If you look at the numbers, it’s never been a better time for women to start their own business.
Over the past 20 years, the number of women-owned firms in the U.S. has increased by an impressive 114%. In fact, the National Association of Business Owners has found that there are over 11.6 million firms are owned by women as of 2017. These companies employ nearly 9 million people and generate $1.7 trillion in sales.
While that’s definitely a step in the right direction, women-owned firms are still in the minority. And, we still must overcome challenges that our male counterparts do not have to. While some of these hurdles may just make starting and running a business even more difficult, others are preventing us from becoming entrepreneurs all together.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to start you own business, be aware of the following barriers so that you can break them down and follow your dreams!
1. Living in a male dominated world.
As I’ve discussed before, we live in a male dominated world. Instead of being taken seriously, we’re overlooked and objectified. In some cases, it’s believe that we don’t have the competence or strength to successfully manage a business. There’s even still that outdated belief that we should be at home with the kids, while our husbands are the breadwinners.
It’s no easy task to overcome these stereotypes or prejudices, but you can start by showing your confidence in this male dominated world by;
- Match your confidence with your competence. Don’t be afraid in letting others know intelligent or skilled you are. Today, it’s never been easier. Start a blog or podcast, answer questions on Quora, speak at local events, or write for industry publications. In other words,be the authority in whatever you’re doing.
- Use assertiveness skills. This is not being aggressive. It’s speaking-up in a calm, coherent, diplomatic, and direct manner.
- Take time to reflect. Reflect and visualize what you want your ideal workplace environment and company culture should be. Then start taking the steps to make that a reality.
2. Lack of funding.
On average, women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Unforntally, the same is true when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Investments for startups founded or co-founded by women average around $935,000, less than half of the $2.1 million invested in businesses founded by men.
Although this is sad to say, when it comes to founding there’s a “tribe” mentality. If you’re a Stanford alum, for example, then you’ll be more likely to invest in a business that was started by another Stanford alum. For us, that means finding women to invest in our businesses, such as the Hera Fund and the Hera Hub. You could also obtain a grant from the Girlboss Foundation or your local Women’s Business Centers
If you have to make your pitch to men, focus on how you can grow their valuation. Be real and confident about this. But, at the end of the day, this is what investors really care about.
And, if you get denied, be persistent and look for other ways to fund your business.
“Women have been socialized to be ‘liked’ since time immemorial. Today, we recognize that the need to be liked can stand in the way of our entrepreneurial success,”writes Jane Wesman, author of Dive Right In – The Sharks Won’t Bite: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Guide to Success. “The bottom line is simple: In business, it’s more important to be respected than to be liked, whether dealing with clients, employees, suppliers or other stakeholders. And the good news is that being respected usually means being liked as well.”
Jane recommends that we “pay attention to this need in all business interactions,” but primarily during sales presentations. “Too often women tell me that they did everything they could to charm and please the perspective customer but walked away without a deal. Some women even compared the sales meeting to dating, feeling painfully rejected when they didn’t get the business.”
“But a sales presentation is not about being liked (although, I admit that it does help). Effective sales is about identifying a customer’s needs and providing solutions to his or her problems. Seeing yourself as a solution-provider is an important step to overcoming the likeability mindset and an essential ingredient in growing your business.”
4. Balancing business and family.
When I first started my practice, I was still working full-time, raising a family, and dealing with all the other responsibilities of being a mom. Even though I have my own business now, which allows to create a more flexible work schedule, it’s still tough balancing my business and family.
Time management and delegation have certainly helped. For example, I hired someone to take over the accounting and bookkeeping for my business. I also have someone to watch my daughter a couple of days week so I can meet with clients — I also have a great family who helps me out when I need it. I realize not all women are this fortunate — especially if you’re a single mom or can’t afford child care. But, learn to prioritize, find out where you’re wasting time, and look for low-cost child in your community are a couple of places to start.
You can also take this advice from Lillian Vernon;
“How do you balance growing the business with raising a family? You just do. I had a business, a lot of orders, and a baby howling for supper. You balance it. You give your baby supper first and then get your orders in. I have worked on more holidays… but what are you going to do?
5. Building a strong support network.
You need to have a strong network as an entrepreneur. These are the people who can provide you with advice, connect you to other like-minded individuals, and motivate you. You can also turn to them when you have a new idea or just need to vent.
The good news is that advisers and mentors can be found anywhere. You could follow the blog or read a book written by a successful business owner. Pick the brain of a successful women in your town. Attendwomen-focused networking events like WIN Conferences, EWomen Network and Bizwomen. Or join an online community like the Ellevate Network or Pro Moms Club.