2016 is the year of the female entrepreneur. Research conducted by HSBC Private Bank’s Essence of Enterprise found that the proportion of female entrepreneurs in the UK have nearly doubled among recent generations. Nine of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Top Young Investors of Venture Capital in 2016 are women. From the US census of 2012, women own 36% of all businesses, a 30% jump from 2007.
There are strong business reasons to have strong female entrepreneurs as well. According to this Forbes article, women are:
- better calculated risk takers
- less prone to over-confidence
- more ambitious
- more likely to take the long-term view and
- able to succeed despite facing more barriers.
Despite this, however, only 13% of women that enter entrepreneurship remain within the industry, making the women mentioned in this article appear like trend breakers and rebels, who have had to go against the flow to get to where they are now. They’ve cultivated an environment where they can be themselves and opened up what is possible. To them, entrepreneurship is having a vision, thinking the world should be like their vision and then working to make that vision happen.
At the book launch event for Charu Sharma’s book Go Against the Flow, 12 women talked about their struggles, about moments where they went against the flow, what they learned from those moments, and also gave a little tidbit of advice for the rising female entrepreneur. These 12 women were:
Charu Sharma, Moderator & Book Editor
Lu Li, founder and CEO, Blooming Founders
To be successful, make your own destiny, do something different, go against the flow.
Who says what the flow even is? As an entrepreneur, make your own flow. If you feel very strongly this is your destiny, that you’re supposed to be doing this, you won’t think you’re doing anything different. It won’t feel like you’re going against the flow either. Try to be as authentic to yourself and what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t forget to hustle. Have this faith that this is what you’re supposed to be doing.
How to measure success?
Success can be measured in happiness. For our panelists, they talked about using happiness as a measure of success. “If I wake up and I can sing, and I’m really happy, that’s a big indicator.” The feeling of having the best job in the world is important, as is enjoying the journey.
Another side effect of being an entrepreneur is becoming a better human, and becoming better at dealing with uncertainty and success.
For those more numbers oriented, a great indicator of success and growth can be financials, and communication with the community. There are many opportunities for a start-up to interact with their customers and get feedback. Financials are a great way to see if the growth you’re expecting is what you’re actually getting.
On Being Confident
Be courageous. Don’t be afraid to do things you’re scared of doing, and stop worrying about things you don’t have control in. What drives accomplishment is how much belief you have in yourself. Give courage to yourself and be compassionate to other people. Have faith and be kind. The world can be a big and scary place, but you can make it smaller if you believe in yourself and in what you can accomplish. Essentially, believe that you can go against the flow.
One of the scariest things an entrepreneur has to do is…
Here is some advice our panelists gave on fundraising:
- Get yourself front and center
- Build connections before you ever need to fundraise
- When you do need to fundraise it’s too late to start building connections. Don’t leave it up to your other cofounders
- When it comes to pitching, don’t be afraid to be front and center
- Know your numbers inside out
- Be able to demonstrate proven value, and be able to demo it
- The number 1 reason why a VC doesn’t invest is that the business doesn’t know their market
- Wait for the right time
- When things go bad, you don’t need to stay around
- Never give in, never give up.
How to Go Against the Flow:
- Celebrate failure. Listen to people but do not lose faith in your gut. If something goes wrong, don’t blame yourself, learn from it instead.
- Ask questions in a way that that won’t get you false positives. Get yourself into a mindset of proving yourself wrong.
- Be strategic about listening. Don’t assume the context that you bring to the table is the context that everyone else brings to the table. What is strategic listening you can bring to the table and the context you can take away from the table.
- Don’t apologize for being a woman. Use every single tool, take advantage of every single financial opportunity, say yes to every partnership. Do what it takes to succeed. When you make it, then you can go out and demand a level playing field. You can go out and try and close the gender gap and go on to try and solve the world’s problems.
- Learn how to manage the crowd. Listen to other people, when they’re asking you stuff. It can be time consuming, but it can pay off on many levels, including professional ones. Engage with everybody and take them all seriously. If you take the time to listen to them and to hear them, they will help you too.
- Do something different. Knowing yourself better puts you on the right path and allows you to do you
- Don’t focus on the means, but believe anything is possible. Think about what is cool to bring to the market. Focus mainly on the future and where you want people to be. When people use your products, what are they going to be proud about?