Well, well, well, happy Women's History Month! In celebration of this month, we decided to reach out to some of our female entrepreneur comrades and ask them to share their career advice for women in an effort to support the mentality that sharing is caring. Also, let's be honest, we're all looking for new perspectives, golden knowledge nuggets and short cuts for not repeating other people's mistakes.
So, without further adieu, we are so excited and proud to present all the golden nuggets of advice for women entrepreneurs you could ask for from our 23 female-founder round up!
Learn every aspect of your business, not just the things you're good at. You don't have to be a expert at everything, but you do have a very good understanding of every department - how each department functions and how they all work together.
Meet people. I'm not talking about going to crappy "networking events" that are riddled with folk trying to sell you something. Do your research and utilize the resources out there, such as Eventbrite.com. I'm very fortunate to be living in downtown Chicago where there are lots of great resources out there for ladies - Women Tech Founders, 1871 and WiSTEM, the Women's Business Development Center, and evolveHER. As an entrepreneur, you should be getting out there and meeting people, sharing your ideas, and mingling with like-minded people with good energy.
Hire people smarter than you and ask a lot of questions. There are things that I am great at, better than any employee I hire. However, there are a lot of things I'm not great at. It is so important to not only hire people that are right for company culture, but people who are right for the position.
Ask. If you don't know the answer to something, ask. Ask questions all of the time until you completely understand something, The CEO shouldn't be the smartest person in the room. You hire and empower your team to make smart and strategic decisions. Ultimately, though, the final decision and the vision of the company comes from you!"
Brace for rejection. You will hear no hundreds of times, and each time your skin will grow thicker. Reframe the rejection "no" as a "maybe" with an action plan to persistently forge ahead. Build solid rapport with advisors to help tap into their networks. Don't forget to follow up and most importantly, follow through.
Ari Krzyzek, Co-Founder & Creative Director Chykalophia
Stay curious. Often times you'll be wearing so many different hats and it's always good to stay curious about learning each specific part of your business like bookkeeping, legal, marketing, etc. You don't have to be an expert in all of them if it's not your main service/product/business offering, but it's always good to know not just the basic but to know the latest update for different parts of your business.
Invest in your network and get involved in your community. Sometimes being an entrepreneur or a business owner in digital or tech industry can be a lonely journey, but it doesn't have to be. There are multiple network and communities out there where you can meet other like-minded women craving and looking for the same goal, a connection to build their community. Do your research for specific women in tech group in your area either from Google, Meetup, or Eventbrite, pick a few and if you find the ones that fit you, invest your time and cultivate relationships with them. It goes a long way.
Find one or multiple mentor(s). When I started getting feedback from my mentor about my business, it completely changed the way I looked at my business. I never realized how powerful having a mentor can be. Find a mentor program either online or in your area and apply for one. Or, if you have someone that you admire or follow in your industry, see if they have written a book, or have a podcast, or video talks. Having a mentor doesn't always have to be in person or a one-on-one experience.
Delegate. Figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are as quickly as possible and then delegate as much as you can (within reason and budget) to other people who excel in the areas you don't. Accounting, finance and sales are not my strong suits. Accounting and finance were two of the first things I began delegating. I'm currently working on building out a more refined sales process and sales team.
Plan for scalability. You might be Wonder Woman (which, let's be honest, we all are), but the reality is that you're still just one person. Set up a system that will allow your business to scale, which means you can't be single-handedly responsible for everything.
Never settle. Yes, you'll need to find a balance that makes sense for your life, but never settle. When you step into the world of entrepreneurship, you create, you build, you fall and you get back up again and keep on marching. Never settle. No matter what the circumstances, it's not worth it.
Embrace the journey. Most entrepreneurs tend to be Type-A perfectionists. That's great and all, but if you spend all day waiting for something to be perfect, you're going to miss out. Get your ideas, your products and your services out into the marketplace, gather feedback and continue to improve. That's the only way you'll survive.
Prioritize people. At the end of the day, everything is always about people. Your team, your clients, your loved ones. Invest in the people that invest back in you and you'll never go wrong.
Make big bets. On yourself, your skills and your network of connections. In my opinion, there's only one way to enter entrepreneurship - head first. I've started five companies - one I'm still an investor, two I sold my interest in, another the partnership dissolved amicably and one is still my bread and butter. Today, women change jobs and even careers without the old stigma of "bouncing around." Starting a businesses that doesn't fly only means finding a new opportunity or a new job - you haven't lost anything but you've gained experience.
Time is the most valuable asset you don’t own. Use it wisely.
Build a team that creates and maintains great energy. Try to avoid connecting and hiring people who don't share the same excitement about your industry and company's vision. The success of early mornings and late night work adventures in the world of TV/film productions depends on the team you have working on the project.
The greatest risk is the one you never took. Don't be afraid to take the leap into the unknown.I find myself saying this often, "I jumped off the bridge and landed safely and I've been running ever since my feet hit the ground."
Find great mentors and believe in yourself. There are no shortage of challenges when building a business but one of the greatest opportunities business leaders have is to find great mentors and believe in your capabilities!
Join an affinity group. Find an organization or group that is similar to your industry. Surround yourself with other owners who are walking in the same shoes you are. The phrase, "it's lonely at the top", is very true. Putting yourself next to the other 'tops' makes it less lonely and creates a team of individuals who you can confide in and have access too at all times. I joined Agency Management Institute and have learned so much from the other marketing agency owners in my group.
Find a mentor and/or coach. Coaches or mentors offer experience and guidance. You will have times where you are uncertain on the next step to take. Identifying a mentor or working with a coach has given me so much perspective and guidance in times when I felt lost and confused. My approach is to have a number of different coaches. Most coaching engagements that I have had were 6- to 18-months. Coaches offer a lot of advice, but I found that I received greater value and perspective if I switched coaches every year or so.
Focus on what you know well and find others whose strengths are your weaknesses. One option you have is to spend a lot of time learning the legal, financial, and operational components of the business on your own. However, the better option is to hire or outsource the areas that are your weaknesses. When I started my business, I learned Quickbooks on my own and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I would end up spending one full weekend a month trying to figure out how much money we spent and how much we had coming in. Eventually, it dawned on me that the best use of my time related to money wasn't working in Quickbooks, but rather networking and meeting people who might be interested in hiring Keystone Click for their web and marketing needs. I hired a bookkeeper and that was the best thing I ever did for my own sanity in the business. My bookkeeper is a contractor who comes in once a week and keeps our books clean and keeps me up to speed on where we are financially within the business.
Build a strong network of individuals who are advocates for you that you can trust. Joining a group, finding a mentor or coach, outsourcing your weaknesses. It really does come down to who you know! Put the time into building and nurturing your network!
Surround yourself with people who are invested in your personal and professional success. You need to weed out frivolous individuals who suck out either your energy or financial resources (or both)! Be selfish, in a good way, as that will allow you to push your success forward and eventually share it with others.
Write your story. I’ve always been drawn to the stories and lessons of great founders and leaders who, despite their flaws and failings, have risen to great heights and changed the world in meaningful ways. It's why I originally created Women Tech Founders. I wanted everyone, regardless of gender or challenge, to see themselves in leadership stories.So, here's the biggest takeaways all those stories taught me: Heroes and heroine innovators don’t let the fear of being different determine their future. Instead, they use their differences to benefit others and use their unique perspective to innovate.They make the world a better place. And so can you. Identify what makes you unique and how you can uniquely benefit others. Don't copy the competition. Be you. And you'll change the world.
Take risks. If you overanalyze and talk yourself out of doing something just because there is risk associated with it, you may miss an amazing opportunity. Just do it! With every failure you will learn something to improve your next steps. Be comfortable being uncomfortable, be comfortable taking risks.
Be confident. Build your confidence by creating and knowing your narrative. Know your industry and your numbers, whether it is your financial results, projections or key metrics off the top of your head. And if you can’t fluently recite all of those, then practice, practice, practice!
Listen. Be accessible so that you have something to listen to. Be open to hearing what your customers and employees have to say. Some of the best ideas come from people around you.
Work hard. It is rare for you to be handed something because someone else just wants to be nice. Creating a business is hard work, period. Make sure you love what you do because you spend a majority of your time doing it. Drive, ambition and positive attitude is a winning combination.
Team matters. There is no one out there that can do everything effectively and efficiently. On top of that you should welcome diversity of thought. Diversity and collaboration leads to innovation. Surround yourself with people that want to make a difference. Hire right.
Know your industry. If you want to break into or succeed in an industry, do some research, read all you can about what is going on in the industry, there are plenty of white papers out there on everything. Read, study, ask questions. Embrace information about the industry and the industry will embrace you!
Know that you’re not alone. Too many women wade into the entrepreneurial world thinking they are the only ones with worries, crazy ideas, insecurities, and more but everyone around you is in the same boat. That’s why it’s so important to reach out. Ask people for help. Tell them what’s going on. Nine times out of ten, you will find it.
Don't be ambivalent about your vision and goals. When you are speaking about your company or pitching funders, be clear and confident in your ability to execute and scale. You have to believe in your business before you expect anyone else to believe in it!
Look beyond tactical strategies. If you’re looking to take your business to the next level, adjust your focus. While there is no question that obvious external factors (e.g., your products or services, your clients, your competition) all impact the viability of your business, true performance is driven internally. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re likely functioning far below your capacity — without even realizing it. When you take the time and energy to “look under the hood,” you’ll uncover your blind spots and learn how to shift from non-productive (often self-sabotaging) patterns of thinking, communicating and behaving. That’s when true transformation occurs, leading to real, sustainable and measurable change — for you, and for your business. I often remind clients that the easy decisions never move the needle; it’s the difficult ones that do!
Be open and flexible. Don't be afraid to pivot. Keep your goal the same, but be open on how to get there. Networking is invaluable. You have to get yourself out there and do things that make you scared at times. Stay humble.
Embrace the uncomfortable. When I first started doing communications almost ten years ago, I didn't have a clue what "digital" or "tech" was. I definitely didn't know what B2B tech meant! But starting my career writing about and promoting some pretty goopy, high-tech clients allowed me to cut my teeth on some of the most complicated topic areas. It took a lot of effort, and one manager in particular who was willing to push me to do my best work, but now I can craft messaging and tell truly compelling stories about any industry in the world. Instead of being afraid of a tall task and feeling paralyzed by it, I say embrace it. The worst thing that will happen is that you have to try again.
My advice is to find a group of people you trust who will give you honest, caring feedback about your business and talk to them on a regular basis. I have always been an independent person, which has both helped and hurt me greatly in my career. On the positive side, being independent makes me an easy person to work with because I feel confident completing work on my own. However, that self-confidence can turn into stubbornness when I think I can handle things by myself and don't want to reveal any vulnerabilities. When I started my solo freelance business right after having my first child, the loneliness of it hit me hard. I didn't have anyone around me in a similar position and never cultivated any mentor relationships. It was difficult to push through the many issues that come up when you own a business. When I joined my current partner to create Odvant Creative, her openness was so inspiring to me. She talked to friends, mentors, and acquaintances about some of our struggles, not just successes. It resulted in us getting great advice and support from a network of people. We even started a Wolfpack, a group of female business owners who meet monthly to keep ourselves accountable. I truly believe the growth of our business is due in a large part to being open, vulnerable, and honest about the good and bad times.
Surround yourself with like-minded people and don't be afraid to ask for help. As entrepreneurs, we like to think that we can do ALL the things, but with that comes exhaustion and frustration. Learn to let go and ask for help when you need it. Onboard a partner, intern or consultant and let them do what they're good at so that you can spend your time adding value to the business. There's no sense in you coding a website when you're not a coder! (Trust me, I've been there.) Ask for help when you need it and your business will be better off for it!
Believe in yourself and take the leap of faith. It's not going to be easy and there will be days that you'll want to quit. Find the thing you're most passionate about and then get paid for it! When you do that, it's not working.
Welp, that's what these female entrepreneurs have to say. What about you? If you have additional words of advice, please share them on social media or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll work on extending this piece!
Kiley Owner & CEO
Kiley Peters is the Owner and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a boutique digital content marketing and website creation agency primarily serving brands targeting millennial moms and nonprofits supporting women and children. She is also the Founder of the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurial moms through the steps of starting a virtual business. She also launched the Brainchild Fund, a nonprofit initiative to support women and girls in business and entrepreneurship
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