Anatomy of a WomensNet Grant Application
January 15th 2024
Michaella Estevez and Ashley Olafsen, co-founders of The Wildflower Company, caught the attention of the WomensNet advisory board with their detailed grant application.
By explaining the big picture for their “wellness community centered around value-driven goal-setting and structured support” and the annual planner they designed, developed, and sell, The Wildflower Company was the $10,000 Startup Grant winner for November 2023 from WomensNet.
Providing some background information
Olafsen and Estevez started their grant application by explaining the origins of their product and business.
They said, “A few years ago, we noticed a concerning trend among our post-grad friends: everyone was experiencing some degree of overwhelm and aimlessness during the transitional period after college. Although some of this was to be expected, this overall lack of direction, stress, and burnout significantly affected everyone’s mental health and sense of fulfillment.”
That was the problem, or the gap in the market that seemed not to have a solution.
This led to some conversations between the two friends about what it might look like to “design your dream life alongside your best friends.”
To start to explore that question, they created an online goal-setting group in late 2020 for their best friends and shared “a framework for designing an aligned, balanced, and fulfilling life.” This group effectively became their Beta test group or an initial trial run.
Throughout all of 2021, the group met monthly “to set goals, hold each other accountable, and reflect on a pathway toward a meaningful life.” By sharing their hopes and dreams within the group, the friends “worked towards intentions and goals and ultimately created lives we were truly proud of.”
The process got results. Olafsen reported, “One of our friends was able to quit her 9-5 job to become a full-time YouTuber – a dream she’d been pursuing for over a decade.” Others also accomplished their goals and made progress in designing the life they aspired to have.
Buoyed by the group’s achievements, Estevez and Olafsen began formalizing the process that had emerged. They decided to create a mindfulness planner “that would pair seamlessly with a community-led accountability group.”
In March 2022, the now-business partners crowdfunded $15,000 to manufacture their first line of planners for women in their 20s. They launched the planner in October 2022 and have continued to build on their early success.
Sharing specific facts and figures
After describing their business and how it came to be, the business partners then told the financial story of their business within their application.
They started by making a case for demand, which is the first question any advisor, investor, or grant committee wants to see. No one wants to give money to an organization that can’t use it to continue to grow — businesses that are struggling and on the verge of collapse are unlikely to convince a grant committee to give them more money.
That wasn’t the case with The Wildflower Company, they demonstrated.
They shared their sales statistics, customer base, email list size, growth rate, and projected revenue for 2024.
The company was in growth mode and was being held back by access to capital, they communicated.
Explaining how the funds will be used
After proving sustainable demand for their products and services, The Wildflower Company walked us through how a $10,000 grant would catapult the business.
With $10,000, they explained, they could “fund the second production run of our physical planner products.” They continued, “We are nearly sold out of our first production run and need funding in order to purchase more products.” A grant would enable the business to produce 600+ more planners.
Whenever you can show how a grant will quickly be converted to sales, you’re doing well.
Takeaways and hints
The entire application was less than two pages long. However, within those pages, Olafsen and Estevez provided background on why and how the company was founded, gave evidence that the product is effective, that they have an audience ready to buy from them, and that they know what they need in order to ramp up growth.
Although they were able to make a case without other details, it’s always good to include:
- Background on who you are and what relevant experience you may have in this space. Olafsen, for example, is a 4X founder and helps lead a university entrepreneurship program for women, which gives her added credibility that she didn’t mention.
- Marketing details, to explain where you’re connecting with your target audience and how well you’re converting prospects to buyers.
- Future plans are also good to mention, if you have a vision for how your business might expand. There are so many ways The Wildflower Company could choose to go and it would have been interesting to hear more about their vision, if they were willing to share.
These pieces of information would have been added bonuses, however, because, the application was strong without those details. That’s why The Wildflower Company was our Startup Grant winner for November 2023.