Frankly, I forgot that October is National Women’s Small Business Month, and I have a feeling many other women will as well.
As the female co-founder of a growing financial literacy startup, CentSai, and as the host of the SheVentures podcast — where I’ve had intimate conversations with dozens of female entrepreneurs — I can safely say we are too busy surviving to rest on our laurels.
And this is not a slog unique to women but to entrepreneurship itself. Still, there are 1.1 million women-owned small businesses, which is about 20 percent of all businesses, according to the Census Bureau. Yup, one-fifth of small businesses have a woman at the helm.
A recent Groupon survey of 600 female entrepreneurs found 94 percent of them report being happier than ever working for themselves, despite ongoing work/life challenges. Moreover, about two-thirds of the women in this survey said they make as much or more money than they did before starting their business.
The Reality of Women Entrepreneurship
These stats make entrepreneurship sound liberating and sexy. After five years, I am here to tell you: Sure, there are some wins, but be prepared for the challenge of the 12-hour days that 76 percent of women in the survey report working on average. But it’s not only long workdays.
There is an endless stream of nos for every yes. Investors will ghost you or not take you seriously. If you have children, you will find yourself stressed trying to manage their lives with your erratic work schedule. On occasion, you’ll wait for what seems like eons for clients to pay you so you can pay those working for you.
I am not saying don’t follow your dream, but I am saying be realistic about how much you can handle. Oh, and please DON’T dive in headfirst if you don’t have a stable income already.
As someone smart once said: “You can have it all, but not all at once.”
Let’s also not forget about the ripple effect scandals can have on women entrepreneurs.
Elizabeth Holmes was heralded as a female Steve Jobs when she dropped out of Stanford at 19 after founding blood-testing startup Theranos and became one of the world’s youngest billionaires. Her tumultuous fall from grace for allegedly defrauding investors, doctors, and patients continue to impact women in STEM today when they’re seeking venture capital.
More than half of the women in the Groupon survey said they believe they are held to a different standard than their male counterparts when it comes to raising capital. Only about 3 percent of venture capital money goes to women. There is no room for error.
Yet she recalls how many investors would initially look at and speak only to her male advisor in a face-to-face meeting, treating her as a notetaker. Only when Yudina started fielding questions with her whip-smart swagger, did it dawn on them that she was the CEO.
- Ladies Who Launch
- Moms As Entrepreneurs
- National Association of Women Business Owners
- Digital Undivided Genius Lab for Black and Latinx Women
- Office of Women’s Business Ownership from the Small Business Administration
- National Association for Female Executives
- Association of Women’s Business Centers
- National Association of Women in Construction
- National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses
- U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce
- Women's Business Enterprise National Council
- Women Impacting Public Policy
- Women’s Presidents’ Organization
How to Make Entrepreneurship Work for You
If you think entrepreneurship is where your heart is, I highly recommend finding your tribe. Network with others, especially if you are an introvert like me. Take care of yourself because no one else can. Make process your friend. As women, we are taught to downplay our strengths. Don’t fall into the imposter syndrome trap. You are smart enough to run a thriving business.
Yes, just a small percentage of venture capital goes to women, but even with these grim statistics, some women beat the odds.
Look at Sara Blakely. When she started Spanx, no one got her idea — until they did. Thanks to her tenacity, today she is a billionaire. And she embodies what I hope all women will do when they win. Blakely is pulling up other women with her clout: Her foundation is committed to giving away half her wealth to empower women.
One of the benefits of social media is the plethora of free groups on LinkedIn and Facebook to help you galvanize support and network, regardless of where you live.
The Bottom Line on Women Entrepreneurs
The top obstacles facing women when opening a small business are generating new clients, increasing profits, accessing capital, and staying energized, according to the same Groupon survey.
Armed with this knowledge, start your journey with a realistic view of what entrepreneurship is. Consider creating a vision board of your business and life six months, one year, and three years from now.
Above all, surround yourself with positivity whether that comes from other entrepreneurs, exercise, or chilling at a jazz club. Remember to fill up your tank often, so you can enjoy where your entrepreneurial journey takes you this Women's Small Business Month.