While on maternity leave after the birth of her twins, for which she’d had little time to prepare for due to health issues, Margi Scott realized that she would need to ask for financial help to support her family. After browsing platforms like GoFundMe, she realized over 2,000 women were also crowdfunding to support themselves on unpaid maternity leave.
The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide paid family leave. The only option that comes close is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides employees with job-protected, unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks. The thing is, many women can’t afford to take three months of unpaid leave.
“It’s like being unemployed for three months without the unemployment benefits,” Scott said.
About 14 precent or private sector employees have access to paid leave, according to the Department of Labor. Those without paid leave sometimes return to work within 10 days of giving birth, one study found.
Scott hopes to help these new mothers through Take 12, a platform that aims to help women navigate preparing for maternity leave. Built on a standard crowdfunding model, Take 12 allows friends and family to relieve the financial stress of unpaid maternity leave for working mothers by giving financial gifts in lieu of a traditional baby registry.
“It allows friends to gift each other time, rather than things they don’t need as much,” Scott said. While it’s societally acceptable to gift new mothers supplies and food, it’s not as common to give financial gifts or request what’s really needed: time.
Take 12 was one of seven local companies that participated in gener8tor’s spring gBETA program – an accelerator for early-stage startups. Unlike a full-fledged accelerator, gBETA does not take equity in the companies and does not charge for participation. Gener8tor says that graduates of this program have collectively raised more than $5.5 million since 2015, and 50 percent have gone on to participate in future equity-based accelerators or raised at least $50,000 in seed funding.
“Our main objective is to empower women to take the matter into their own hands.”
Registries can be set up by mothers-to-be, or others who want to help. Co-workers are the most popular group to create registries, Scott said. The first site was launched in March 2016, with the beta version following in January 2017. The current version of the site launched in last fall.
The site currently has around 520 registries and has raised over $11,000 for new mothers since inception. Resources and planning guides are also available on the site. Take12 takes 3 percent of every transaction made on the site (the minimum amount possible) for operations and 2.9 percent for processing costs.
In the next few months, Take12 is aiming to operate on a zero-percent fee platform, so more financial gifts can directly benefit new mothers, Scott said. Expanding by partnering with small businesses and companies is also in the startup’s agenda, so that employees can better navigate and afford their leave.
“We’re trying to be the go-to site for working moms who are planning to grow their families,” Scott said. “Our main objective is to empower women to take the matter into their own hands.”
By doing this, Take12 also hopes to advocate for long-term change. While the site itself is an immediate solution, long-term solutions to improve maternity leave are necessary to fix what Scott calls an “actual maternal health issue in the U.S.”
In providing a platform for financial gifts, Take12 allows new mothers the time they need to spend with newborns, while relieving the financial stress.
“We feel that time is the most precious gift,” Scott said.