Leading the Way as a Woman Entrepreneur

Written by BrooklynFaulkner Published in

Leading the Way as a Woman Entrepreneur

 

Entrepreneurship ideally is anyone’s game, but historically, rates of female entrepreneurship have lagged behind men. In recent years, however, owing to developments in society, innovative thinking, and a much-needed open mindset, women’s entrepreneurship rates have increased drastically in the last couple of years.

 

In the United States, not only do women own 11.3 million businesses, it is estimated that 36 percent of all businesses are owned by women, an increase of 6 percent from 2007. And even more impressive is that nearly 8 out of 10 women-owned businesses since 2007 were started by women of color.  Longer-term statistics show that women now earn more than 40 percent of the shared income for married parents, a whopping 33 percent increase since 1970. While these statistics do point in the right direction, they did not manifest without a struggle.

 

There is yet a lot of work to be done before the playing field for entrepreneurs is even for both women and men. How can other women with historical disadvantages, like being first-generation college graduates or coming from disproportionately lower-to-middle income backgrounds, successfully market their products and services and succeed as entrepreneurs?

 

Vicki Mayo, co-founder of TouchPoint Solution, a wearable technology that reduces stress response found her answer through Project Entrepreneur. Mayo told Forbes last month that “finding another female-founded tech startup with ambitions to scale in Arizona was like looking for a mythical-unicorn.” Her journey started with finding a co-founder with similar values and complementary skills.

 

While her co-founder handled product execution, Mayo used her background in IT to bring their product to the markets. Using crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, they exceeded their goals and managed to raise a lot more money than they needed. Even with a co-founder, Mayo found that having a large network of support was beneficial as an entrepreneur. Project Entrepreneur allowed her to gain this network and more. Even though she went to the summit with the very specific goal of learning about rebranding, she came back having gained much more. For example, with guidance from Angie Hellman, head of product marketing at Rent the Runway, Mayo upgraded her packaging, quick-start guide and messaging, effectively doubling her website conversion. The summit provided Mayo with an avenue to learn from other entrepreneurs, as well as the avail of much-needed support for her journey as a woman of color.

 

There are many takeaways from Mayo’s example. For one, entrepreneurship is always better together. Tala Raassi, the Iranian founder of Tala Raasi swimwear and dubbed by Newsweek as One of the Most Fearless Women in the World, is a strong advocate for mentorship and support when it comes to women who are about to start their entrepreneurial journey. “Women who are leaders and in a position of power, I feel, have a responsibility to aid in the success of others. We need to advocate for other women and nurture their strength and passions,” states Raasi. Networking events and summits are great places to connect with other women with similar visions, as well as find inspiring role models.

 

In a similar vein, rather than tackling finances and funding alone, turning to the crowd is a viable alternative. With the internet connecting people from all over the world, the entire globe can literally be a target audience to crowdfund. To further sweeten the deal, studies at UAB show that “Companies with a female executive are worth 64 percent more at first funding and 49 percent more at last funding than their all-male counterparts.”  So even if it’s just an idea, lack of capital or personal finances shouldn't stop one from chasing their dreams.

 

Secondly, hearing a “no” shouldn’t demotivate you. Mayo was initially unable to attend Project Entrepreneur due to signing up too late. But she refused to take no for an answer. She called the organizers, told them her story, got put on the waitlist and a week later was informed that she would be able to attend. Persistence, creativity and determination — even in the face of adversity — are integral to entrepreneurial success. Women of color or those with historical disadvantages have faced and continue to face a fair share of challenges. According to Raassi, in these times, “You have to become the best version of yourself every day and in everything that you do. The difference between a successful entrepreneur and a failed one is often just persisting through the tough times. Sometimes it just requires that extra attempt.”

Today, the stage is set for women to lead. While the path is by no means easy, people like Mayo and Raassi stand testament to the fact that women, no matter their background, financial standing, race or history,  can succeed and even excel as entrepreneurs.

 

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