Women Entrepreneurs May Have More Obstacles to Endure, but There Are a Few Ways to Ensure Success
Two successful female leaders outline how to succeed, despite the odds.
Entrepreneurship is rarely easy, especially as a female in a typically male-dominated business world. I recently had an opportunity to interview two highly successful business masterminds: Rachel Braun Scherl of SPARK Solutions for Growth, who has nabbed the title of "Vagipreneur" for her success in the female sexual health market, and Sarah Beane Ricca, VP and financial advisor for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. Both women have sage advice about the practices and philosophies they live by to overcome female-related obstacles and obtain true success. Here is what they had to say:
Think like a man -- but recognize what makes you different.
Earlier generations advised thriving and respectable businesswomen to think and act "like a man." Despite the seemingly demeaning advice, there's some truth to it: You should have a keen sense of BS, be able to spot the business-apt liars and snakes at a glance, and make quick, well-informed decisions.
Scherl regularly asks herself these dynamic questions to address her business's ability to continue to earn revenue: How do I find new customers? How do I find new partnerships? How do I expand my business to new venues? How do I reposition my product? These questions directly address her business's ability to continue to earn revenue.
She admits her business of female sexual health is different from other entrepreneurial ventures. "While each business has its own challenges, there is enormous societal discomfort about the subject of female sexual health," she said. "One of our biggest challenges has been to create a conversation among both customers and investors that discusses what it [the product] is, and is it okay to talk about it?" Scherl adds, "[A woman] has to work twice as hard to get the 'yes' for advertising, fundraising, retail placement and more."
Even her product's presence on one popular social media platform required changing her page's copywriting. Citing a specific product geared toward male sexual health, she said, "There are so many other products out there that don't require a 'filter.'"
Scherl also said that while interviewing prospective partnerships "I am recognizing that the people who are attracted to this business truly have a passion for finding new solutions for women."
Women must support each other.
When you develop a support system with other women, particularly through mentoring and partnering, you are contributing to your own growth. The past few decades have seen significant successes in the business landscape, but many barriers continue to exist. This isn't a philosophy nixing highly competent, prospective male hires. It requires you to think about yourself and the other women in your professional circle. Don't forget: It is still very much a "boy's club" when it comes to climbing the ladder. Therefore, any collective input with like-minded acquaintances is very valuable.
Ricca explained that financially successful women "have learned that it's okay to not know everything. But, they should know how to reach out, ask questions and collaborate on projects and plans." Morgan Stanley's offices in New York City hold a monthly executive women's breakfast. "These 90-minute events are focused on the professional development of women and are intended to provide a motivational boost, sharing quality information in a great networking environment," Ricca said. "Friendships are made and deals get done at these events."
Build market position.
Nurture a distinct position in your market with fervent personal involvement. As Ricca maintains, "The drive of high achievers is recognized by others and definitely contributes to success." As a female, you encounter more professional obstacles. Your passion and beliefs can become quite deep, so it's important to communicate them easily. You must breathe it. It's not as much a matter of knowledge as it is about pinpointing your appropriate market niche and figuring out the best way to get there.
Delegation is key.
Successful female entrepreneurs are aware of how much they can do on their own. They also recognize time is precious and are not afraid to get assistance. The bottom line: If you are a hungry entrepreneur then you cannot settle for just anyone. Ricca notes, "As a woman, you simply encounter more professional obstacles, so you must thoroughly vet the person to whom you are delegating." You must find a high-achiever who is anxious to learn and who gains confidence from your encouragement.
Overcome the obstacles.
The most common issue women entrepreneurs face is the simple reaction to a female voice. During Scherl's early years, she said 99 percent of the media outlets she tried to get advertising from would not take her money. Scherl had no luck with online, offline, network or cable outlets. "It remains a sad but true fact that as a woman, it can be quite arduous to attract peers to your level, who take you seriously," Scherl said. Establishing assertiveness is your strongest asset when working with new clients.
Stay persistent and positive.
You must be twice as compelling in both your demeanor and dealings in the male-dominated business world. However, it is possible to overcome with poise and triumph. Stay disciplined and try to instill discipline in your contacts, associates and friends. Your peers are your support system and act as your backbone in times of need. Keep your goals in mind. With dedication, you are one step closer to success, profits and the respect you have so diligently worked to earn.