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How I Navigate Silicon Valley as a Female Entrepreneur Building a company in the male-dominated tech startup scene can be a challenge.

By Meeta Vengapally Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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It's no secret that Silicon Valley is a male-dominated entrepreneur ecosystem. According to a recent study of 500 small to mid-size tech startups in the San Francisco Bay area, the number of female employees ranged on average from 17-24 percent. And 2016 gender diversity statistics revealed the average percentage of women directors in the top 150 Silicon Valley public companies to be only 14.1 percent.

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Clearly, gender diversity in Silicon Valley still has a long way to go. To make it in this challenging arena as a female founder and CEO, I've had to navigate complex circumstances with discipline and focus. After all, life is only 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react. This is the philosophy I apply to everything I do, and it's helped me to integrate my personal life into my entrepreneurial journey by turning my distinctly female experience into business inspiration.

I'm the founder and CEO of Garnysh, a Silicon Valley-based fitness and technology company that uses real-time tracking and analytics to support fitness and nutrition goals. My business story begins with the birth of my two children during the years I was working toward my master's degree. Talk about an exercise in multi-tasking! After my kids were born, I needed to lose the baby weight and get back in shape, and that's when I discovered CrossFit. It totally changed my life. I became completely devoted to it, and even started competing.

As anyone who seriously trains can tell you, the nutritional requirements for building muscle and losing fat are very specific. But, planning meals, shopping and cooking in order to fulfill my daily macro needs became a huge chore, because everything had to be done manually. Add in tracking my fitness activity and managing my goals, and it turned into a full-time job. I knew there must be a way to use available technology to create the tools that would expedite the process.

That's when the idea for Garnysh was born. I realized working moms like myself and other busy people who are also seriously into training were spending too much time calculating and supplying themselves with the nutritional requirements to support their own, unique exercise regimen. Together, my team and I created an algorithm that expedites this process by combining real-time fitness and nutritional goal management with a database of custom meal plans.

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Obviously, having a great idea and a great team to realize my vision were only the first steps in a long process. And to be honest, the road hasn't been easy. I've even had my share of #metoo moments along the way, both with prospective investors and partners. But, everything I've experienced has made me more determined to achieve my goals.

One of my most important mentors has been a man -- Mitch Zuklie, CEO of Orrick. His belief in my vision is one of the reasons I wake up each morning, and why I'm so driven to succeed. In fact, Zuklie was my first major supporter. I keep him in mind with every small step I take and each goal I tackle, to prove that he was right to believe in me.

If you're a female entrepreneur, here are a few pieces of advice I'd like to share with you:

1. Use your personal challenges to your advantage.

Your personal life experiences can be instrumental in not only inspiring and shaping your business goals, but also in providing you with the skills to meet them. Giving birth, being a mom, earning my master's degree and seriously training in CrossFit have all taught me about my capacity for commitment and focus, while navigating these activities served as the inspiration for Garnysh.

2. Keep your circle of support tight and close-knit.

Your family, close friends, associates and carefully chosen mentors are the only people whose opinions should really matter to you. Show them, through your success, just how much you appreciate them. The kind of personal passion that drives you in these relationships will translate into you creating the best company you can for yourself, your co-workers and your customers.

Related: If You Want to Be a Successful Entrepreneur, Get Comfortable With Your Vulnerability

3. Maintain focus by working one step at a time.

Focus is something that is best applied over the long term by working slowly and steadily on a series of small goals. In business, as in weight training, shortcuts are nothing but distractions that make you lose focus. Instead, work deliberately and patiently, and you'll see yourself achieving bigger and bigger goals. In the end, you'll be more likely to find your success if you have the discipline to work like this, one step at a time.

4. Have a great pitch deck for investors and partners.

As you move about in the world, you could meet a potential business partner or investor at any time. You'll want to make sure that you are ready to present your full on vision at a moment's notice. A great pitch deck will immediately resonate with the right people, making it possible for you to quickly identify potential win/win situations, while weeding out the connections that don't have much to offer. Your deck should have a well-written narrative, strong visuals and excellent production values. It's your only chance to make a good first impression, so you want it to represent you and your business in the best light possible.

Related: The Growing Influence of Women Entrepreneurs

5. Don't let negative forces pull you off course.

As you move forward on the path to becoming a successful entrepreneur, you will encounter many challenging forces, such as people who don't necessarily have your best interests at heart, or other waves of unforeseen negativity. Learn how to stay the course and ride out the bad times when necessary, but don't be afraid to make difficult decisions. You have the power to protect yourself and your circle by ousting people with questionable intentions and resolving other negative forces. Remember that you're in charge -- it's up to you to keep your company on track.

6. Be determined, persistent and clear.

There's no doubt that building your own business takes grit, determination and clarity. When you have a clear vision of where you want your business to go, the process of taking the right steps to get you there unfolds quite naturally. Sure, there will be moments of compromise and flexibility -- knowing when to push forward and when to back off is half the game. But, when you know something is right and you're clear about where you're going, stand by your convictions and don't take no for an answer. That kind of confidence in the quality of your vision and the standards you wish to maintain will help you rise above the crowd and achieve extraordinary levels of success.

Meeta Vengapally

CEO of Garnysh

Meeta Vengapally is the founder and CEO of Garnysh, a Silicon Valley-based fitness and technology company that uses real-time tracking and analytics to support fitness and nutrition goals with a growing database and custom-prepped meal plans.

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