As an entrepreneur, how many of these tips are you using to grow your business?
Guest Post by Kate Endress
I’ve been a female entrepreneur for only a couple years now, but I’ve been a woman in business for some time, first in finance and then at Stanford Business School (with a brief stint in the WNBA before all that).
With that experience behind me, and running a company now, I want to tell other women that now is a fantastic time to be a female entrepreneur. Overall 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.
First, there are many more role models today than there were even 10 years ago. Women like Marissa Mayer, Jessica Herrin, and Sheryl Sandberg (and many more) are showing what’s possible for women in business.
There are more women getting advanced business degrees as well – an increase of 53% since 1990. Which means you’re more likely to not only see women in business but be taught by them as well.
It’s not just executives, more of your peers in business are now women, which personally has helped me in creating support groups of other women who are going through the same issues I am.
And that is my number one piece of advice to any woman starting a company, build and leverage your support networks. There are so many women who have gone through what you are about to go through that are willing to help you out if you just ask. There are problems that you will run into that men in your same situation won’t face or won’t react to in the same way, and having a female mentor or a strong group of like-minded women behind you can make all the difference. And because there are so many more women in business today both in the rank and file and in the executive suite, there are plenty of options when it comes to finding a mentor or a peer network.
Here are 10 ideas of what you can do this month to build your network and become a stronger female entrepreneur.
- Join a Meetup for women entrepreneurs in your area. There are many different Meetups for just women or for your specific area of interest. It never hurts to meet people and it can help you find mentors, investors, and employees.
- Contact your alumni association to find out what women in business resources they have. Many universities have mentor programs for new grads that you can tap into.
- Look at universities in your area to see if they have women in business events you can join. Even if you’re not alumni you can probably pay a small fee to attend events with other local women.
- Get a mentor (or three). Find influential women in your area and reach out to them for coffee. Be respectful of their time and give them an idea of what you specifically want their advice on. I’ve only been turned down once in the past five years to meet with someone I reached out to.
- Meet people with confidence. That means a firm handshake, good eye contact, and faith in yourself and your idea (remember you’re an expert in your own area!). Also be cognizant of how you speak about your ideas. In my experience, many women tend to frame things as questions instead of statements. That can be a nice way to get advice but can limit your power as an expert.
- Research government programs for female entrepreneurs. Start at the Small Business Organization (SBO). There are grants specifically for women running businesses as well as workshops and other events.
- Create a peer network for yourself from friends or women you meet at events. They will give you support and provide a safe place to ask questions and share experiences. Set up a monthly coffee chat or an email group where you feel safe to vent about something or ask a stupid question.
- Expand your qualifications. MBA programs don’t have enough women (on average classes are ~35% female) so that’s an advantage for your application. If you can’t go back, then explore online or community classes that can help you bolster your skill sets.
- Utilize your experience as a woman to relate to female customers. From Pinterest to Wear the Runway, many companies are sprouting up to cater to the needs of women. Use your own experiences and the companies that now target women to tap into the female demographic for your company.
- Hire the best. I’ve had women interview for positions at my company and though I was rooting for them, at the end of the day I had to pick the best candidate – whether or not it was a woman.
Bio: Kate Endress is a private equity investor turned entrepreneur and e-commerce pioneer. After graduating from Stanford Business School in 2011, Kate cofounded DITTO.com, an ecommerce site selling designer sunglasses and eyewear which features cutting edge new “try-on” technology.