Starting a business is not an easy job. The path is full of challenges from developing a great idea to perfecting the business plan. Securing funding, and actually building the business. And for women in entrepreneurship, the challenges can be even greater.
“I don’t think gender itself presents inherent difficulties for women to be successful,” says Sue Zhou, founder of Byrdfood and a member of WeWork WeWork Food Labs in New York, “It is the social imbalance of gender and the prejudices associated with it that create constant challenges.”
Zhou, founded her healthy snack company to make healthy food delicious and affordable. Says that as a minority entrepreneur, she is all too familiar with this struggle.
Less than 3 percent of venture capital in the United States goes to companies started by an all-female team. It is a sad reality that until there is a large-scale change in the venture capital space. Women will have to work harder to get funding.
“You have to do more to achieve credibility, just to get a fraction of the funding,” says Rachael Kim, founder, and CEO of Project Untaboo. A company with a mission to destigmatize feminine hygiene products. Kim resides at WeWork 1411 4th Ave in Seattle. Says data and proven results are often required to be successful: “It takes a strong evidence base, time and money.”
About Imposter Syndrome
Women, like other minority groups, are more likely than men to experience impostor syndrome. The term was coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. Describes a feeling of falsehood and “fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as a fraud.”
“I definitely struggle with imposter syndrome all the time,” says Shayna Schmidt, co-founder of Livekick, an interactive training platform, based out of WeWork Labs at 142 W 57th St in New York. But, says Ella Schmidt, in times of uncertainty, she tells herself: I belong here.
The first step in starting a business is having a winning idea. As a successful businesswoman, Schmidt’s mother gave him some advice: “She told me to identify a need, and for her to find a way to fill it.”
Schmidt encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to think about what isn’t working in their lives and find ways to fix it because chances are it won’t work for other people either.
Once you have that big idea, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by information. “It can be easy to get bogged down during research, getting and listening to all the advice before putting your ideas out into the world,” says Zhou. You may feel like there is never a good time to start your business, but if you wait for the perfect time, you may miss out.
Progress Above Perfection
It can be difficult to balance the desire to get a project done perfectly with the need to move forward, but Tara Hankinson, the co-founder of Talea, a craft beer company based out of WeWork 511 W 25th St in New York, offers advice based on his own experience: “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress.”
Hankinson says it’s easy to feel like every presentation, meeting, and interview has to be perfect, but this can lead to unrealistic expectations and even crippling anxiety. Zhou agrees: “Perfect is the true enemy of the good, so don’t let perfectionism stop you from taking the first step,” she says.
Break Down Tasks
The thought of tackling a project completely can discourage entrepreneurs from getting started. “The enormity of [launching something right] can be paralyzing,” says Carmel Hagen, founder of plant-based food company Supernatural.
“I spend a few days at the beginning of each quarter drawing up a plan for all areas of the business, and then I turn that plan into weekly actions,” he says. While this planning takes time, Hagen acknowledges that having this roadmap keeps her from feeling overwhelmed.
See Obstacles As Opportunities
“There will always be obstacles and challenges,” says Sarah Ribner, co-founder of Piperwai. A company that sells deodorant made entirely from natural ingredients, like coconut oil and activated charcoal. “Think of these obstacles as learning opportunities,” says Ribner, who successfully pitched her product on ABC’s ‘ Shark Tank.’
Not everything will go according to plan, so it’s important to make the most of every situation, whether you imagined it or not. “This will help you do better next time and apply your learnings elsewhere,” Sarah advises.
Trust Your Gut
As an entrepreneur, you know your business better than anyone. Use that knowledge to your advantage and trust your gut. “Your intuition is your strongest tool,” says Ribner.
She admits that while there is a time for data and analytics, “there are unexpected challenges that will come your way. Intuition can help you navigate them.”
Every entrepreneur needs to know their why: what gets you up in the morning? Knowing this will help you overcome the difficulties that entrepreneurship may entail. “That’s what drives you and feeds you,” says Kim. For her, the mission is to contribute to humanity by facilitating equality.
“I chose Project Untaboo as my medium,” she says. Keeping her motivation from her in mind helps her succeed.
Fake It Until You Make It
“The main challenge for women entrepreneurs is a design problem,” says Hagen. “We are building our companies within a framework, in which we have not been before.” Historically, space has been dominated by men.
“For me, being a woman of a color entrepreneur is understanding that you will always feel like you are a trailblazer,” says Kim. There may be times when that pressure becomes overwhelming, but when all else fails, fake it until you make it.
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