A recent study by SCORE emphasizes that, in 1972, there were only 402,000 women-owned businesses in the US. Over the past few decades, that number has grown significantly and, today, 12.3 million companies are owned by women.
According to American Express, the number of businesses owned by women of color has risen by 163% between 2017 and 2018. As of 2018, 47% of all women-owned companies are run by women of color, employing 2.2 million people.
Female entrepreneurs are redefining the business world we know of.
Unfortunately, the traditional business ecosystems still don’t appreciate the effort they’re making. Research says that only 2% of venture capital is allocated to female founders, while just .02% of that budget is given to women of color entrepreneurs.
These stats teach us that being an entrepreneur is still a great challenge for women, no matter how great their business ideas are.
So, how to survive in such a harsh business landscape?
Here are a few tips that may help you.
Hire the Right People
Every beginning is difficult. You will be facing numerous ups and downs and, to survive them, you need to surround yourself with the right staff. The people you hire represent your company, its personality. And, if their behaviors and traits don’t align with your business’ core values, they may hurt its image in the long run.
That is why you need to determine your hiring criteria wisely. When talking to your candidates, don’t focus on their experience and knowledge only. Their personality traits should also help you decide whether to hire them or not.
Always look for people that will have a positive impact on your company’s culture. They need to be team workers, reliable, collaborative, communicative, flexible, and results-oriented. Also, don’t forget that, to challenge your corporate culture positively, your employees don’t have to have the same skillset and attitudes as you. Diversified teams of people with different experiences, knowledge, and interests will make your corporate culture unique.
Think of Yourself as a Business Owner
Yes, we’re still living in a male-dominated business ecosystem, but it doesn’t mean you should give up on your business ideas. The moment you decide to launch your business, you need to stop thinking of yourself as a woman.
If running a successful company is what you really want to do, you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur. Your race, nationality, or gender are neither your limitation nor your key success factors. Your perseverance, creativity, and stubbornness are.
You need to be brave.
Network with successful people in your niche. Talk to them and make new, relevant connections on LinkedIn. Meet your potential clients. Get yourself noticed. Join women entrepreneur networks. Making meaningful business relationships will help you find the right mentors, investments, and even potential business partners.
Find a Mentor
Your education, research, and business strategy may be a great starting point for you, but they’re usually not enough to succeed. There are numerous problems young entrepreneurs are not aware of and, to avoid them, you need to find a mentor.
Just like I’ve already mentioned, don’t be embarrassed to reach out and talk to successful business people in your industry. Those people have already been through all those problems you’re facing for the first time.
You should also connect with the relevant organizations that help inexperienced business owners. For example, SCORE is a major America’s source of free business’ mentoring and they’ve helped more than 10,000 entrepreneurs so far. Some other relevant organizations you should consider consulting are the Minority Business Development Agency, Asian American Business Development Center, or the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Don’t be Afraid of Starting a Business
Women are reluctant to get into the entrepreneurial waters for numerous reasons. Some of them have just finished their studies and they’re not sure whether they have the right knowledge and skills. They may be moms, afraid that their new role may hurt their family life. Maybe they worked hard on building their careers and they’re not ready to take the risk of starting from scratch.
Yep, entering the world of entrepreneurship is risky. But, that’s what running a business means. It’s all about learning to cope with failure, dust yourself off, and try again and again.
Most importantly, you don’t have to be alone in this. For example, owning a franchise is one of the safest business ideas for women that are not ready to start a business all by themselves. It gives you a chance to run your own business with an added support of a well-established brand. This means that you will participate in comprehensive training programs, as well as have a franchisor’s full support to grow and promote your business.
Know where to Look for your Financial Support
When starting off, many entrepreneurs choose bootstrapping as their main financing method borrow money from friends and family. However, this is never a good idea, as this amount of money is almost never enough for you to grow your business in the near future. Precisely because of that, you need to work with professional investors.
For example, you could apply for benefits and incentives for female entrepreneurs. These incentives usually include the reimbursement of the project reports, entry taxes, energy conservation benefits, etc. There are also numerous grants designed specifically for women-owned businesses. Here are a few to consider:
- InnovateHER Challenge
- Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program
- Amber Grant
- #GIRLBOSS Foundation Grant
- Cartier Women’s Initiative Award
Now, many young women feel discouraged in front of potential investors. Intimidated by their experience, they’re not sure whether their business idea is worth their time and effort. Well, this is the first and the major mistake to avoid.
To win them over, you need to be persuasive. Give your best to tell your success story. Emphasize how you’re unique, what your future goals are, how many people you employ, what your core values are.
Over to You
Women have been changing the entrepreneurial sphere. The examples of famous female entrepreneurs, like Sara Blakely, Tory Burch, or Arianna Huffington may serve as a great inspiration for you.
However, keep in mind that no entrepreneurial journey is easy. It’s not a path towards getting rich. No. At first, there will be lots of hard work, stress, tears and, at the same time, no recognition. However, the way you handle these initial problems will tell you whether you’re cut out to be a business owner and prepare you for even greater challenges in the future.