Lessons for women entrepreneurs
“…but I don’t think you can really be a woman in this world and not BE.” – Oprah Winfrey
Once upon a time there was a little girl who took care of all her responsibilities and did exactly what everyone expected of her. She was a good daughter, she grew up in a good family with supportive friends. As the years went by she transformed into a lovely woman and gracefully dealt with all the challenges and responsibilities life swung at her. She did the very best that she could and was always quite cheerful. Or maybe she was always a wild one that did whatever she pleased and never conformed. Yet, there was this yearning to do more and be more. She just did not feel complete. She knew there had to be more than the status quo. This something that she was missing was just hers, but also in a way was an extension of the greater world outside and beyond her family (the community, city, country, world).
My name is Bhavna, I am an Executive Coach and I fell into entrepreneurship by founding a Learning and Development Company called Talent Power Partners. As I reflect back on what got me to this place, a few things come to mind. Sharing some pointers from my experience as a woman entrepreneur:
- The very first step and an ongoing exercise on this journey is a lot of soul searching – what are the gifts that you were given? What gives you real joy – not just superficial happiness? What personal needs do you want to fulfil as you build your business? Sometimes it is deliberate and sometimes you learn by chance. Once you have some clarity on the reasons for being an entrepreneur you have reached a turning point and one of great celebration. But WAIT!! this is also the beginning of TROUBLE. From now on there will be constant restlessness and you will be consumed with an energy that demands physical manifestation. Work hard but also pace yourself when needed. The doing and the being are equally important.
- One thing I have realised was knowing who you are and what you love doing does not mean you can escape the parts you are not good at or hate doing. As an entrepreneur one thing is certain: you need to be aware of every aspect of business. Be it finance, marketing, sales etc. Be honest and aware of your own personal strength and weaknesses and hire or partner with people with complementary skill sets.
- Consciously solicit support and keep doing it from the beginning of your journey – also being the support for others around you whom you can help. Typically, the role of women is that of caregivers, nurturers. They do not realise it, but may feel depleted when they need that support for themselves in return. It becomes important to ensure that you have some support for yourself as you embark on this creative journey. Sit and plan your support group, strategise it, beg to people if you have to saying you need them to be there for you because what you are doing is CREATIVE and BEAUTIFUL and because you deserve it. Do not be shy or apologetic about it. If you are serious about your mission very soon people around you, strangers will notice that light shining inside you and will step up to help.
- “It’s okay” or “it’s fine” or “I don’t care”… are often repeated phrase amongst women when they are left behind for a promotion or asked to be responsible for all the housework or have to deal with some form of gender bias. I urge you to care and be okay after you have acknowledged the disparity and have done something about it.
- Be comfortable with your femininity and do not be afraid of it. Play it to your advantage unapologetically within the realms of your values. It is known and accepted that women show emotions easier than men, somewhere we are losing this quality to survive in this man’s world, so to speak. Your feelings are the connection between your body and your soul – pay attention to them. This self awareness is a key leadership trait.
- I have been an entrepreneur when I was ready and when I was not. Both of these stages are important. This is what people mean when they say you learn from failure. Now when I look back I know I was not ready then nor serious. But it did teach me a few things that come in handy now. Invest in yourself. Become a seeker. Use the down periods to develop skills and knowledge. Celebrate the wins but also know they are temporary. Do not focus on the failures, because those are soon going to pass away too. The important thing is to just keep going. Re-tuning your expectations and looking at the bigger picture is a good way to get past the low points. Ask yourself honest questions and give truthful answers. Be RELENTLESS.
- Sometimes you got to fake it till you make it. Who better at it than us women. Think big, imagine that you have achieved it and let that thought penetrate in your thinking, talking and doing.
Being a woman entrepreneur requires you to develop as a leader and practise constantly. For many centuries people believed leadership to be an inborn trait and was not something that could be developed. Today we know that is not true. Leadership is a personal need. Women by default tend to cater to the NEEDS of others before themselves. This is one of the reasons why there are fewer women leaders.
It has been seen that the successful women leaders bring in valuable qualities to business. They are naturally more empathetic. They value relationships more than men do, and we all know relationships are the most crucial and critical ingredient in business. They are good at cooperation and collaboration. These are all key traits of a good leader. Coupled with all these factors the diaspora today provides several opportunities and networks for women to thrive. We have the backing of a solid education and now easy access to take it further. I urge you to use all the wonderful things in your favour, go after your dreams and make this world your playing field.
“I want every little girl who is told she’s bossy, to instead be told that she has leadership skills.” Sheryl Sandberg.