One of the legitimate complaints about millennials is that they lack an understanding of basic finance. Without playing the blame game, there is a company that is seeking to fix this once and for all in the most meaningful way possible. With iSow, one is able to save money towards a purpose; this means either raising money for an organization, saving for college, or towards any other worthwhile cause. With iSow, you focus on reaping long term benefits and teaching your child the most valuable lesson they can through smart gifting.
AlleyWatch chatted with the iSow team about the company as well as the strong community of women founders that make the NYC startup scene so special.
Tell us about the product or service.
iSow is a platform seeking to improve the financial health and understanding of young Americans. With a focus on helping 0-22 year olds, representing roughly 96 million Americans, iSow enables young people to use holidays, birthdays and special occasions as opportunities to save money with purpose. iSow users, either parents on behalf of children 0-12, or young people, ages 13-22, sign up and create a personal profile, identifying goals in three categories: “my savings” – saving towards future goals like college, “my cause” – sharing with those who are less fortunate, and “my wish” – spending wisely on things that matter. iSow encourages long-term savings behavior and inspires young Americans to plan, save and identify financial goals, all of which leads to greater financial stability and security. iSow is where kids learn by doing. Where they start and continue good habits. Where they understand saving, sharing and spending by actively engaging in all three. Where they can track progress and feel confident about their financial choices.
iSow aims to play a role in establishing young people’s long-term financial health by offering access to responsible financial vehicles, enabling investment in, and saving with, sound mechanisms that will help make their money grow.
How is it different?
There is no single place that enables young people to accept monetary gifts, meets them where they are, inspires them to put money to good use – saving, sharing, and spending to meaningfully support their goals and interests facilitates and promotes the practice of healthy financial habits
iSow sits squarely at the intersection of financial education, crowd-funding and gift registries. iSow differentiates itself by addressing each of these activities on one site, and with a generationally appropriate and easy to use interface. The focus is on personal development and not simply project development. iSow is an active, hands-on savings, fundraising and gifting experience. It’s about financial literacy, capability, goal-setting and action.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
The addressable market, young people in the United States, ages 0-22, stands at 96 million people. Research shows that each year, this audience receives a substantial portion of the $500 billion spent on material gifts. iSow is inspiring and facilitating a movement to redirect these funds toward meaningful savings, sharing and spending goals.
A few facts about iSow and its market:
- 2/3 of moms in America have said that they want a different way to celebrate birthdays and holidays for their kids because their kids have too much stuff.
- 89% of parents value education for their children’s future but only 51% of families are actually saving for college.
- Kids who are saving for college are seven times more likely to actually go to college.
- The average annual allowance for U.S. kids is $780; 1% of parents say their kids are saving any allowance.
There is a growing trend of young people choosing to use birthdays, holidays and other gift-giving moments to save for important goals – including helping other kids in need – instead of receiving more goods.
We know that the younger generation, numbering close to 100 million, is conscientious, hard-working, philanthropic, and concerned about their future.
What is the business model?
iSow charges a transaction fee, payable by the gift giver, of 5. Additionally, we have affiliate relationships from which we receive revenue linked to referral and product purchase activity.
What inspired the business?
I launched iSow when my daughter was approaching her 9th birthday and told me that she only wanted two things: enough money to save for an investment account and a bike. I knew that instead of those two very worthy goals, my daughter would instead receive a traunch of “stuff”, including rainbow looms, sew your own purse kits, make your own gum kits, and a host of other well-intentioned gifts that she didn’t want, need, or use.
It was then that I realized that the excess of birthday and holiday gift-giving for kids is teaching them the wrong values (consumerism and waste), instead of enabling them to use the financial exchange that happens on those holidays for good. And so I resolved to revolutionize gift-giving for young people.
What’s it like to be a female founder building a business in NYC? What resources have you found most helpful?
It’s has been like going sky diving, but with the biggest parachute ever constructed (which means that it doesn’t completely guarantee you won’t die, but it certainly puts the odds in your favor). So many of the women that I’ve met along the way have been fantastic supporters, confidantes, teachers, and friends, and have made a tremendously scary journey far less daunting. The most valuable resources that I’ve been privileged to take part of have been Pipeline Angels, which has a network of women entrepreneurs and investors that is unparalleled, and a Grand Central Tech women’s email list that has an amazing group of women who answer questions for one another, make recommendations, and give advice.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
25K users, 3 big partnerships, and raising another round of capital.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Hone your pitch early. You will use it every single day of your startup journey.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Mayor de Blasio. iSow could change the way that every young person in NYC grows up thinking about and using money. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a generation of young New Yorkers that knew how to save for important goals instead of spending all of their money on unnecessary stuff.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York is my home city, the place where I am raising my children and working to imbue them with values. I am hoping that iSow becomes a tool for many parents and children across this city to instill and practice the important values linked to goal setting, responsibility, community and giving back.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Ali’s Trinidadian Roti Shop in Brooklyn. That’s now considered “the city”, right?