Since graduating from Ball State, I’ve been a WNBA player, a private equity investor, a business student at Stanford, and now an e-commerce entrepreneur. In the past year I’ve raised capital, hired 20 people and launched our site. It’s been an amazing journey and not without more than a few challenges, but I’ve faced many fewer obstacles than women in previous generations who wanted to be entrepreneurs, and in many cases being a woman has helped me get ahead.
Here are five distinct reasons that today’s young female entrepreneurs are in a better place starting out than their counterparts a decade ago:
- More support systems. A number of websites are popping up to bolster the women-in-business networks that have been around for awhile. Check out sites like The Daily Muse, or search Meetup for groups in your area that cater to female entrepreneurs. Local colleges are also great places to find groups. These are great places to find mentorship for yourself and partners for your business. And don’t forget that there are government resources specifically for female business owners. Check out the Small Business Association for more info on government resources.
- More peers. More women starting businesses means more peers that you can talk to. Find out which of your friends from school are starting companies or find a group of women from a networking event to setup regular chats. You are likely all going through similar issues from where to find a lawyer to how to deal with an under performing employee. Men can obviously be great peer resources as well, but some issues are unique to women and you may get more specific advice from another female entrepreneur. Find who you’re comfortable with, but get yourself a group that can support you. Are you part of any Group that you can recommend?
- More role models. Women like Marissa Mayer, Meg Whitman, Jessica Herrin (and many more) are showing what’s possible for female entrepreneurs. You may not be able to get in touch with them, but there are certainly female executives in your area that you could tap for mentorship. Don’t be afraid to reach out. When you do, be respectful of their time and give them an idea of what you specifically want their advice on. I’ve reached out to dozens of women over the past couple years and can only think of one time I’ve been turned down for coffee.
- More businesses focused on women. Companies like Pinterest are built around design and aesthetics that are trying to reach to women. Other companies like Groupon and Zynga are really trying to tap into female consumers. Use them for inspiration to find your own idea that reaches female customers.
- More educational opportunities. Women are also a growing constituency in business schools across the country, but many top schools are actively courting women because they still only make up about 30% of the class. If you can’t commit to going back to school, consider the many opportunities online to bolster your skills. Having trouble finding a web designer for your idea? Teach yourself some coding basics at sites like CodeAcademy where you can learn coding with a group of friends. Want to know more SEO? Here’s a great resource for that too!
The most common thing I hear from budding entrepreneurs is they don’t know if this is the right time for them to start something. There may never be a perfect time in your personal life but now is a great time for female entrepreneurs if you tap into the many resources that are now available to you.
Nothing is easy, but with the right mindset, everything is possible. This infographic released by AMEX, shows the challenges women entrepreneurs may face and opportunities that can be capitalized on:
Image credit: cibu.edu