Why I Took So Long to Start My Own Business
Being a successful entrepreneur should be every woman's aspiration.
Studies continue to show that the number of women starting their own businesses is on the rise. One particular poll found that the ranks of female entrepreneurs rose from 220 out of 100,000 adults in 2014, to 260 in 2015.
However, being a successful female entrepreneur is no easy task. It requires speed in making important decisions and consequently executing on them. Being a female in what has traditionally been "a man's world," and aspiring to become a successful entrepreneur takes both grit and hard work. These concerns often discourage women from starting a business. This initial delay can later become a hindrance to achieving greater things in the future.
And I should know. Having taken an additional seven years before turning my hustle into a real business, I realized my fears had more to do with being a woman than any other factor. By conforming to societal expectations placed on women, e.g. being your husband's "wing man" (or rather "wing woman") and fulfilling the motherly role of familial nurturer, all prevented me from pursuing my real dream -- being an entrepreneur.
It wasn't until I emigrated to the U.S. (a country that instilled self-confidence in me as a woman) and came to the realization through countless books and from listening to several successful women -- many of them entertainers and business moguls -- that I got the confidence boost to also pursue my dreams. From there I took up the reins and was able to establish several fulfilling businesses, including a digital agency and a charitable organization that helps make meaningful wishes come true. By taking the plunge, I also acquired a wealth of helpful connections and a critical understanding of life.
The following are seven lessons I have learned from my experience as a female entrepreneur.
1. As a female entrepreneur, branding is very important.
For many years, I failed to see myself as a business and a brand that should be promoted. This factor prevented me from starting my own business early on. I had to begin to see myself as a business entity that should be packaged and well-marketed, rather than a mere woman living in the shadow of others. I learned how to create a plan for my business model and stuck with it, all without getting caught up in temporary emotional fluctuations. That took a lot of time.
2. Every business needs a human side.
For fear of being criticized by my fellow women and wanting to live up to the standards set by my male pears, I failed to put out my best true self. I was waiting to have the feel and appearance of a company.
I learned to put my true natural self out there and represent my brand as a woman with a unique identity. In 2018, in order to reach your customers, you need to add a human aspect to your enterprise. As a woman, I had to comprehend how to "woman up" and surpass any personal problem for the sake to my business. I decided to get my story out into the public sphere and accept the consequences.
3. Own your aesthetic.
Create consistency through content and images, then build a brand from the ground up via social media. Women (for the most part) have an innate sense of style. Use that to your advantage by making your content captivating and good-looking. Get inspired from the magazines and blogs you usually read. Using a feminine aesthetic sense can be a great advantage for the modern businesswoman.
4. Put yourself out there!
As a female entrepreneur, it's easy to get scared because business is a man's world -- at least that is what they have been telling us. However, this is by no means still the case. Studies show that 30 years ago, there were close to 4 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Today, there are over 11 million.
Moreover, 39 percent of all U.S. businesses are women majority owned, employ nearly 9 million people and generate more than $1.7 trillion in revenue. Women are the sole source of income in 40 percent of households with children and outpace men in educational achievement. This all means that women are becoming ever more aware of their potential, and consequently they are willing to try to become totally independent.
5. Live your dreams regardless of criticism and rejection.
Not everyone will be happy to see you prosper, therefore stay focused on those who appreciate your work. I have learned how to stay grounded and move on -- taking criticism as that extra push to make me get myself out there.
As a woman, I still feel there are certain cultural and societal beliefs regarding what we as women should or should not do. Do we have to be the ones to raise our children and hold down the proverbial "home front"? In a study on entrepreneurs and motherhood published in the Journal of Small Business Management, most entrepreneurs reported that family demands slowed the growth of their businesses. On the other hand they saw themselves as role models for their children; in particular, mothers felt that they had an impact on their children's appreciation for professional independence, as well as their understanding of the need for a balance between work and family. I think that this perspective is very motivating to a woman entrepreneur and I urge you to become that inspiration. We definitely need more female role models.
6. Always tell the story behind every offer.
I have learned that your costumers need to be passionate about you and/or your product. The only way to do so is to find that powerful message that will create a real relationship.
This process might take some time as you find out through trial and error what works and what doesn't. When Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone, the story and message behind it captivated us all. I have learned how true stories move emotions and respect. As a woman entrepreneur learn how to use your sensitivity to reach more hearts. Business in 2018 is also a matter of good intentions.
7. Spend money on professionals.
You need to spend money to achieve the growth you desire. A $500 logo does not look the same as a $50 logo. You cannot possibly think that you know it all. Therefore, before starting, make sure you pick out those professionals who are indispensable to your business and create a budget for them. This doesn't mean losing control -- you must always be the one who oversees every aspect of your business, and be open to keep on looking for the right team and partners.
I have learned that one person can open a door for you, but not all of them. If you are a mother and a wife, you definitely know how to juggle life with resilience and multi-task like a champ. Use that quality for your business and try to have a team around you that can reflect the family you want to have.