As daunting as starting a business may be, it's a career path that many women long to pursue. According to a March report from American Express OPEN, in the last 14 years, the number of women-owned firms in the U.S. increased by 50%, or 1.5 times the national average. As of 2011, it is estimated that there are over 8.1 million U.S. businesses owned by women, which generate $1.3 trillion in revenue.
So it helps to have a roadmap if you're thinking of launching your own company as a female entrepreneur. We sat down with Camille Johnson of Pink Ribbon Lingerie and Isobel Beauchamp of DegreeArt to discuss their experience of starting businesses, and what other women should know if they decide to take the plunge. Here's five tips from women who have done it right.
There may never be a right time.
You may be waiting for the “perfect” time to start your business, but the truth is, it probably doesn’t exist. Women who've started businesses could easily make laundry lists of when was or wasn’t the right time for a startup and why. It will always be daunting. The economy might be crap. You’re too young, too old or your children are too young or too old. You’ll make it work.
You can ask for help.
Johnson, the founder of Pink Ribbon Lingerie, a company that specializes in intimates for women post breast cancer surgery, stressed the importance of having a circle of people to support you. “Use your friends and family as much as you can, for support, babysitting, feedback.," Johnson said. You don’t have to do it alone, and really, you aren’t supposed to. It's not a weakness to ask for help, it’s a strength.
Your online presence is your storefront.
The first thing people see isn’t necessarily your storefront or office, but your online presence. It's not enough to have a strong websites--you must be active on Twitter, have Facebook pages, video content, and online communities of client feedback. Branding is carried out through a multitude of platforms beyond business cards and logos to social networking profiles and hashtags. Remember, every channel is an opportunity to make an impression on someone.
It will be 100 times harder than you think.
Beauchamp is the co-founder of DegreeArt, a company that sells, rents and commissions the artwork of students and recent graduates. She says that when starting a business, there will always be challenges, but they are meant to be hurdles, not barriers. Beauchamp went from working on the business with Elinor Olisa every evening and weekend on top of a full-time job, to eventually making it her sole venture. You need to pick yourself up and carry on when you get a knock back. You get tougher. Your skin gets thicker.
When Johnson couldn’t get funding for her business, she took things into her own hands. She carried out extensive market research and learned all she could before making the absolute jump and self-funding her startup. She felt that it was her only option if she wanted to see her business as she envisioned. Lesson learned: it takes guts, but the payoff is worth the risk.
We need more women putting themselves out there. Job creation is a dire need in the current economy, and women have great potential to help turn things around.
[Image: Flickr user whiteafrican]