CORA CEO ON HOW TO GROW A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AND CROWDFUNDING TIPS

Published on June 22nd, 2014

molly hayward_cora_ceo

You have to be insane to be an entrepreneur.  There are easier ways to make money so why would anyone decide to subject themselves to non-stop work, non-stop worrying and constant ups and downs?  Some say it’s because they don’t like to work for anyone.  Some say it’s because the only way you can maximize your earning potential is to own a business.  But to be successful—to get through the constant grind and worry—your motives have to be much bigger.

Daniel Pink, author of “Drive” explains that “purpose” is the strongest motivational force.  When you connect your professional agenda to your purpose in life, the limits on what you can accomplish disappear.  Molly Hayward, CEO of CORA is an example of this realization.  Alongside her team, Molly is building a company whose purpose is to help young women overcome societal limitations based on biological circumstance.  CORA provides organic feminine hygiene products to women in the U.S and matches those purposes with free menstrual pads to young women in developing countries.

In the video below, Molly explains why this is so important and how you can get involved.  And in the interview below, she explains how she started such an ambitious operation, how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign and her general advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.  Enjoy.

 

** Click here to donate to the campaign**

CC:      Can you introduce yourself and tell me what CORA is?

MH:     My name is Molly Hayward and I’m the CEO of CORA.  CORA is a subscription company for organic feminine hygiene products for women in North America.  And for every monthly box that we ship to a woman in North America, we provide a girl in a developing country with a month’s supply of sustainable sanitary pads so that she doesn’t have to miss school.

 

CC:      What made you decide to be a social entrepreneur as opposed to one who simply focuses on profit margins?

MH:     I’ve always had a really strong interest and connection to women’s economic empowerment, both here and in developing countries.  What really brought me to this particular issue was several years of working in various capacities for women’s social economic empowerment.  I realized that menstruation was creating a huge barrier for girls in terms of getting a full education in developing countries.  We know how essential education is for economic development and gender equality.

So it forced me to really look at what was going on in my own society and the types of products that women use here and the way that women here experience their periods.  And I saw this opportunity to connect the two.  So really it was about serving both groups of women through one company.  I think the reason that I care so much is because I believe so strongly in the right of women to not be disempowered in any way by a fact of their biology.

 

CC:      Once you got the idea, how did you handle international manufacturing and distribution? 

MH:     We partner with organizations on the ground in India and soon to be Kenya, who are developing a small scale social enterprise model of manufacturing units for the products that CORA purchases to give away to girls.  These manufacturing cooperatives that are women owned and operated.  So you’re supporting the local economy and you’re giving women alternatives.  That particular manufacturing unit is being setup in the Red Light District in India, so you’re providing an alternative to women who would otherwise be prostitutes and sex workers.  It’s a really significant part of CORA’s model to work with organizations that provide that type of opportunity for women beyond just making sure that they go to school.

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CC:       This seems like a complicated process, so how did you acquire the information and guidance needed to execute?

MH:     The first year after the idea came to me was spent doing nothing but research, networking and reaching out to people and asking questions.  You have to find people who are willing to answer questions and ask you questions about it and poke some holes into it so you can figure out where the potential pitfalls may be.  I spent an entire year just doing research and talking to people who were doing something similar or whom I thought could help me.  I was focusing on menstruation so I was reaching out to product manufacturers and anybody who was working on the issue of healthy menstrual management.  And on the other side, I was reaching out to non-profit organizations and some for-profit businesses that were already addressing this issue in one way or another.  And that’s actually how I found my partners.

After I thought I had enough information, the next step is to create the product to the best of your ability and try to sell it.  It’s not going to be perfect and you’re definitely going to change it but the most important thing is to not wait to ship your product until it’s perfect.  Create that minimum viable product and find some people who are willing to buy it.  And if they do, go to them and say, “How can I make this better?”

 

CC:      What made you decide to go the for-profit route as opposed to launching a non-profit?

MH:     For-profit companies have a very unique ability to scale in a way that non-profits do not.  And for me, it was really important to know that I could be dependent not on donors or grants but on the market.  So I can focus on providing a superior product to women here and trust that, that would scale my company and scale our impact.

 

CC:      What made you decide to do crowdfunding in addition to traditional funding?

MH:     We knew that we had come to a point where we needed to raise some seed capital for infrastructure.  I had bootstrapped the company in the testing phase so when it came time to take the next step, I knew that it would be from friends and family through crowdfunding.  Also, crowdfunding is a great way to seek market validation.  It’s a great way to figure out if people really want your product.  And it’s also a great platform for publicity and marketing.  It’s an event.

 

CC:      What practical advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

MH:     I would say, if you’re not prepared to go out and raise money right away or if your company is not going to be immediately interesting to an investor—and the majority of startups aren’t—keep your day job as long as possible.  And find people who know more than you and can advise you.  Building an advisory board, right off the bat is a really great thing to do.

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CC:      What are some practical tips you can offer for effective crowdfunding?

MH:     Number one, Have a kick-ass video.  Number two, make a list of everybody that you know who might potentially give you money and make educated guesses as to how much money they might give you.  You need to know exactly where every dollar for your campaign is going to come from before you launch.  You want to obviously over shoot your goals.  Some people are going to give you more than you expect and some people are going to give you less.  Don’t just throw out an obscure number.  It’s not a “build it and they will come” situation.  There’s definitely a lot of on-the-ground footwork.  It’s making calls and reaching out directly to people in your network.

Then, prior to launching plan to throw at least one event where the ticket sales are directly linked to a contribution to your campaign.  So make one of your backer gifts the price of a ticket.  It could be 20, 30 or 40 dollars depending on your demographic.  And then try to get a hundred people to the event.  Host committee parties are really useful.  You find 10 people who are willing to be a host and make each one of them responsible for bringing 10 people.  There’s your hundred people.  At 40 bucks a pop, that’s $4,000.

And as far as publicity, reach out to as many bloggers and reporters as possible prior to your launch.  Create a public drop box with a good, concise synopsis of your company, hi-resolution pictures and your video and send that to them.  A great resource I used for planning was Tim Ferris’ “Hacking Kickstarter.”  In the book, he basically talks about how a company he advises called Soma Water, raised $100,000 in 10 days.  And that’s really crazy so I don’t suggest anybody plan to do that unless Tim Ferris is on your advisory board.  But the book does provide a really good framework for how to use crowdfunding effectively.  But it doesn’t replace having that list of people and knowing where every dollar is going to come from.

 

CC:      Any last words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

MH:     If you have a great idea and you’re passionate about it, people are excited about it and those advisors that you’ve picked up along the way are also confident in the validity of the idea—just keep going.  There’s going to be so many moments when you feel like it’s not working and you have nowhere to go or it seems too difficult, but you just have to keep going.  Doors will open.  Perseverance and grit are just as important as intellect and skills.

 

CC:      Any last words about CORA?

MH:     CORA is going to revolutionize the way women experience their periods and this is just the beginning of something that’s going to change the world.  So our campaign is an opportunity for people to be a part of that.

UPDATE: CORA HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY REACHED ITS CROWDFUNDING GOAL!!! 

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(Posted by Garron Gibbs)

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