FBMC Roadmap: Where Lean Startup Meets Feminist Business Practice

You’ve developed your first full version of of your Feminist Business Model Canvas. Now you have a “forest-level view” of what your business could be.

But what happens next?

The FBMC is designed to help you with one critical task– sketching out, on a single page, the core assumptions of your business idea and how it all fits together to create sustainable value, demonstrate your values, and promote social change.

While the FBMC helps you accomplish a critical task for your startup, it’s only the first of several steps you have to take to bring your business idea to fruition.

Depending on your personal approach to building a business, the FBMC can be useful in one of two ways.   

One way forward is to use your FBMC as a simple guide to and reminder of your vision of your business.  Conventionally, business models are used this way — to capture the cross-sectional picture of the business idea at a given point in time.

You can use whatever process or roadmap you want as you bring your business idea forward, and simply revise the canvas to keep it up-to-date with your latest understanding of your big picture.

The second way forward is to use your FBMC as the foundational step in pursuing a Lean Startup/ Running Lean strategy for incrementally designing, testing, learning, and growing your business. (This is how I’ve designed it to be used.) 

********** Ways to work Together ***********

Sign up for Small, Online Co-Working Group for Your FBMC

Workshop your FBMC in a small group “class” that will include three 60 min video sessions, with online conversations and individual work to develop your business ideas further. Over a 4-6 week span, I’ll send you work to complete before each session and then lead group conversations around a specific feminist business model challenge. In between sessions, I’ll send readings and recaps. All sessions will be be recorded and made available to all participants.

While the focus of this class is to fill out the FBMC (including the second pass with Feminist Business Values and a conversation about fit between sections), the group will develop its own unique agenda and agree on shared goals. We’ll make sure not only that you feel confident about your own big picture, but that you learn through the counsel of others and by helping others with their businesses. The ultimate goal? A fully-fleshed out FBMC that you can act on, and a mastermind/accountability and peer-support community you can continue on your own indefinitely.

These sessions start around June 1st and run for 4-6 weeks as decided by participants. $250.  Groups will have a minimum of 3 participants/teams and a maximum of 5. 

Build Your Feminist Business with Individual Consulting:

Work one-one-one with me (CV) to complete your FBMC and get a firm grip on the possibilities for your business – customer – product – change options. We’ll use your FBMC as the entry framework into the Lean Startup process, setting an agenda, milestones, and time box that works for you. We’ll start by finishing up your provisional FBMC, and then–depending on how far you want to go–develop a roadmap and resources budget, move into customer understanding interviews, hypothesis testing, product prototyping, and developing customer channels and relationships. Here is a suggested “Lean Startup Meets Feminist Practice” roadmap and milestones.

This kind of work unfolds best when we agree at the start on what, how much, and how long we’ll work together so we use your time and energy well. We’ll start with two 60-minute video sessions, with offline work beforehand and written recaps and offline research/planning after each conversation. $250. Email cv@feministsatwork.com to get started. 


Pursuing a Lean Startup strategy, an entrepreneur would begin a focused process where they “build, measure, and learn” as they develop their product idea and revenue streams. However, before moving towards designing and testing a product prototype, lean startup strategy directs the entrepreneur to accomplish a few other critical tasks first. These include confirming customers’ needs, clarifying exactly what a product needs to offer, and understanding how to expand the product’s offer to include not just function but also meaning.  Other important work (that is often skipped over) is establishing a timeline and resources budget to keep work on track and help channel your energy.

I’ve outlined the typical process that my lean startup teams have followed, in the table below.  An entrepreneur would follow the first six steps to test (and revise) each element of their initial FBMC, so that they move forward only after they’ve proved or disproved that their initial expectations were on target, and figured out how to adjust them.

Following a lean startup strategy, entrepreneurs use the FBMC to organize their path forward. They dig into their FBMC to identify the different things they’re assuming must be true in order for their business model to work (e.g., they are assuming that X customer has Y need that will be met by a product with Z features). Then, they rank these assumptions in what I call “reverse Jenga order” (most critical assumptions first) and go about testing them through empathic, qualitative interviews with potential customers and through interviews and observations as customers interact with product prototypes.

Once entrepreneurs establish that the solution they offer fits the problems of the customer (“problem-solution fit”) they move ahead to scoping out the social context, the marketplace, and the channels through which they can connect their customer with their products.  (These next steps are outlined in the Product-Purpose-Market Fit Roadmap. )

I assume that most fledgling feminist business are SMEs or start-ups — small enough that there is plenty of opportunity (and need for) experimentation, iteration, and testing as they move forward. I also assume that the entrepreneurs and/or leadership team members have the authority to shape the direction of the company as well as drive and prioritize its next steps and milestones.




Completed FBMC

What’s your big picture? How does it all make sense?

  • Complete first pass across segments.
  • Dive deeper, with second pass that explicitly builds in Feminist Business Values.
  • Check for alignment and fit.
  • Educated, insightful, aligned estimates of how your business can make money and make a (feminist) difference.
  • Ready to roadmap your full action plan.

Time & Resources planning

Where do you go next? What will it take?

  • Evaluate your capacity for depth, breath, and time.  Set time goals and action goals for mini-benchmarks.
  • Identify resources ($ and non-$) you can bring to development.
  • List critical assumptions and determine how to test them w/ data.
  • Step-by-step plan, with guardrails, amounts, targets, and resources, so you know what’s in front of you and where to go next.
  • Ideas for how/when to enlist helpers.

Customer Understanding: Validated hypotheses

  • Conduct “Customer Development interviews” to understand what customers really need.
  • Create interview learning objectives,  questions, data summary sheet.
  • Analyze results to confirm hypotheses.
  • Validated hypotheses, because you have data that proves what you understand about your customers and their needs.
  • Fuller picture of who your customer is and what they think like, are concerned about, and do.
  • Language from the customers’ point of view describing their needs, their current ‘solutions’, and what they would prefer to their current solutions.
  • Understanding how your customers’ needs are related to their desire for social/political/economic change.

Product Features Understanding: Recognizing what your product needs to offer to customers to meet their functional and expressive needs.   

  • Using interview data, describe what a customer is looking for in a “solution”. (Not the actual product, but what the product needs to do.)
  • Test that this description is accurate and comprehensive, through additional interviews.
  • A clear enumeration of what any solution/ product needs to do.
  • Parameters that let you riff on many possible “products” to solve the problems/ needs.
  • Parameters that you can test with customers to see if they are interested.
  • Clarified, specific features that your solution/ option must contain.

Testable Solution Prototypes
(aka Minimum Viable Products/ Services)

  • Envision and sketch three different possible products that would reflect the parameters identified.
  • Create a paper, non-functioning, and/or concierge prototype that customers can interact with to demonstrate to you whether and how it meets their needs.
  • A prototype of your product idea that consumers have shown they are willing and happy to pay for.
  • A basic, entry-level product that you can sell, even as you continue to develop and improve the product.

Validated Problem-Solution Fit

Finding your First Paying Customers

  • Build an email capture tool
  • Test different outreach channels (social media, adverts, other)
  • Test landing pages or other “offer” media
  • Paying customers, and a clear way to find them.

Market Analysis and Competitive Analysis

  • Desk research on top competitors, market size, projected market growth.
  • Field research with customers, interacting about similar products or alternative solutions.
  • Build a table showing how your product and company compare to others’ solutions.
  • Reasonable ballpark quantitative estimates of the size of your business opportunity. Numbers you can share in good faith with stakeholders.
  • Understanding of your top three competitors, what they offer, where they are constrained, and how well they serve customers’ needs.
  • Clarity around what your product and company provide as a sustainably competitive* advantage.

Social Context Analysis

  • Desk research on the social context your product and company want to influence.
  • Analyze current initiatives for their effectiveness and possible synergy.
  • Conduct person-to-person interviews with customers and social stakeholders, interacting with your products and messages, to understand what conversations and changes you might influence.
  • Interview stakeholders at other organizations that might be potential allies.
  • Investigate and build out your theory of social change, getting explicit about how your product and messages will make a difference.
  • Possible allies / partners in the social change element of your business model.
  • Clear, comprehensive Theory of Change, including customers & social stakeholders.

Validated Product-Issue- Market Fit … and more…


Image by Ryan Fonkert on Flickr