Female entrepreneurship is on the rise. “Women entrepreneurs lead one in five startups around the globe,” Forbes reports. “The ratio of female founders to male soared 30 percent over the last year and a half.”
As women are presented with more opportunities to run their own companies, they’ll need to prepare to face few challenges on the road to success.
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently asked three enterprising young entrepreneurs about the obstacles they’ve overcome, what advice they’d offer their peers, and how they see the business landscape changing for women.
Here’s what Megan Broussard, a freelance writer and career consultant, Nicole Crimaldi Emerick, a senior social strategist and career expert, and Crosby Noricks (pictured), the mastermind behind PR Couture, had to say.
ISBB: What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome as a female entrepreneur?
Broussard: I think it was the misconception that starting a business is for MBA grads only or something that’s in your blood, like the experience that comes from growing up in a family business. I had neither of those, and I met women who were just as average and as new to all of it as me and who were extremely successful. They were successful because they didn’t let those things stop them. They had a passion and were determined to make a living doing what they loved with no instructions — just a fire for success and the scrappy willingness to figure out how to achieve it.
Emerick: I can honestly say that being a female has only been a positive experience for me in business. This is especially true on the entrepreneurial side of things. There are so many amazing organizations for female entrepreneurs out there. I’ve found that the women in these groups are genuinely interested in collaboration, networking, and helping one another succeed. They are also honest about their shortcomings and about the reality of balancing life and work. In my opinion, these communities give women a huge competitive advantage over men. We are not in it alone!
That being said, my biggest challenge was in 2011, when I was laid off from a startup and made the decision to go out on my own. I leveraged the community I built through my “side hustle,” MsCareerGirl.com, to host women’s networking events, teach small-business classes, and find clients for my digital content creation service.
Noricks: Entrepreneurship requires self-trust, and my biggest obstacles have been becoming secure in my ability to find solutions to all sorts of challenges, like building relationships with the right people for blog content, finding the right support team and tools to help me to work more effectively, and figuring out and playing with different revenue streams.
What are a few words of advice you could give other young female business owners?
Broussard: I would say to take all pieces of advice from others with a grain of salt and trust your instincts and new ideas. I have a series on my site called “The Worst Advice I Ever Took.” It features a woman entrepreneur each week who shares the advice she regrets taking. The moral of the story: There are rules of thumb that are generally [considered] true, such as creating an intricate business plan and mimicking popular business models in your industry. Those are two pieces of advice that women on my site have wished they’d never listened to. It just reinforces the fact that being a successful entrepreneur is mainly about being creative and trusting yourself.
Emerick: Make sure you have a personal board of directors. It is so important that you have a team behind you, because things are going to get rough at some point, and you need people who think differently than you in order to prosper and problem-solve. And beware: You’ll need more than the cheerleader-types on your board. You also need the person who tells you what you don’t want to hear, someone who’s always thinking about the dollar, and perhaps someone else who is an innovator always thinking about new ideas.
It’s tempting to think that you can be Ms. Independent and do it all on your own, but that’s a sure way to fail! Speaking of failure, did you know that most of the startups we view today as business heroes likely had several failures first? Don’t be afraid of failure. I fantasized about being self-employed for years before it happened. Once I got there, it wasn’t nearly as easy or glamorous as I had imagined it to be.
I actually decided to go back to work for someone else after a few of my one-year client contracts ended. It was a great choice for me, and I am learning so much now that I never could have learned on my own. Don’t be afraid to say “this isn’t working” or to do what’s right for your financial situation. You can always go back to self-employment.
Noricks: Find opportunities to learn from others who already know what you don’t. Just because you are an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to figure it all out on your own. This might mean working with a business coach, attending a workshop, joining a meetup, or even [taking] a day job in a related field where you can learn more about how a related business is structured.
Where do you see female entrepreneurship heading over the next decade?
Broussard: I think we’re going to see it grow. GenYers graduated in a disappointing economy and were forced to get creative in finding ways — plural, since many GenYers are freelancing and have taken on second jobs to supplement the menial income they received from being underemployed — to make money. We, as a generation, are also more focused on the experiences we obtain rather than on the amount of money we make and so the “risk” that older generations fear in entrepreneurship is often seen as exciting and liberating by GenYers.
Emerick: I see entrepreneurship becoming increasingly more difficult to sustain with some of the new government regulations that have come up over the past few years. At the same time, I see it becoming a lot more appealing to women and, therefore, competitive.
As someone who is very interested in Gen Y, it’s clear that we have different priorities when it comes to balancing work and home. Self-employment can seem like the golden ticket to that scenario, but I think many women will learn the hard way that it’s difficult to earn a living no matter how you go about it. I think workplaces will become more flexible, and more resources will be created for entrepreneurs making the situation balance itself out.
Noricks: There was a wonderful bit of wisdom from E. Jean in Elle magazine that essentially said, “Never get a job when you can create one.” We now have the ability to start businesses faster than ever before, and I think the draw of entrepreneurship is going to increase, particularly in the realm of solopreneurship online.
In my industry, an entrepreneur best known for her fashion blog just made the cover of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business [issue]. Fashion blogs are an entirely new form of media that did not exist, much less [offer] a viable career option or garner or mainstream media interest, until relatively recently. So, the pace is faster and so are the opportunities. The challenge, as always, is to find that right idea for that right audience.