More than nine million businesses today are owned by women, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. On top of that, woman-owned companies account for 31 percent of all privately held firms in the United States.
It’s a fact: More and more women are becoming business owners. But the path to entrepreneurship isn’t without challenges. As a woman and entrepreneur, I know this firsthand.
I’ve experienced my fair share of bumps in the road. But my biggest challenge, by far, was simply learning how to run a business on my own. I didn’t have anyone to teach or guide me. I had no support network or strong female mentor to look up to. I was left to make my own mistakes and learn from them. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but we’d all rather have the extra help, right?
I think this is a problem many women who are just starting their businesses encounter. Award-winning entrepreneur Bonnie Marcus attributes it to the fact that women entrepreneurs have limited access to industry networks and connections.
According to Marcus, “It’s tough for newcomers, especially women, to be accepted in many of these networks. Women entrepreneurs feel they have to work harder to develop relationships and demonstrate that they belong especially in male dominated industries. They work harder to be taken seriously.”
Networks dominated by men, in particular, can be a stumbling block for women because we do not share a common background with our male counterparts. Regardless, I think a little confidence can go a long way in feeling like we belong. Remember that we are usually our greatest critics.
Knowing what I know now, I would surround myself with others who had the expertise I needed from the beginning. I’m talking about people willing to share their wisdom with me, or even better, willing to act as my mentor or management consultant.
So, how do you even find a professional network? It usually starts with locating that one person who shares your business goals or works in your niche and is enthusiastic about helping you. Ideally, this connection will open up her entire network for you.
Finding this type of support won’t necessarily be easy; but once you know what (or who) to look for, you’ll notice that people start coming out of the woodwork. And there are lots of resources out there, too (again, you just have to open your eyes and start looking for them).
Bonnie Marcus recommends BusinessAdvising.org, a great platform that matches small business owners with expert advisors in dozens of fields. You can find more recommendations in my recent blog post on women who mentor.
Learning how to run your business and finding a support network are not the only challenges you will likely face as a burgeoning business owner. There are many challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, and we all have different experiences with them.
What’s most important, for me, is how we rise to the occasion. So go forth with confidence and tackle those challenges head on. I promise you will be the better for it!