​​Women Entrepreneurship: A Pathway to Abundance | Por @OpenEXO

Data published by the U.S. Census Bureau, Dow Jones, Harvard Business Review, and other studies show that: women-owned businesses generate significantly higher revenues and create significantly more jobs than male-owned businesses.

Not everything has been bad as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Confinement, working at home, the cancellation of some jobs, and the closing of businesses awakened many the need to innovate and create honest ways to make a living. This led to the creation of new companies. This is tailored to the needs of both the entrepreneur and the consumers of products and services or to turn an existing business around.

One such example is the family business BuzzBallz/Southern Champion LLC, chaired by Merrilee Kick, a producer of prepared cocktails. During the pandemic, they had problems supplying raw materials, such as strawberries from Europe. Kick wasted no time adapting and began producing hand sanitizer that she later donated, but then  new products that "reinvent happy hour." Another is Carrie SiuButt, CEO of SimpleHealth, which offers online access to reproductive health consultations and medications. When the pandemic forced patients and doctors to be physically separated, SiuButt recognized the importance of tele-health. "The pandemic hit us, but tele-health is the place to be," she said.

This kind of forward-thinking, quick decision-making leadership makes it possible for women-owned businesses to thrive amid challenges, says Camille Burns, CEO of the Women Presidents' Organization (WPO). "It's the gift of the entrepreneurial mindset, being willing to experiment and adapt. I know many women entrepreneurs who started and ended 2021 in very different places. Many members have grown and done very well during the pandemic. They are reaching new markets and expanding their businesses despite all these challenges," she says.

Thus, self-employment became the only opportunity, especially for women, to earn an income. With ingenuity and hard work, and some as the sole breadwinners for their families, they have overcome many difficulties. Even though the creation and development of an enterprise are not always easy, many women, characterized by an active and positive spirit, decided to take the risk of challenging the market and the system, assuming the inconveniences and failures as lessons learned.

It is this type of woman who, with courage, has been able to face not only the terrible crisis that we have experienced in recent months but also the business environment dominated by men for several years. They are then in front of different challenges, generally different from those experienced by their male counterparts.

To gain more clarity on the difficulties women face compared to men when starting a venture, Business News Daily - a website dedicated to startup-specific information - surveyed female CEOs to determine what challenges women entrepreneurs face and some suggestions for dealing with them. Here are the results:

The first challenge is challenging societal expectations. Usually, when a woman has to talk business, especially with male executives, she adopts a stereotypically "masculine" attitude that makes her appear competitive, aggressive, and, if possible, even "tough" in her dealings. However, the female executives surveyed agree that there is nothing like being true to each woman's personality to overcome these preconceived expectations.

A second challenge is an access to financing, which remains somewhat difficult for women-owned businesses. In some countries, banks and other financial institutions do not consider middle-class women entrepreneurs as suitable applicants for their start-ups. They are therefore unsure who will repay the loan.

Bonnie Crater, president and CEO of Full Circle Insights, a portal specializing in marketing solutions, notes that venture capitalists tend to invest in startups run by people from their own "tribe." For example, a Stanford alumni investor will prioritize companies created by Stanford alumni.  Therefore, she suggests that women seeking investors for their companies should generate confidence through a great team and a business plan.

For her part, Felena Hanson, founder of the Hera Hub coworking space for women entrepreneurs, said that another way to overcome this problem is to get more women investors to support each other and ask for exactly what they need, even if that means asking for more than they want.

Gloria Kolb, CEO, and co-founder of Elidah - a company that seeks to empower women to take control of their health - says that male investors tend to assume that women entrepreneurs operate the same as men and inflate their numbers and therefore get funding at lower levels than requested; women need to understand this dynamic and focus their pitches accordingly.

A third challenge is to be taken seriously. This challenge stems from the fact that most female CEOs are dominated by men in any industry or workplace, who are often unwilling to acknowledge women's leadership roles. Alison Gutterman, CEO and president of Jelmar, a cleaning products company, had that experience at the start of her business, leading her to express that "as a businesswoman in a male-dominated industry, earning respect has been a struggle." With the firm conviction to create her reputation as an entrepreneur in her own right, she had to learn to build her confidence and overcome her negative self-concept.

The next hurdle is overcoming the devalued view of women entrepreneurs, which leads her to devalue her worth as both a woman and an entrepreneur. Molly MacDonald, founder, and CEO of The Mobile Locker Co. a company that provides personal storage for events told Business News Daily that she has always found it difficult to convey her value as a leader: "Using the first person singular to talk about successes feels like I'm bragging, and I can't shake the idea that if someone knows I'm the only one in control, the value of what we do will go down."

Shalonda Downing, founder of Virtual Work Team, a recruitment consultancy, advises women to recognize the value of their creative ideas and value their knowledge.  Sharon Rowlands, CEO of Web.com Group and ReachLocal, a provider of online marketing services, agreed that confidence is the key to success, even when faced with a boardroom full of men.

Another situation women face is building support networks. Felena Hanson opined, "Given that most of the high-level business world is still dominated by men, it can be difficult to break through and facilitate introductions and connections in some of the more elite business networks."

Finding the right support network is not always easy. In the U.S., there is the possibility of women-focused networking events-such as the WIN Conference, eWomenNetwork, and Bizwomen events-as well as online forums and groups created specifically for women in business, such as Ellevate Network. This should be replicated everywhere to support women entrepreneurs in building their support networks.

If getting entrepreneurship off the ground is difficult enough, it is even more so when balancing business and family life. Women are expected to spend more time with family members and are discouraged from traveling extensively to exploit business opportunities. Finding ways to make time for both is key to achieving that work-life balance, says Hilary Genga, founder, and CEO of swimwear manufacturer Trunkettes, while for Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations, finding this balance meant leaving a corporate job and starting her own consulting business before her first child was born.

Finally, the Business News Daily study says the most interesting challenge a woman can face is the fear of failure. Kristi Piehl, founder, and CEO of Media Minefield advises women not to let their insecurities stop them from dreaming big and encourages them to overcome the moments of doubt that every entrepreneur faces and not wait for perfection before starting their business.

Motivators say that failure should not be seen as negative or an excuse to give up on goals.  "When you hear 'no' repeatedly when your plans don't go well, or if you make a costly decision ... consider it a teaching moment," said Addie Swartz, CEO of reaching, which matches businesses with women returning to work after a hiatus. The important thing, she says, is to stay the course, "take in all the information; filter out the noise and the naysayers; learn from your mistakes and try not to make them again. But whatever you do, don't give up."

The fact that women have faced the pandemic in the face of a male-dominated business environment and become successful entrepreneurs is not just by chance or by force of survival. 

Full article in Insight OpenEXO

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