18 Female Founders Share Why They Bootstrapped Over Raising Outside Funding

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series” comprises stories, Q&As and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.

There’s no doubt that raising funds for your company has the power to fuel growth and open previously unattainable doors. It evokes a sense of accomplishment and shows that not only do you as a founder believe in your business idea, but others also believe in it enough to invest their own money. However, raising outside funding may not be the best option for every business. 

After weighing the pros and cons of the fundraising process, the following 18 female founders determined the best decision for them and their business was to bootstrap. While the details of each of their bootstrapping journeys are unique, an overarching theme is apparent—a level of freedom is undeniably lost when bringing on investors.

Their viewpoints and advice are an encouraging reminder that you don’t necessarily need millions of dollars to validate your business idea. Perhaps more importantly, you need a mixture of wholehearted belief and open-mindedness. Perseverance, agility, flexibility and being able to quickly incorporate new information appears to be a winning formula—and has the potential to be even more effective when doing so without (or before) raising capital. 


Markea Dickinson

Co-founder of Thermaband Inc., a femtech company aiming to reframe midlife, destigmatize menopause, and empower women to control their health and wellness naturally. 

Markea Dickinson, Co-founder of Thermaband Inc. headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: Bootstrapping provided the ability to focus on product development to create a minimum viable product. Hitting several early milestones made our pre-seed investment opportunity more attractive and the terms more favorable.

My advice: Typically, if funds are available at reasonable terms, take them in order to share the risk. However, the flipside is that you share the reward. Therefore, if a modest investment is needed to get started and a founder has the resources available, then commit and bootstrap through early milestones. Then pursue funding as needed to scale. 


Lindsey Corbin

Founder and managing partner at delegate.legal, a virtual IP legal services firm.

Lindsey Corbin, Founder and managing partner at delegate.legal headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I felt strongly that I wanted this company to be mine, and be able to report to myself. I started this company after spending four and a half years in private equity and witnessing how the portfolio company can be influenced to change course. I was willing to take a risk on the cashflow side in order to keep 100 percent ownership. 

My advice: Ask yourself what your goals for the future are. Are you looking for a board for reporting or guidance, or are you looking to lead independently? Bootstrapping has its downsides, but it also means you are responsible for yourself and your team and making your own choices.


Shivika Sinha

Founder and CEO of Veneka, a company that curates personalized capsule wardrobes. 

Shivika Sinha, Founder and CEO of Veneka headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I was looking for the fastest method to test and validate ideas. I used no-code tools to hack variations of Veneka until I found a version that generated buzz and excitement. As a result, I was able to launch and grow quickly.

My advice: Learn about the no-code or low-code movement and leverage this philosophy to go as far as you can with your startup. You’ll be surprised at how much you can create without code. If you find that you do need outside investing, remember that fundraising should be a tactic to support your goals, not a goal itself.


Erika Ferszt

Founder of Moodally, an app that is creating better workplaces, one mood at a time.

Erika Ferszt, Founder of Moodally headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: When I looked into fundraising from others, I found that my entire day was spent chasing money and users in order to get my numbers in a place that would be attractive to investors. I decided that bootstrapping would allow me to move at my own pace and make the decisions I needed to in order to respect my product and my purpose. 

My advice: Be very clear on your driving motive and the time frame you want to work within. If you have a goal that is somewhat purpose-based, it may be harder to meet the requirements to satisfy investors. If you’re in a hurry to get your purpose-driven product to market and you want to move at your own speed, then bootstrapping is the best alternative.


Gloria Chou

Founder of Gloria Chou PR LLC, helping early-stage founders go from unknown to being seen, heard, and valued.  

Gloria Chou, founder of Gloria Chou PR LLC headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: Having the learning runway of failing, testing and trying again was critical to the success of my business. Entrepreneurship is a difficult journey, so building resilience is key.

My advice: You learn so much when you bootstrap. If you have the runway to take risks and not seek outside funding, stick to your guns and bootstrap until you can’t go any further. Remember, you can still seek advice, mentorship and build partnerships without fundraising.


Liz Long

Founder of Learn To Make A Product, an online incubator for physical product entrepreneurs. 

Liz Long, founder of Learn To Make A Product headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I am someone who gets significantly less creative under pressure. Having investors definitely creates more pressure for an entrepreneur, as you are responsible for regular updates, thorough explanations of your financials and strategy. It’s not worth it to me to take that pressure on when there are other ways to grow a business. 

My advice: Do you really need as much money as you think you do? Taking regular modest-sized loans from nontraditional sources can help you grow steadily without the time and energy required to secure investors. 


Raquel Rojo Calderón

Founder and CEO of Innata Style, a company that helps rising women show up confidently by elevating their personal style.

Raquel Rojo Calderón, founder and CEO of Innata Style headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I wanted to learn all about my clients’ wishes and pain points. It was the right choice because it allowed me to evolve my services to respond to my clients’ actual needs.

My advice: I would test the market fit and the scalability of your service or product before fundraising. Then, I would estimate exactly how much funding you need to reach the next level and ask for it with confidence.


Carrie Sporer

Co-founder of SWAIR, a company that creates time-saving and multitasking products for people who workout. 

Carrie Sporer, co-founder of SWAIR headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: My co-founder, Meredith Krill, and I are beauty industry outsiders, and we want to make sure that we are able to move at our own pace. It is important for us to be authentic in creating products and establishing a brand culture, so we didn’t want to have the pressure of growing sales on a fixed timeline at the risk of straying from our core values. 

My advice: I would always recommend, when financially possible, to bootstrap for a minimum of 12 to 24 months before looking for outside funding. It is important to have the space to get to know your brand before you put a lot of money behind it. In my opinion, it is easier to be nimble and change course when there is less at stake financially.


Katharine McKee

Founder of Morphology Consulting, a digital commerce consultancy.

Katharine McKee, founder of Morphology Consulting headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: We chose to bootstrap out of a desire for full control over our long-term planning. Most of what we do involves helping clients create processes that build them long-term profitability and it is important to us to practice what we preach. 

My advice: Be clear with whether you need it or want it. Take a long look at what your goals are and where potential investors would fit. 


Antoinette Alexander Adefela

Founder and CEO of Exp.Design LLC, a creative learning agency that designs and develops custom learning solutions.

Antoinette Alexander Adefela, founder and CEO of Exp.Design LLC headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I didn’t want to have any debt in my company. I started the company with my own funds and a client. I saved the funds from working with that client as a reserve for my future team. As I grew and worked with more clients, the need to raise funds was eliminated. We keep our expenses low and I’ve paid myself the bare minimum to ensure we can operate without investors. 

My advice: When deciding on whether to bootstrap or fundraise, create a 3-, 5-, and 10-year strategy and determine if your service or product will sustain your company and enable you to reach your goals.


Jes Osrow

Co-founder of The Rise Journey, which works with growth-stage organizations to build their best team and an empowering organizational culture.

Jes Osrow, co-founder of The Rise Journey headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: My co-founder and I wanted to fully understand our market and make our own decisions. By bootstrapping, we had control over our choices. It allows us to better support our clients along the journey. 

My advice: Make sure that you can live without or with a limited salary for an extended period of time. Even now, our salaries are not what we would be making in a full-time role. Instead of salaries for ourselves, we are able to pay employees, invest in software and tools to make us more effective and efficient, and continue to grow our business. We are hustling for long-term success and payout. That takes time. 


Lauren Ephrat

Founder of Doodle Couture, a trend-setting, collectible and modern accessories brand for dogs. 

Lauren Ephrat, founder of Doodle Couture headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I chose to bootstrap to give myself as much leverage and flexibility as possible early on. Less initial debt means more control of your company. I was very fortunate in that the pandemic significantly impacted my income last year in a positive way. I made the decision to invest every bit of that overage into something I could build upon for my future while making a small difference in the world. 

My advice: If possible, I would always lean toward bootstrapping. There is less financial risk and it forces you to be creative and roll up your sleeves.


Morgaine Trine

Owner of Honestly Bookkeeping, implementing foundational and forward-thinking processes to allow owners to make informed decisions about their business and build security.

Morgaine Trine, owner of Honestly Bookkeeping headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I came into the business space because it was a means to an end. I wanted to be able to travel and it frankly didn’t even occur to me to do anything but self-fund. There were already so many other moving pieces—figuring out where I would go, setting up the business, learning how to run a business—that getting outside funding would have been too much to handle. 

My advice: Context is everything. If you’d like to have 100 percent control or have a longer lead time, then self-funding could be the right choice. When you self-fund, you are beholden to no one but yourself. For some people that’s freeing, and for others that’s stifling. 


Erin Halper

CEO of The Upside, a private community for consultants and industry experts.

Erin Halper, CEO of The Upside headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I wanted the freedom to make my own decisions, mistakes and pivots without the constant pressure of turning a quick profit. By bootstrapping, I was able to grow slowly and thoughtfully, making business choices that were aligned with my values and personal goals. This choice also gave me the freedom to create a weekly schedule that fit my lifestyle as a working mom, without having to explain, apologize, or justify it to anyone. 

My advice: It’s tempting to want to raise capital because of the money, access and personal exposure it can bring. However, not all businesses need outside funding to thrive. Challenge yourself first to design a long-term business model that can sustain itself organically. If this proves impossible, then seek outside funding. 


Amanda Black

Founder and CEO of The Solo Female Traveler Network, offering solo group tours and community cultivating freedom, confidence and a celebration of empowerment.

Amanda Black, founder and CEO of The Solo Female Traveler Network headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I bootstrapped because one of my main motivators in starting my own business was to not only own my business, but also my time and my results. My business became profitable from Day One, and there was no good reason to raise funds. That may change as the needs of our community shift, but for now it is the best decision. 

My advice: These days, everyone wants to raise! But before following the trend, consider growing slower but owning 100 percent of your business. Some ideas need some funding, but if you don’t need it, consider if it’s worth the loss in equity and the new business partners before taking it. 


Degelis Tufts Pilla

Co-founder and CEO of TribeTokes, creating luxury CBD vape oils, skincare and wellness products for the next-generation cannabis consumer. 

Degelis Tufts Pilla, co-founder and CEO of TribeTokes headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I wanted the freedom to experiment without the pressure from investors. I want to be in this business for the long term and make decisions based on what feels right or only what could be profitable. 

My advice: I wouldn’t go into a bootstrapped startup without significant savings, a side hustle, or another financial provider in your family. Freedom from poverty is just as important as freedom from investors. If you can’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your business properly. You should expect to not be able to pay yourself for a couple of years and be OK with that. 


Alex Cooley

Founder and CEO of AC Electric, a womxn’s leadership consultancy who supports ambitious mid-career women and the organizations that support them.

Alex Cooley, founder and CEO of AC Electric headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: I left my 9-to-5 as a TV writer for independence and the ability to choose exactly what I do and who I do it for. There is a version of this that’s a platform, an app, or an online network that could have meant fundraising, but I wanted to be sole owner of the decisions and direction of the business. So I did a hard pivot. I was learning every single thing about a new business and fundraising would have added another degree of complication that, at the time, did not make sense for me. 

My advice: Let me be clear: It is my extreme privilege to have both the generational wealth and past savings at a high-paying job to have the means to bootstrap. You have to evaluate and understand how much runway you have to do this on your own, and what your level of access is to a fundraising network, grants, incubator programs, or crowdfunding. 


Kelsey Specter

Co-founder and CDO of Smart Planner Corp., a company that creates planners, agendas and organizers for a happier, more productive lifestyle.

Kelsey Specter, co-founder and CDO of Smart Planner Corp headshot

Why I chose to bootstrap: We wanted to start small and test the market first. Our initial order was for only 1,500 units, and the idea was to continue reinvesting the profits and growing slowly over time. Getting outside funding didn’t make sense to start with because we didn’t have any market viability testing and wouldn’t be able to effectively allocate the funds.

My advice: Make sure you have a thoughtful and well-planned-out roadmap for how you will invest the money. Ideally, you will have a market-tested product first so you know how quickly and effectively you can scale. 

All individuals featured in this article are members of Dreamers & Doers, a private collective that amplifies the entrepreneurial pursuits of extraordinary women through thought leadership opportunities, authentic connection and access. Learn more about Dreamers & Doers and subscribe to its monthly The Digest for top entrepreneurial and career resources.

  • Originally published September 27, 2021, updated April 26, 2023