Startup entrepreneurs get plenty of advice. Most tips apply to your new business whether you are male or female. But women have special issues that need to be addressed, both because of how they see themselves and also because of the cultural ideals of women and business that they have grown up with.
Be confident! Both in yourself as a woman entrepreneur and in your startup venture.
Women apologize a lot. And are inflicted with a habitual modesty. How many great startup ideas have never been fully realized because the woman behind them thought…”oh no, that won’t be good enough?” The truth is that women are fantastic entrepreneurs. That old saying is “necessity is the MOTHER of invention”… not the father of invention…get it??? Women’s lives are an exercise in improvisation under duress. Women sense needs and sometimes meet them in wildly creative ways. Women are well versed in working together and sharing responsibilities and efforts. The list is endless, but the point is you can do it. And when all the voices, either in your head, or actual loud braying outside voices, are saying that you and your startup idea are not good enough…turn a deaf ear and show them that they are wrong. You and your new business venture will succeed!
Don’t be afraid of failure!
Women do not like to fail. Well, ok, who does? But women entrepreneurs especially like to be competent and good. Not only do they consider failing in a startup a reflection on themselves, they may feel shame that they wasted the resources that their investors entrusted to them. These are legitimate fears. With any startup there is a responsibility to use scarce resources well. It is true that a new business venture is a precious opportunity that has to be handled respectfully. However….most of the small things that we fear are not going to lead to disaster. Do not spend three days (or even three hours!) trying to craft the perfect response to an email. Get comfortable with the idea that you are a “good enough” entrepreneur. You don not have to be perfect. You just have to get things done. Perfectionism is your enemy. 99% of the time, whatever you do will be fine.
There is the 1% however, where your performance as a woman entrepreneur is not fine. In fact, it is a disaster. Your beautiful new venture so lovingly tended goes under. What then? Well, even in the middle of mourning your loss you may have noticed the world did not come to an end. Respect your effort. You have lived to fight another battle. You are smarter and wilier for having this crucial experience of being an entrepreneur…no one learns much from their successes, but you learn volumes from your failures. They are a gift, use them!
Women undervalue their work. Who can value a mother’s work? How much would any woman be worth if she were actually paid for all the hours of housework she performed? The fact is women are used to giving their efforts away. Well, that is fine if we are talking about your dear children or aging parents. However, business is business. In your budget you must have room for paying yourself (at least) a modest salary and making proper tax and pension contributions. Otherwise…what are you working for? If you fail to do this your startup will be paying suppliers and employees, the government and in general be creating wealth for everyone but you. And of all of those, you better believe that you will be working the longest, hardest hours!
You are not everyone’s mother/best friend/wife!
Women like to nurture and they like to be liked. In fact some women are junkies for that appreciative sigh of “you’re the best!” Well get over it! Launching a startup can be like waging a little war, with all the planning, marshalling of resources and competition that implies. In entrepreneurship, as in battle, it is better to be feared than loved. This goes deeply against the grain of female indoctrination. I can only say that if you want to run with the big dogs, you better learn to growl. Be respected, certainly, but save those tender moments for bedtime stories with your kids.
Don’t be afraid to use your feminine powers!
Women often feel that their gender is something they overcome. Actually, being a woman can be a fantastic advantage. Women entrepreneurs are hardwired to work cooperatively with other people, to be sensitive to their environment, to work extremely hard, to multi task and to prioritize. The simple proof of this is that the human species has survived. Bring these gifts to your new business enterprise and it will not only survive, but flourish as well!
Women are born entrepreneurs! Start thinking that way! As you approach your startup venture just think of it as your new child. You will fight for it, and for yourself, and it will survive and flourish!