I was not in a great place when I first started my business. I was overweight and had terrible acne. I was tired, lacked motivation and most days I could be found in my PJ’s hiding behind my computer screen doing my best to avoid interacting with anyone! If I’d also known how little chance I had to be a successful female entrepreneur, I may have just thrown in the towel then.
In the most recent study published by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) group whose work covers 74 countries and represents an estimated 163 million women starting or running new businesses, they highlighted several factors that contribute to female entrepreneurs being disadvantaged when being compared to their male counterparts.
When asked why they were starting a business, 20% more women than men said they are starting a business out of necessity, rather than because they had seen an opportunity to start a business. Following on from this, 1 in 5 female entrepreneurs have started their business from unemployment versus 1 in 15 male entrepreneurs. When you are doing something out of necessity it will generally mean that you don’t have as much time to plan your entrepreneurial endeavour or have as many resources available to you as those that have had time to plan and seen an opportunity in the market.
Following on from the above, women, on average start their business with around $8000 while men start with about $31000. As any new business owner will tell you “Cash is King” and the number 1 reason any new business fails is poor cash flow. So, trying to start a business with roughly a quarter of the cash of others is a major handicap!
On top of this, more women than men believe they don’t have the capabilities to be a successful entrepreneur. In developed economies only 35% of women believe they have the capabilities to be a successful entrepreneur (even though 84% of them have at least a college degree) which is about 2/3rds of what men believe. Although, if you’ve ever heard your partner talk about how he could play professional sports, I’m sure you’d agree some of this male confidence is misplaced!
Women are also more risk averse than men and have a higher fear of failure. This could be why fewer women become entrepreneurs in developed economies than men. They have access to stable incomes and employment and purposefully choose not to become an entrepreneur even though they may see an opportunity. Woman are also 10% more likely to be offered a business bank loan when starting a business but are also more likely to turn it down! Fear of debt is the biggest fear that prevents both men and woman from starting their own business, although women fear it much more.
Throw low self-esteem into the mix and what do we get? We get more female entrepreneurs leaving entrepreneurship than men. 10% more women than men are see their business failing, even though there are fewer female entrepreneurs to start with!
Solving these highly complex interrelated issues is going to be a difficult task, Below, I’ve listed a couple of the steps I followed to overcome these issues and my low self-esteem due to acne and being overweight and allowed me to become a successful female entrepreneur.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
I know this might seem obvious but it’s a pretty difficult thing to do when you’re suffering from low self-esteem! What I did was start every morning with a couple of simple mantras like “I’m happy, healthy and feel content with my body” and “I’m a successful millionaire entrepreneur.” It might feel a little strange at the beginning or you may even feel like a fraud but do it enough times and you eventually start to believe it and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. After a while I started journaling every evening where I wrote out everything that went well for me and the things I was thankful for that day. I found this to be simple and effective over time.
TAKE (CALCULATED) RISKS
This can be quite difficult to achieve when you consider that women are inherently more risk averse than men and have a bigger fear of failure. These calculated risks could take a number of forms. For me they consisted of taking a business loan which provided the extra capital I needed to make my business a success. The other risk I took was quit my job to pursue my business full time. Full disclosure though…I probably quit a little too soon and had to go back into a corporate job for another 6 months before I was able to quit again, for good! I’m not advocating that you take the exact same risks that I did but look at your business and if there are a couple of actions that you could take, even though they scare you, maybe you should take them.
DEFINE YOUR VERSION OF SUCCESS + DREAM BIG
If someone had to ask you now, as an entrepreneur, “Are you successful?” What would you say? Often, we’re so busy building our business that we haven’t defined what it means to be successful. It could be a monetary goal like $1million this year or it could be something completely different. In the GEM study woman also quoted “family driven factors” as a major motivation for becoming an entrepreneur. This would encompass things like spending time with family and work life balance. For me, it was making enough money so that my partner and I could quit and replace our corporate incomes. I also wanted to work 4 days a week, be able to travel whenever I wanted and spend more quality time with my partner. In the GEM study mentioned previously, women had smaller goals and were more conservative in their growth expectations for their businesses than men. To this I say, Dream big! Don’t let your fears get in the way of what you truly want!
GET A MENTOR
Building your own business can be a lonely place. Having someone to guide you or even just talk to can be priceless. Find someone who has been through it before and ask them about pitfalls to avoid and things to look out for. Or perhaps you have a kick ass product but you’re crappy at sales, then try and pick the brain of a sales superstar. I got a business coach who was able to steer me in the right direction whenever I started veering off course. She helped me compress my timeline and kept me sane through some pretty stressful days.
If you do ever consider becoming a kickass female entrepreneur, then be sure to believe in yourself and give it everything you’ve got! As women, we’ve got enough hurdles to overcome without also getting in our own way.
Vanessa Hallick is CEO of VHS Consulting and a mindset and business coach who helps entrepreneurs fulfil their calling and eclipse their old corporate income by doing work they love.