My story is a series of learnings from my personal journey as a female founder, and learning from so many successful women who are changing the face of technology.
I’ll never tell anyone who I am, because I want you to discover for yourself. Be true to yourself, and if you have a passion that drives you, then build it. It will be hard. You will encounter challenges and discouragement, and some days it will seem like everyone around you is unable to see or accept who you are. But push through those obstacles. Be strong. Be courageous. Any woman who contemplates starting a business must face one undeniable fact: Women have been systematically deprived of opportunities in the workplace for far too long. The actual proportion of female entrepreneurs is lower than it was 20 years ago. Just 5% of business owners are female; 10% of board members are female. Most startups are founded by very young individuals, and fewer than 10% of them are led by female founders.
Being a female founder is not easy, especially when you have to juggle so many activities at once. Here is a typical day in the life of a female founder as I tried to build my own business, starting to raise money for it, get it off the ground and get some significant traction. I’ve tried to describe what I’ve learn through my own experiences as well as conversations I have had with other female entrepreneurs about theirs.
Waking up to anxiety
There’s an emotional side to being an entrepreneur that sometimes feels like an endless well of worry. You can feel deliberately isolated from support, or at risk of failing entirely. If you experience imposter syndrome, it might make it hard for you to find motivation or ideas for growing your business. It can feel like everyone is looking at you strange. Instead of feeling discouraged, you might wish there were more people like you pushing through the hardest parts of becoming an entrepreneur.
There’s this thing about being an entrepreneur and getting shy about opening up to people. I get it. You want to keep your privacy and also not let anyone know what you do for a living. But if you don’t open up to people, you’ll never receive the feedback you need to get past your hurdles. This becomes even more real when approaching investors. So how do you find the courage to be yourself? Often, it’s just about facing your fears and talking about them with friends and family – or finding the right like-minded network of people to be your support system. It sounds simple but there are still some big obstacles standing in the way of many people opening up to the idea of entrepreneurship and starting their own business.
Getting comfortable with uncertainty
The first impression of a new business is always positive. The second is the hunger for knowledge – what you don’t know can make you dangerous. The third is the sense of possibility. At the root of it all is a burning desire to make something of yourself – to prove that you can do things other people can’t. It’s incredibly disorganized – and exhilarating.
I think the secret to entrepreneurship is to embrace uncertainty. Turn any day into an adventure. Go where no one knows you and do what you want. The key is pretending like the risks are small and real – enjoy the moment when everything looks okay and you’re flying by. Being uncertain is good for motivation, because you’re constantly being tested without fully understanding what’s involved. It also keeps you awake at night wondering what could happen next.
Working for yourself gives you the freedom to work on the things that really matter. It gives you the flexibility to balance family life with work commitments; to carve time away from the grind to pursue your interests, passions and passions in work, to make mistakes and learn from them. Having a mentor or co-founder who shows you the ropes really helps. For me, at RoomPlays, which is an interior design startup – being surrounded by talented interior designers from different parts of the world, who’ve step out to build a career on their own, has been so inspiring… and I highly recommend doing this actively. It gives you the confidence to break boundaries and try new things, knowing that anyone can succeed if they have the right support system around them
Learning the ropes
How to start a business or improve your existing one isn’t really an easy thing to do. Starting a business is basically the riskiest thing you can do. You might fail. You might make mistakes. You might fail some more. But if you take the time to get educated on how starting a business works, you’ll be better prepared for any eventuality and have more success! Reading and having actual experience with other people’s experiences has made me realize how important education is. By taking actionable, actionable tips from other people, I have managed to start my own small business that I am proud of and standing by today.
There are a lot of ways to learn and grow. You can join a learn-to-get-in-the-door course, take a class or go to a hackathon. But the best way to learn, as a female entrepreneur, is to be actively involved in a community. When I started RoomPlays, I still had my full time job and while I was surrounded by amazingly talented people – they weren’t entrepreneurs. They weren’t female entrepreneurs, or immigrant founder – or anyone who’s going through what I was – every single day. I felt incredibly lonely, lost and lacking in confidence. Its important to realize that there are groups for women entrepreneurs just like you all over the world. I’ve found that being part of a community (for me its been OnDeck), expands your perspective and gives you access to resources you wouldn’t have found otherwise. It’s made me stronger and more determined to succeed ever since I’ve been able to turn my passion into a business.
How we see women in the world can influence how we feel about them as people. This is bad for everyone, especially small business owners who need female representation in their communities. Female entrepreneurs face unique challenges that include stereotyping, which makes it difficult to navigate this already challenging startup and venture world.
Having an authentic identity is likely the most effective way women entrepreneurs can break stereotypes. We all need to do this – and more of it, every single day. An authentic identity is not something you create -its who you are. When you are authentic, people trust you and want to help you succeed because you are someone they can see themselves being like. An example of this is Beyonce – when she records a song about being broke she isn’t using her married name or publicist to get media coverage or fame, she is simply being who she is.
How do we know when we’ve found our tribe? How do we know that we have something in common with another person? One way is through shared experiences and commonalities in life experiences. Female entrepreneurs are often faced with being authentic when seeking funding or encouragement for their ventures. When it comes to women entrepreneurs, there’s a lot of pressure to look a certain way. That’s natural. But for some women, being animated and confident can go a long way toward overcoming that perception. It can help us network more easily, get more opportunities and build their careers with fewer obstacles–because people see that kind of passion in them. Some others are more introverted – and that’s fine too. Its really important to find your tribe – so you are fully supported in ways that make you feel most confident and comfortable in your skin.
Its the journey, not the result
In my personal view, the female entrepreneur is a different breed. She loves the results she gets but more than anything she loves the journey. It’s exhilarating, fulfilling and scary all at the same time. It’s what motivates her to keep going when so many have given up on their dreams. She knows that if she wants something big – anything really – she has to keep going until she gets there, no matter how many obstacles stand in her way.
Being an independent blogger, lifestyle influencer and now a female entrepreneur has afforded me the opportunity to travel the world, meet with some of the most talented women globally and learn there is so much beauty, passion, and achievement in every culture. It also has afforded me the opportunity to learn about business from those who have made it on their own, and how they were able to do it.
What I love about my entrepreneurship journey
It’s hard to find time for the things you love. I’m lucky to have a full-time job helping other people but it can be hard to get out there and do the things you want to do. I’ve been writing about interior design for a few years now, and the more I learn about it, the more inspired I get. I want to share that knowledge with anyone who is interested in creating a home for themselves or someone else. I didn’t know where to begin so I started with journaling. It soon turned into a passion blog, which led to writing articles and creating RoomPlays (a platform that empowers interior designers globally to launch their business online and work with a global clientele )for people who share my passion for creating beautiful homes.