned from studying various cultures and craftsmanship techniques.

Jewelry companies like Van Cleef, Tiffany & Co. and Cartier have histories and reputations dating back hundreds of years. I was brand new, so I had to figure out my particular niche and tell my story. When you’re competing with esteemed brands like that, you have to prove yourself. I created 11 different collections for women, men and children. I pride myself in that we carry something for everyone and we have a piece for every style, every budget, every age. People can also set up personal appointments with me and I will design a bespoke piece for them. That’s what sets us apart.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

I started the venture on my own, and I’ve been on my own since. Sometimes it can be difficult when you’re designing pieces and managing the business at the same time, and you would like a partner to be there to challenge you. I don't have that, so I rely on myself to consistently push myself to be better. That tenacity came into my personal life five years ago when I was paralyzed from the neck down during a surgery procedure.  I didn’t know if I would be able to walk again, let alone design again. Losing the ability to design was inconceivable to me, so I pushed myself through five hours of therapy every day to regain my abilities. I’m now back to having 75% of my movement, and every day I challenge myself more. This also was the catalyst for me to start the Never Give Up  foundation that helps other spinal cord victims on their paths to recovery.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

We have always felt it important to treat our clients well, and we want their experience when they visit the boutique to be a time of relaxation and pampering. We opened an adjacent spa where guests can get a facial or a massage, or perhaps have their makeup and hair done before they shop, while enjoying champagne and light bites. I want a woman to look and feel as beautiful as she can, and then enhance them with a piece of fabulous jewelry.

We are always looking at what people want and then we change our strategy to position ourselves to respond to that demand. We’ve always had a website, but we were selling mainly through in-person private sales. Since COVID-19, everyone is on their devices more and purchasing online instead of in-person. We have to talk to customers in that new language, so we built and launched a robust e-commerce platform.

We have our signature pieces like the OC Romance Heart Ring and the orchid design, which was one of my first designs, but I’ve also made sure we are on trend. We collaborated with Romero Britto on two very colorful, vibrant collections - one with Swarovski crystals that is affordable, and one with diamonds and precious gems that is high-end. I love the translation of art into jewelry, so while it took about a year and a half to design and create the lines, it was so rewarding to see the finished pieces and the positive response to the collections.

Di Di Chan

Co-Founder - FutureProof Retail

Di Di Chan

Q: What inspired you to found FutureProof Retail?

I met my partner Will Hogben in a philosophy club and instantly bonded over the value of time. We both want to maximize human potential by removing friction in time.

The idea for FutureProof Retail started on a trip together. I wanted to buy a bottle of water before our plane ride, but the lines were too long, we didn’t have cash on us, and our plane was about to leave. Thirsty and frustrated, I complained, “speaking of friction in time, we should solve waiting in line.” He replied, “I can make an app for that.” My partner (and our core tech team) are geniuses that have been making award-winning apps since the launch of the App Store, so naturally, I challenged him to “prove it.” He made a prototype in one weekend. I researched the market and realized we have a rare opportunity to practice our philosophy and lead a new industry of frictionless checkout technology. We launched our company in December 2013, recruited our first group of dream teammates by spring 2014, and have been working on “future-proofing” retail ever since.

Q: What were the main challenges you faced?

Ironically, the main challenge we faced is timing. With retail technology, the sales cycle of established solutions is already notoriously long. To successfully introduce new technology to the retail market takes a lot of endurance and creative solutions.  

At the end of 2013 when Will and I decided to launch FutureProof Retail, we were optimistic about the business timelines. We have a team and the skills to fast-track many of the technology hurdles. From my research of the market at the time, we expected the pace of change in retail innovation to be quick. I knew that as popular as e-commerce technology was, it started to hit diminishing marginal returns. I predicted that Alibaba and Amazon, the e-giants of the East and West, would both expand offline into the physical space. Based on their investment activities at the time, I expected them to launch in either grocery or fashion retail first, and I also expected them to come offline by 2015.  Our strategy was to position ourselves as the trusted technology partners for brick and mortar retailers who will help them compete with Amazons and Alibabas of the world.

I was right- both Amazon and Alibaba came offline, starting in the grocery space. However, they did not come offline until 2017, and it would take a few more years after that before the market fully validated scan and go. In total it took seven years for the market to fully validate scan and go as the next iteration of in-store selling. I had originally expected (and planned for) this to take only three years. We had to get creative really quickly and stretch our resources so we could last long enough to ride the wave when it came.

To survive the long sales and market timeline, our team prioritized and specialized in the technology. We partnered with best in class solutions around the world for business growth. We shared our technology expertise in the space and even consulted for top companies trying to build their own in-house projects. We kept incorporating more and more top technology solutions into our platform. Some examples include SIRL’s indoor location and navigation system, Halla’s food recommendations engine, Tiliter’s computer Vision self-service scales, LIFX’s beacon lights and Nedap’s RFID for loss prevention upgrades.

We focussed on delivering the best user experience, with the best technology partners, and that set us up perfectly to lead this generation’s checkout technology space. By the time the market was ready, we already had the best case study in the industry with up to 30% of shoppers using our apps at Fairway Market stores. Today our clients span three continents, five different retail verticals, and are setting new records across our industry for both adoption and ROI every month.

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Not at all. Will and I came up with the idea and started the project, but we would not have gotten this far, nor would we have the motivation to keep going for this long,  without the privilege of venturing with our incredible founding team. Without a doubt, this venture is a team effort. We feel lucky and grateful every day to be working with and inspired by our extremely talented and kind teammates.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Typically retail tech sales are negotiated on a per-client basis, with the sales team trying to maximize what each client pays. It wastes time, adds uncertainty to the buying process, and is exhausting for all parties. So we decided to change it up (inline with our philosophy of saving time) with simple, transparent SAAS based pricing that we publish online - and as far as we know we’re the only ones in our industry to do this.

One portion of our pricing is a transaction fee, that aligns our incentives and our clients: We don’t just sell the solution and say “good luck!” rather we work with the client, consultatively, to grow adoption over time and increase ROI together. We form true partnerships with our clients, who become our best advocates, proudly sharing their success stories.

Caroline Mckenna

CEO and Founder - Social Good Connect

Caroline Mckenna

Q: What inspired you to found Social Good Connect and what were the main challenges you faced?

Social Good Connect was inspired by my experience as a business leader in both the private and third sectors. I worked for years in financial services, before leaving to train as a business and life coach. I then took on the role of CEO of a prominent non-profit organisation in Scotland while working as a consultant for organisations hoping to improve their social responsibility. These experiences led me to realise that there is an urgent need for closer collaboration between the sectors. Charities and companies were both coming to me, expressing a desire to work more effectively with each other, but also a frustration at the lack of clear channels to do so.

One of the constant problems that charities face is volunteer recruitment. With high turnover rates and low budgets for advertising, it costs non-profits hours of staff time to make sure they have the volunteers who keep the third sector running. For many businesses, a common challenge is knowing how to effectively support the mental health and wellbeing of their employees, measure and track their social impact, and build a strong reputation as an ethical organisation. 

I set out to solve these problems by building a digital platform where non-profits can promote their volunteering opportunities and reach a wide audience of skilled volunteers, while employees can upload their preferences and be matched to volunteering opportunities which suit their skills, interests, and availability. Non-profits can save time and money on volunteer recruitment, and businesses can give their employees autonomy and structure within their corporate social responsibility strategy.

One challenge we faced was acquiring funding as a not-for-profit business start-up that doesn’t provide direct support or offer share options. Another was getting businesses to understand why employee volunteering is such a beneficial social responsibility strategy. However, as a result of the pandemic, furlough, and long periods of lockdown, many companies are keen to support their employees and communities any way they can. They realise just how important it is to keep their teams engaged and their communities afloat and now view strong social responsibility as a route out of this uncertain period. 

After our accelerated launch (five months early!) in May this year, our challenges are similar to any other early stage start-up: we are catching up with our own initial success to make sure we are setting the foundations for future growth. 

Q: Did you start the venture alone?

Yes, I am the sole founder of the organisation however I have the incredible support of a skilled advisory board and passionate, committed team. In fact, a defining moment for Social Good Connect this year was a conversation I had in March in a virtual pub with my three extraordinary advisory panel members – Andy Lothian, Craig Nicol, and Danny Campbell. Despite being fulfilled by my work, I was starting to wonder if our 2020 goal to launch the employer-led volunteering platform we’d created was achievable in that timeframe. I knew that there was a place for a service which makes it easier for people to volunteer and find volunteers, but it felt like a long road to bring it to life and start helping people. Those three colleagues showed me unwavering support. They re-instilled my self-belief and at the end of that hour there was a flashing red light in my head telling me, “The world needs this, and it needs it now!”  

I returned to a potential funder that day with more conviction than ever and secured a big funding round by 6pm. Sometimes, however sure you are that you’re on the right path, others’ belief in you, and encouragement to keep going, is the tonic you need.

Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

Our business model is an annual subscription fee for businesses to join as members (not-for-profits looking for volunteers join for free). This membership is tiered according to business size and includes: 

  • Full access to the platform for all employees. 
  • A reporting dashboard with real time impact reporting.
  • Live ‘lunch and learn’ sessions to help embed a culture of volunteering in the organisation.
  • A large variety of volunteering opportunities for employees to choose from. 

We are on track to achieve our year 1 financial targets and expect to see continuous growth and a tipping point around year 2.

Note: This article is part of a series. Check out the full series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 12, Part 13.