Prabha Dublish ’18: Female Founder Stories (Part 1)
Prabha Dublish ’18 is the Co-Founder and President of Womentum. Since 2015, Womentum has supported 40 women entrepreneurs in six countries. Prabha is a talented entrepreneur and will be joining Facebook’s Product Marketing team upon graduation!
Tell me about Womentum.
Womentum is a pay-it-forward nonprofit crowdfunding platform that allows anyone in the world to donate to women entrepreneurs in developing countries. Donors provide seed funding to women to allow them to start businesses. All funds on the platform are donations. When a woman entrepreneur becomes profitable, they pay it forward to other women entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to start your business?
The summer after freshman year, I went on a trip to India to see what entrepreneurship looks like in communities without access to resources like we have here. I traveled to a town outside the city of Delhi where there are a lot of villages, and met with women entrepreneurs in-person to learn how they were able to start businesses and what their lives looked like. It was clear to me that entrepreneurship in those settings is powerful and the money they receive would provide the confidence for these women to start their businesses. Getting to the point where they are able to become entrepreneurs is difficult there. Women are generally unable to receive funding from a bank because they are illiterate, had no income, or their family wouldn’t support them due to gender stereotypes. I wanted to do something to help these women entrepreneurs. That’s where Womentum came from.
Who is your role model and why?
Sheryl Sandberg. Reading her book Lean In in high school led to a turning point in my life. I transitioned from not really having a direction to getting involved in the social impact space. Her book helped me realize that I was not alone in the struggles I had faced since childhood, such as being nervous to raise my hand in class or speak in front of an audience. Her words and everything she’s accomplished have been incredibly inspirational.
What motivates you?
I’m very motivated by the woman entrepreneurs I had the opportunity to meet in 2015 and the woman entrepreneurs I get to meet because of the work we do. Their stories, successes, and struggles they’ve had to overcome to become powerful women is inspirational to me. When things are difficult I remember that Womentum isn’t a fight for myself, it’s for a greater community of women. That’s a big driving force behind everything I do.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received? What is the worst?
The best advice I’ve gotten is to filter feedback. This is something really important I heard about in WIN Lab. I used to go to pitch competitions and get told outrageous and hurtful feedback. I now know to take a step back and consider whether the person knows the full story or if they are being influenced by their beliefs. Filtering the feedback in this way is important so you don’t get off-track. This applies to both professional and personal feedback.
Three to four years ago, I heard a lot of stereotypes about entrepreneurs such as that they had to be very vocal or aggressive. All these stereotypes created this imaginary mold of who an entrepreneur should be. I was often discouraged by this notion. Even today, I don’t necessarily hit those boxes but the work we do is impactful and successful. A lot of the advice around who should be an entrepreneur is false. Everyone has inherent qualities that make them different entrepreneurs, but not just one type will be successful.
What has been your greatest entrepreneurial achievement?
For me, it comes back to a lot of these ideas of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Specifically, I have a big fear of public speaking which is challenging because I have to pitch in front of hundreds of people. One of my biggest accomplishments was presenting in front of 250 people last year at a Mass Innovation Night and being chosen as the fan favorite of the night. I worked really hard to make sure everything went perfectly and it was surreal to see my effort come to fruition. We met Mayor Marty Walsh that night, who enjoyed learning about Womentum and encouraged us to keep going.
What has been your greatest challenge and what lessons did you take from it?
Starting a new nonprofit. When most people think about college entrepreneurship, they imagine starting the next Facebook in a dorm room. The nonprofit space is pretty traditional. The same nonprofits have been around for a while and the 10-15 donors donate to the same organizations every year. Being a college student starting a technology-based nonprofit was a big challenge in itself. It taught me how to make myself seem more credible and made me mature in many ways. I learned how to speak to people older than me, operate in this space, and build credibility through my board members who have credibility. It’s a hard industry to break into as a college student.
What tips do you have for future female founders?
Don’t be discouraged by the statistics. You may hear that only 3% of venture funding will go to women and that there are not a lot of female founders. When I started Womentum as a sophomore at Babson, I was constantly surrounded by male founders who were going through different journeys. I was discouraged when I compared our success.
Find a community of women going through a similar journey who can support you. For me, that was my WIN Lab cohort who I still talk to now. The WIN Lab is the greatest resource at Babson for female entrepreneurs. I had already found mentors for Womentum, but through the WIN Lab I found a personal mentor who is an incredible female founder. It’s great to have a community and people to look up to. The statistics about female entrepreneurship are sad, but having those people around you makes the journey so much easier.