As a historically male position, entrepreneurship can be a very difficult undertaking for women. From developing the initial business idea to identifying potential investors to opening a business’ doors, men seemingly have an advantage over women in the world of starting your own business.
Still, that doesn’t stop the nine million women who own companies in the U.S. from accomplishing their entrepreneurial dreams. After all, women are founding companies at a historic rate. According to USC Marshall, women-owned firms have grown by 1.5 times the rate of other small enterprises in the U.S. throughout the past fifteen years. This gives hope and provides comfort to the hundreds of women who plan to start their own companies.
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In my own experience, it’s true: starting and owning your own company as a woman is not easy in and of itself. So when you consider the other typical entrepreneurial setbacks, such as minimal funding, lack of experience, or fierce competitors, being a woman who starts her own business becomes that much more difficult. It simply means we have to work that much harder to elevate our companies to success.
So what’s the secret to success for women in these positions? While there may be no magic formula other than hard work and perseverance, here are three pieces of advice I have for any woman looking to form her own company.
Focus on your self-confidence
It may sound simple, but in reality, developing confidence can prove to be a very difficult endeavor. However, the most important piece of advice I give fellow female entrepreneurs is to have confidence and move quickly with your ideas. Far too often, female entrepreneurs are held back by their fear of failure, especially as it compares to their male counterparts. That mentality can be extremely debilitating. As women, our brains oftentimes tell us we need to have a perfect business plan or product before we ask for help or engage mentors, but the truth of this is our fears have more credibility in our heads than they do in reality.
A study conducted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder than a man, so the unfortunate reality is that many women have to actively work to turn off the self-deprecating thoughts that hold them back. However, it’s completely possible to block out these fears and maintain a sublime sense of confidence – it just takes a little work sometimes.
Ultimately, having confidence in yourself is extremely beneficial to entrepreneurship for a number of reasons. Primarily, it will allow one to have the courage to chase after their dreams and turn them into a reality. However, it will also help starting entrepreneurs to counter the negativity and failure that often comes with starting your own business. As previously mentioned, for women, in particular, it can be difficult to ward off negative self-talk, but to operate with an improved self-confidence can make all the difference in one’s professional success.
Quickly develop your network
As a budding entrepreneur, one of the most vital contributors to your success will be the network you create. From key investors to professional mentors and more, it’s important to keep in mind no one is successful on their own. As you begin to develop your business idea, take a look at the network you’ve already created and determine who can provide you advice, support, and resources. From there, use the connections already in your network to expand upon. See if those people can introduce you to others who will be beneficial to your journey. Look for individuals who have started their own companies, or someone who is particularly passionate about whatever field you’re creating your company in. You’ll find those who will be the most resourceful to you probably aren’t more than a degree or two away.
Additionally, as a woman, networking and expanding your circle will be particularly helpful. Be sure to seek out other women who have taken similar paths or who will be able to support you throughout your journey in a number of roles. Consider joining women-focused professional groups where you’ll be able to quickly engage with others and expand your network. Personally, my experience in groups like these has been particularly beneficial for my career and has given me the opportunity to mentor and work with other women who are setting out on this same path.
Regardless of how or with whom you build your network when you’re first setting out on your entrepreneurial journey, the timeliness of this initiative will be particularly important. Don’t wait long to develop your network. Instead, make this a priority from early on and be sure to put gusto behind it in order to accelerate the rate of which you build your network. By focusing on your connections and how you can mutually benefit one another, you’ll find a plethora of resources that will all benefit your up-and-coming business.
Determine your mission
Women-owned businesses take shape in a number of forms. Whether you’re selling a product, starting a nonprofit, or offering a service, it’s important to determine your unique mission from the start.
For my partner and I, when we created our company, we sought to develop something that would evolve into the most people-focused eyewear company in the world. To do this, we knew we needed to put customers, team members, and our community at the heart of our mission. People were our mission and we’ve let it drive us ever since.
Having a concrete mission will allow female entrepreneurs to take their companies far. When you know exactly what you’re doing, and why, you’ll find other things start to fall into place. This will also help you to develop your network and entice others who are passionate about your mission as well.
Setting out on to the path to entrepreneurship can be a difficult and sometimes overwhelming journey. Being a woman can further complicate that path, knowing you’ll have road bumps and blocks along the way that your male counterparts won’t endure. However, with the help of a strong, diverse network, a concrete mission, and a heightened self-confidence, women can take part and flourish in the fruitful journey to entrepreneurship.
Angie Stocklin is the COO and cofounder of One Click Ventures, an online eyewear retailer based in Greenwood, Ind.
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