The time for women entrepreneurs is now. According to the American Express 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, between 2017 and 2018, women started an average of 1,821 new businesses per day. With more ideas for women entrepreneurs cropping up and the number of women-owned businesses literally increasing daily, if you have an idea, throw your hat in the ring.
Most successful women entrepreneurs don’t start their companies overnight. They arrive via a variety of career shifts, often on paths that twist and turn. For instance, take maker/designer Jennifer Wofford, owner of Ladyfriend, a sustainable clothing and home goods company, and co-founder of The Collab, a coworking and event space for women in San Francisco. “I began my career as a trade and tax consultant, went to design school, became a life coach, then a mom. So I have a lot of tools in the toolbox to make a business work.”
In fact, the 2015 Kauffman Index: Startup Activity research report noted that women entrepreneurs are more adept than their male counterparts at seeing gaps in the market and seizing opportunities. Women are starting businesses in diverse fields, no matter their backgrounds. “Life is too short to do something you don’t love,” comments interior design business coach and event speaker Melissa Galt. So why not you?
Do what you love
“Women entrepreneurs in the United States rank their happiness at nearly three times that of women who are not entrepreneurs or established business owners,” writes Lisa Calhoun, general partner in Valor Ventures. And that statistic makes sense: when investing so much energy, money and time, it should be for something that brings you joy.
Wofford says, “I had always wanted to design and make clothes. I even have notebooks from my childhood where I designed costumes for the characters in my Granny’s favorite soap operas. Years later, I was a stay at home mom with two kids, a sewing machine, and naptime on my hands. Some really great friends encouraged me to start an Etsy shop and the rest is history. I’ve been growing personally and professionally ever since. I finally feel like I have a clear path and a great trajectory.”
Above all, when creating your niche, make sure it’s a place you want to be. Take that idea you have and work to turn it into a business — you’ll be happier for it!
Work through the tough parts
While being your own boss is enticing, entrepreneurship is not without its challenges. Taking that first leap. Dealing with the unknown. Figuring out financials. Perhaps abandoning a job or former career. Working constantly to make the dream a reality. However, for women entrepreneurs, the pros far outweigh the cons.
It’s a good time for women entrepreneurs: the American Express report states that women-owned businesses employ 9.2 million people. And when it comes to creating revenue, these businesses are more than rising to the occasion, generating $1.8 trillion annually. “You have to overcome the fear,” says Beate Chelette, a “growth architect” who provides training and consulting to entrepreneurs. “It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are fantastic.”
Ask for what you need, including help
Part of being a successful entrepreneur is understanding that it’s impossible to go it alone. “Not knowing how to do everything sometimes makes me feel like I don’t know how to do anything,” says Wofford. And that’s when she reaches out to others. Research shows what we already know: that women are drawn to collaboration.
Starting your own business will feel daunting. But asking for help can lead to creating the business you want. Connect with your network: the investors helping get the venture off the ground, the friends for when you need a shoulder to cry on, the colleague who has been in your shoes. Keep asking questions. You never know where you’ll find the answer you need. In the same vein, keep your eyes out for a mentor.
Find a mentor
Jill Griffin, leadership coach and author of Women Make Great Leaders, writes that mentorship is critical to the launch and success of starting a business. Having a trusted mentor can help navigate failures throughout the journey. Successful women in business know that with risk comes the possibility of failure. And having a cheering section to help pick you up and stay on track can make all the difference.
“Stick to your truth and don’t listen to the haters,” says Wofford. “Create the world you want to see every day. There are many someones out there who will love what you do. The community you build around yourself will always lead you to those someones.”
Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to take a kernel of a great idea and turn it into an empire. Not sure where to begin or where your idea might fit? Here are just a few industries where creative women are launching flourishing businesses.
Social media is a fast-growing sector, and it’s changing the way business works. Furthermore, three out of four women entrepreneurs say that social media benefits their business. Social media doesn’t just help women in business, women are redefining the entire industry. Tamara McCleary, founder and CEO of Thulium, a social media analytics and consulting agency, has built a booming business helping others navigate social media.
McCleary calls what she does visual storytelling. She believes that social media is really all about “memorable, connected, compelling communication. Engaging an audience and a target market is probably the best superpower when it comes to getting ahead of the pack in our distracted world.”
From using social media to promote your own brand to making it your business to help others build theirs, social media is a place where many entrepreneurial women can find their place to prosper.
Another sector where women entrepreneurs are thriving is healthcare. With the need for better healthcare systems and desire for more options, women business owners have a chance to take the lead.
Zoe Barry, founder and CEO of digital health startup ZappRx, writes that over the past ten years, the number of women-entrepreneur-owned healthcare companies has almost tripled. “With healthcare in the national spotlight, women are emerging as successful
Barry also writes that “women-led technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieving 35 percent higher return on investment.” Amy Willard-Cross founded BUYUP Index, an app that helps consumers make purchasing decisions based on a company’s demonstrated commitment to gender equality. The app has now rated over 800 companies. “Women want companies to work on issues of equality, and I think we can encourage that with our wallets,” notes Willard-Cross.
Whether it’s running a company, beginning a startup, or developing an app, women can flex their entrepreneurial muscles in the ever-evolving technology sector.
Food and wine
If your expertise involves eating and drinking, find a creative way to turn that knowledge into your own company. According to a January 2017 report by Women Owned, food-related businesses are one of the top sectors of women-owned enterprises, and growing fast.
Berlin Kelly, founder and co-CEO of Proud Pour, wanted to find a way to synthesize her passions: high-quality, sustainable wines and concern for the environment. She asked herself, “What if drinking wine could make the word a better place?” Kelly quit her Wall Street job and moved to Oregon to throw herself into her project.
Five years after taking the leap, Proud Pour partners with winemakers and cidermakers to create high quality, sustainable drinks that fund local environmental restoration. For example: Proud Pour restores one hundred wild oysters to local waters with every bottle of Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc purchased. Proud Pour’s Cider for Sea Turtles provides sea turtle hospitals enough funding to feed one of their patients for a day. Now you can feel even better about hosting happy hour!
Mei Pak is another woman entrepreneur who left a corporate job to open her own shop. Pak combined her love of miniatures and food and created Tiny Hands, a line of scented food jewelry. Pak found a way to use her talents and create a sought-after product.
They say money makes the world go ‘round. And nearly everyone could use some kind of help managing it. Kelly Peeler, founder and CEO of MoneyMentor, saw a need and ran with it. Her platform helps Generation Z navigate student loans over text messages, using artificial intelligence.
After leaving a high-power job to start her own “money coaching” business, Tiffany Angeles was able to pursue her dream of teaching people how to be successful with money. “Even though it was painful to leave my corporate security, I am forever grateful that I did, because it led to a life and business I love!”
In conclusion, once you’ve found your calling, capitalize on ways to turn those ideas and goals into a profitable — and enjoyable! — business.
How to best support women entrepreneurs
“One of the pillars of Ladyfriend is to uplift women,” says Wofford. “That’s a big reason I’m a partner of The Collab.” Creating, building and maintaining a business is extremely challenging. But the challenges lessen with a tribe of people supporting you and your work. Here are ways you can uplift women in business:
- Be a part of her network — in person or online.
- Promote women-led businesses on social media.
- Buy goods or services from women entrepreneurs.
- Build community with other women entrepreneurs — on social media and in real life.
- Give money to organizations that fund women entrepreneurs.
- Hire women— and review them or their businesses online.
- Host an event at a woman-led business.
- Support women-centric organizations.
The bottom line: Just go for it
Carla Harris, former chair of the National Women’s Business Council stated that, “today provides a perfect opportunity for women entrepreneurs.” It may be daunting to throw yourself into something completely new — but it’s also incredibly rewarding. No matter the industry, a major element of entrepreneurship is simply taking that first plunge.
There’s no better time than now to figure out how to market your own business doing something you love. Sophia Amoruso, New York Times bestselling author of #GIRLBOSS and creator of Girlboss Media, gives this advice to women entrepreneurs on the rise: “Don’t give up, don’t take anything personally, and don’t take no for an answer.”
Hannah Fairbanks is a writer living in San Francisco. When she’s not working on freelance projects, she’s reading, packing bento box lunches for her two young daughters, and adventuring around the Bay Area.