Female entrepreneurs are growing in number, proving they can hold their own in virtually every industry. This fact doesn’t mean that women who want to start businesses have it easy. To the contrary, female entrepreneurs often face an uphill battle to get their companies started, having to break down unique barriers. Adhering to a few tips might make it easier for you to succeed despite these distinct challenges.
1) Find a mentor.
Starting and running a company is challenging any way you slice it, but it’s especially challenging for females, who must overcome prejudices and logistical issues–for instance, being seen as too “emotional” to make hard business decisions or needing space and time to pump breast milk–that most male entrepreneurs simply don’t experience. A female mentor can guide you through not only typical entrepreneurial difficulties, such as securing funding, but also through these issues specific only to women. They also can introduce you to other professionals who can support you down the road.
2) Establish a network of other female entrepreneurs.
Mentors provide priceless guidance through a host of female-specific entrepreneurial problems, but a full network of female entrepreneurs ensures that your perspective about business stays broad. It makes it more likely that you’ll have someone who can empathize with the idiosyncrasies specific to your industry or company, as well. This empathy is incredibly important, because the lonelier you are in your work, the more likely it is that you’ll quit. Conversely, if you have friends to lean on who can remind you it’s not just a man’s world, you’ll be more inspired to keep trying.
3) Make balance a priority.
As shown by both the Working Mother survey and Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 American Time Use Survey, working women typically aren’t conceding domestic duties to their partners–that is, they work, come home and start a second shift of childcare, cleaning and household duties such as paying bills. When you are a female entrepreneur, it’s even harder to achieve balance between your work and personal life, because you are responsible for the entire company. Be realistic about how much you can do with the time you have, be selective about which ideas you pursue and don’t be afraid to delegate when it makes sense. Take time to yourself to recoup, as well. You’ll be more productive and creative for the breaks.
4) Ask for help when you need it.
Female entrepreneurs frequently push themselves hard, simply because they want to prove they can play hardball. They are afraid that, if they admit they can’t do it all, others will perceive them as not cut out for leadership. The reality is, no entrepreneur or CEO–male, female or purple polka-dotted–can do every part of every job. It’s simply not logistically possible. Asking for help thus isn’t a signal of incapability or weakness. It’s a natural, predictable part of making a company work. Find experts you can trust to perform critical tasks or provide data. Then work together to create a business infrastructure that’s innovative, sustainable, efficient and true to your original vision.
5) Identify your strengths and successes.
Entrepreneurship is a highly competitive game. Other entrepreneurs constantly will vie for your share of the market, and you likely will have even people you trust telling you your concepts are “crazy.” And that’s before you hear the message that you “can’t” because “women don’t run businesses!” When you point out what you’re good at or what you’ve accomplished, either mentally or on paper, you can look back at those traits or successes and take some encouragement. You also can be more aggressive about filling gaps in your skill or knowledge sets, marketing yourself and your ideas in more truthful and realistic ways.
6) Be realistically competitive.
As a female entrepreneur, you’ll inevitably feel pressure to get out of the gate fast so you can compete with, be just as good as or beat your male counterparts. Don’t go off half-cocked, rushing into decisions or pushing a product/service before it’s truly ready, because of this pressure! Rely as much on logic as you do on your gut, taking the time you need to lay a solid foundation for the business. Otherwise, even if your idea is good, your infrastructure will crumble later and the company might not survive.
7) Get your legal and technical footing.
Even though there will be plenty of people who will support your endeavors, there will be just as many people rooting for you to fail, if only because they don’t want a woman calling the shots. The more you know about your legal rights, and the more in depth you can discuss your concepts with others, the better prepared you are to shut doubters and bigots down.
8) Pursue ideas you’re passionate about.
Being an entrepreneur is hard work regardless of your gender, but when you add in all the problems that being female adds, it’s enough to make anybody want to raise the white flag. Develop the concepts you feel genuine excitement about, letting your passion counterbalance any storms that threaten the wind in your sails.
Female entrepreneurs are every bit as capable of being successful in business as male entrepreneurs are, but they face significant hurdles. Keeping these tips at the forefront of your business strategy might reduce the likelihood that men–or any competitors–get the upper hand.