Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kim Folsom, Co-Founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, located in San Diego, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is Founders First Capital Partners. We provide revenue-based financial services for diverse-led founders — businesses owned by women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, and veterans, as well as those operating in low-to-moderate income areas or having inclusive hiring practices. Revenue-based financing works best for those with recurring or predictable income streams that have been in business for at least 12 months and have $1 million or more in annual gross revenue. One of the great things about revenue-based financing is that it can help create an infusion of capital for companies in a number of industries without having to give up equity or a stake in the company.
Tell us about yourself
I pursued a male-dominated degree (engineering), and I worked in a male-dominated field industry. It was frustrating to keep seeing my male peers being given the opportunities to lead business operations that I wasn’t. So, since I wasn’t allowed to run other people’s companies, I had to create my own. I went on to launch six startups prior to Founders First.
I initially started out as an entrepreneur because I had to forge my own path to success, but I kept seeing very few women-owned or people of color-owned businesses along the way that were given a chance to succeed. If you know anything about me, you'd know that I’m motivated by solving problems. With Founders First, I am on a mission to provide financial opportunities for those underrepresented entrepreneurs and help them grow sustainable, successful businesses.
When you identify a real problem you can help solve, there’s an economic component that provides a significant value to you and others. For me, I have identified this problem of diverse founders struggling with obtaining traditional bank financing or connecting with venture capitalists or angel investors who would be interested in funding their businesses because they’re not the next Facebook or Google. And that’s essentially why Founders First exists. I am inspired by the idea that we can create an inclusive economy, and we’re doing that through revenue-based financing.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest, most exciting accomplishment at Founders First is that we’re creating a pathway of progress for hundreds of other entrepreneurs. It’s visible, quantifiable, and so impactful. I get to leverage all of the knowledge and lived experiences I have to help grow those businesses and create value in communities across the country.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Patience is a big one that comes to mind. I just told our investors recently, “it takes four times as long and costs three times as much” to get what we want. In the end, it’s worth it, though. We live in a world where everyone expects things to happen quickly. That idea of overnight success is unrealistic, and very, very few things happen that way. I just have to coach our companies to be focused and have patience and persistence to push through to reach desired goals and objectives.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Set goals. It’s so important when you’re first starting out to set goals and keep track of your progress in meeting those goals. The first three years after I founded Founders First, I wrote in a journal every day. I wanted a record of everything I was trying to do, what I learned, what I accomplished, and what I planned to tackle the next day.
- Remember: it’s not what you think; it’s what your customer thinks. Take the opportunity to really listen to your customers. What’s the problem that you’re trying to solve for them? If it’s a significant problem, find out the pain points and work toward fixing them. Otherwise, you don’t have a business.
- Model your business, so there’s predictability and certainty. If you can demonstrate a history of the consistent rhythm of cash flow, then you won’t have any problem finding resources to keep your business afloat.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
People think that growing diverse businesses is the right thing to do for the subset of the market, not that it’s good for everybody. That’s where they’re wrong. Everybody will benefit from meritocracy, instead of when resources are available by class or privilege, so that everybody has a chance. Advocating to grow and fund these diverse-led businesses — and not just talking about it but doing it — helps so many other people thrive.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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