“We actually weren’t going to launch at one point because we were fearful that it was the wrong time. But we thought, when is ever the right time? And perhaps women do need this now more than ever,” says DamiLola Soyoye, co-founder and CEO of BuildHer, a crowdfunding platform for Black women. During England’s first lockdown, which began in March 2020, DamiLola and her husband Akin (both 29), also a co-founder, took a step into the unknown and launched the platform they’d been building since December 2019.

According to a November 2020 report by Extend Ventures only 0.02% of capital investments went to businesses owned by Black women in the UK from 2009-2019, and only 0.24% of it went to Black entrepreneurs as a whole. With such disheartening statistics it’s clear why DamiLola, who is based in Manchester, decided to create BuildHer after her own frustrating experiences with raising investment. 

How does it work?

The rewards based platform is free for women to register and submit a campaign to raise funds for their business. “With a rewards based platform you can offer perks, rewards and gifts in exchange for donations and it’s just a wonderful way for people to pledge to support your campaign,” says DamiLola. As a campaign is updated on the platform, people are able to see the progress of a business from inception to launch.

Entrepreneurs have offered various rewards, including the opportunity to ‘virtually’ shadow a business owner for a day or receive a product before launch. After the BuildHer team has guided business owners every step of the way they take a small percentage of the funds raised to help keep the platform running. 

Since its launch, a diverse selection of entrepreneurs have raised funds on the platform including bookkeepers and artists. Each fund raising drive is called a campaign. One bookkeeper’s campaign raised £590 on the platform to help her start her firm.

An independent photographer raised £1,392 for a freelance artist community. She’d previously started the community to help artists who are struggling during the pandemic and those that experience discrimination based on race, gender identiy, sexual orientaion and disabilities. 

BuildHer hosts campaigns from entrepreneurs in the UK, but also from countries as far away as Madagascar. “We want to target Africa as well because there’s such an untapped population of women who are talented, who have ideas and who need just that bit of capital. And oftentimes the amount they need to start something is not huge when translated into pounds or dollars.” 

Key worker and small business owner 

Prior to the pandemic, DamiLola who is a nurse, took a break from work as she wanted to dedicate her time to creating BuildHer. But as the pandemic progressed many healthcare workers who weren’t working at the time received a call to return to hospitals. “I felt like this is a time where I need to care for people and there has been no greater time since I’ve been alive, than right now.” says DamiLola. 

Once she returned to work she was thrust onto the frontline. DamiLola says that she: “...saw some very sad situations where people lost their lives... But I also saw people that after quick intervention lived. As a clinician that’s what really gives me joy.”

Being a key worker and juggling a new business was a challenge, but DamiLola believed in the positive impact that BuildHer could make. As she says, “it’s a real solution to the problem of lack of capital.” And with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in May, coupled with the disproportionate effects the pandemic was having on the Black community, she wanted to keep on going. 

With so much to juggle, DamiLola decided to open a Starling business account in February 2020. She says, “The app was clean and easy to use, the registration process was straightforward.” Being able to open her account quickly enabled her to have one less thing to worry about. She enjoys using the Spaces feature as it helps her ring-fence funds and manage the money easily.

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