The Real Struggles of Being a Female Entrepreneur
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” - Sylvia Plath
When I first started Bird’s Tail, I had another woman say to me, “You know it’s really hard to stand out; you probably won’t make any money”. Wow, was that a kick in the face.
Female entrepreneurship is certainly not what it appears to be on social media. It’s challenging to describe what I do. Being a small business owner and jewelry designer I don’t have a typical 8-5 job in an office and thus most people assume I have both freedom and free time. Or, they don’t think I have a “real” job. The truth is, I rarely stop working. I’m constantly thinking about my business. I am not only responsible for my own paycheck but for those who work for me as well. And there is this never-ending pressure that I need to justify my success, to justify my job, to justify the time I spend away from my kids.
As female entrepreneurs, we need to work extra hard to find success, fighting against those that don’t believe in us, cheering on other women around us and boosting ourselves up when it feels like we want to quit.
And to the woman who told me that “it is hard to stand out”, I say thank you. It is hard to stand out. But I’m not afraid of ‘hard’. These words fueled me to succeed even more. But I also challenge these kind of comments: would anyone tell a man who is just starting a business, “you probably won’t make any money”? I think not.
So if you are a woman who is thinking of starting your own business, I say go for it. Or if you are currently in the trenches of trying to grow one, I can relate. here are a few insights I’ve gained from being a female business owner that I hope will help you no matter which entrepreneurial stage you are in:
Success doesn’t happen overnight.
Being a female entrepreneur I have encountered so many closed doors. I have been told ‘no’ more times than I can remember. Eventually, when the door opens, it’s because I’ve worked hard for that opportunity.
Any strides I’ve made in my business have been from being persistent. I’ve researched magazines to contact, reached out to editors, placed cold calls (which I despise!), and have sent SO many emails (to which many I never even receive a response). But I never give up hope that someone will feel the same passion that I do for this business that I’ve built. So I press forward.
Treat your work as ‘work’, not a ‘hobby’.
If you want to be successful and make a living from your passion, you need to treat your work seriously and not think of it as a hobby. Make a schedule and commit to it. If we are going to be successful entrepreneurs, we need to take the leap and be serious about it. Creating a schedule is only the beginning; we need to believe in ourselves and keep showing up.
Sarah Kooiman, Owner and Co-Founder of Milwaukee Mom’s Blog, also knows the struggles of female entrepreneurship firsthand. She continually shows up for moms and is a true and honest inspiration for women. Read her sage advice for female entrepreneurs in this recent blog post.
Make use of social media but don’t let it define your success.
There is no doubt that social media can help your business grow, but when your definition of success is defined by your number of online followers, likes or interactions, you are losing sight of why you started this business in the first place.
Social media can connect us and make us feel less alone, but it also creates so much doubt in our minds. The self-comparison trap gets me all the time. When I’m feeling unsure of myself or my business I try to limit my social media usage or only use it strategically for business purposes rather than mindless scrolling. Don’t let your ‘following’ define your success.
Connect and support women rather than competing.
We need to build each other up and support the women around us. One way I’ve done this is by joining a women’s accountability group, aka my Wolf Pack. Finding other women whom you can relate to is essential. And, if you can’t find a group - start one! Read here about how I started my own accountability group. The key is to look for like-minded women who are working hard to build their dreams—then lean on each other.
You’re not on an island.
Entrepreneurship can be pretty darn lonely. The road to success is paved with losses, mishaps, and mistakes, but it will lead to success as long as you don’t lose sight of your ultimate destination. Don’t give up. Listen to feedback. And most importantly, filter out the noise and the naysayers.
When you’re feeling discouraged, know that you’re not alone. Let’s continue the conversation about both the challenges and successes of female entrepreneurship and support one another along the way.