5 Essential Things All Female Entrepreneurs Need to Know
We’ll get this out of the way: It’s not as easy to be a female entrepreneur. You’re surprised, right? (You’re not surprised.) The various obstacles and inequalities that women encounter extend to the business world. That’s why when you’re opening and growing your own company, you should keep a few things in mind to help yourself flourish, but also protect your mental health, too.
There’s a lot that female entrepreneurs should know, but these essentials are unique to women. They’ll help you secure capital and grow a professional family that’ll allow you to succeed.
Networking matters more than ever.
“Networking” can either be a touchy-feely thing that you want to stay miles away from, or seem completely empty. Even if you know it could be potentially meaningful, if you’re not a super outgoing person, or you choose to be alcohol-free, you might find networking overwhelming. All of those things are completely justified to feel—especially as a woman.
But finding a support network of other female entrepreneurs, and other women specifically in your field, is huge. Luckily, there are more ways now than ever to do it—and not all of them involve men, drinking, cutesy name-games, competition, or cold handshakes in person. Look at helpful lists of networking tips and strategies to figure out alternatives to traditional professional mixers, and figure out what makes you more comfortable.
Our advice? Begin with women’s-only professional organizations, which will be supportive and understanding, and offer you the support for the unique challenges women entrepreneurs face
Find a mentor.
On a similar note, connecting with a mentor is one of the best professional decisions you can possibly make as a female entrepreneur.
As you’re keenly aware, the average CEO is older, white, and male. There are so many templates for success that look exactly the same—which leave women behind. How do we know, then, which advice to follow? Mentorship. But you have to seek it out, of course.
Networking can be the fast track to finding a mentor, but you can also consider looking into other professional matchmaking outlets that pair younger entrepreneurs with older ones. Remember that this isn’t just for female entrepreneurs just starting out—everyone can keep learning. (Even your mentor will have a mentor.)
Don’t be shy about asking for capital.
An absolutely staggering fact is how much less often female entrepreneurs apply for business financing than men. Even though women are more likely to start small businesses (47% versus 44%, according to SCORE), only a quarter of them will actually apply for funding. More than a third of men do, though. And when women do apply, they typically ask for less money.
What’s going on? More than likely, it’s that inherent female psychology at play where we undervalue ourselves, or disqualify ourselves before we even apply. (Same thing happens when women don’t apply for jobs until they’re overqualified, whereas men apply for the same positions when they’re underqualified.)
Don’t sell yourself short. Not only should you apply for small business financing when your business needs it, but the best time to apply is actually before you need it. The least expensive capital is obtained before an emergency, not during.
Look out for special funding opportunities.
It’s actually a pretty great time to be a female entrepreneur right now, believe it or not! There’s more money than ever on the table for women. For instance:
- SBA Microloans, part of the SBA loans program, are small business funding disbursed in conjunction with the government’s Small Business Administration. With funding up to $50,000 for newer businesses, these loans have some of the best terms available and are awarded with priority to women, entrepreneurs of color, and veterans making a difference in their communities.
- Small business grants for women are widely available. Applying for grants is hard work, but is extremely rewarding if you’re able to receive an award. Many come with no strings attached (and no interest, of course).
- Venture capital for female-founded companies is an emerging subsector within VC. As female founders are vastly underfunded compared to men, several funds have emerged with a focus on funding women and founders of color.
You get what you give.
Perhaps, more than anything, don’t forget to give back to the community of other female founders. Remember: a rising tide lifts all ships.
This post was authored by Meredith Wood
Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Specializing in financial advice for small business owners, Meredith is a current and past contributor to Yahoo!, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, SCORE, AllBusiness and more.