4 Pieces Of Practical Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

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4 Pieces Of Practical Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

 

The following is a guest post by Kate Endress. Kate is the CEO and cofounder of DITTO.com, a new cutting edge ecommerce site selling a curated collection of designer eyewear including prescription sunglasses. Kate is a graduate of Stanford Business School and was previously a private equity investor before becoming an entrepreneur.

Despite the scary statistic that women lead just 8% of venture-backed companies, I believe that there has never been a better time to be a young, female entrepreneur. There are an increasing number of great female role models who serve as inspirations.

Yahoo's decision to hire Marissa Mayer to run the struggling web giant, knowing full well that she was pregnant, is particularly exciting. I had the privilege to hear Mayer talk at a Stanford Women in Management event two years ago and was inspired even then as she talked honestly and openly about everything from her management style to her strategy for achieving the elusive work/life balance.woman ceo

In all of my experiences speaking with women who run companies, the same four pieces of advice arise time and again:

  1. Connections Count: Build Your Network

    Early in my career, I received some great advice from a female colleague who told me to find the women I want to emulate and get to know them by asking them out for a cup of coffee. At first, I was a bit nervous to pick up the phone or write the email, because I knew these were busy women. In the past seven years, however, I have reached out at least once a month to female bosses, leaders and entrepreneurs. Only once to date has the recipient not been able to fit me in. I'm often touched at how openly and warmly they share experiences, both professionally and personally. It is through these meetings that I have honed in on my vision for the kind of female leader, mother and wife I hope to someday become.

    Don't forget when you are networking – with men or women – to present yourself confidently. That starts with a strong handshake and good eye contact. Speak confidently about your business or your idea. You want advice and mentorship, but don't forget that you also have experience to offer and share.

     

  2. Let Others Help: Tap The Resources

    There are a growing number of resources and organizations dedicated to helping women in technology, many started by female pioneers who had to make their way through unchartered territory just one generation ago. At Stanford, I was a member of the Women in Management club where leaders like Mayer came to speak about their ambitions and tactics for achieving their ideal balance in life. Today, I subscribe to Women 2.0 (http://www.women2.com/), a Kauffman-backed organization that offers content, community and conferences for women founders in tech. It's inspiring to keep tabs on other female entrepreneurs, and I've attended several events in San Francisco where I got to connect with other female founders. Springboard Enterprises (http://www.springboardenterprises.org/) is another useful program that matches female entrepreneurs with coaches, industry contacts and investors. I have coffee every month with different female business owners who openly and warmly share experiences and advice. Check Meetup and local universities to find other groups of like-minded women near you. These are ideal places for networking, finding mentorship, sourcing investors and generating peer support groups.

     

  3. Don't Forego Funding: VCs Are Becoming More Balanced

    The venture community seems to be turning over a new leaf with the recent wave of successful startups with strong female customer bases. Women make up 60% of Zynga's customers, 77% of Groupon's customers, 82% of Pinterest's users and 70% of all ecommerce buyers. I am a huge online shopper myself and I was able to leverage that authenticity to attract venture backing for my ecommerce startup last August. If your target market is women, you can leverage your experiences and build a better story of how your company will reach other females. Depending on your company you may also be eligible for government grants that are given to organizations run by women.

     

  4. Learn To Lead: We Need More Movers, Shakers and Mentors

    Speak with conviction when you are speaking to others and avoid trailing off or framing things like a question. You are an expert in your own area and you should speak about it confidently. Know your weaknesses and build a strong team around you that can support you. Sometimes this means hiring other women – but mostly it means hiring the best person for the job. There were a few female engineers who applied for my company and I was definitely rooting for them, but at the end of the day they weren't all the best candidates. To be a strong leader for my company, I needed to select the best person for the job. Put yourself out there as a mentor for younger women, both in your company and externally. You'll be giving back to the next generation of entrepreneurs while also building your own network.

    WE NEED MORE WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS!  Please share any other tips or ideas you have in the comments.  

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Wed, Sep 05, 2012

COMMENTS

As a woman entrepreneur, I appreciate this article. I think Kate's #1 point about building connections is critical, especially leveraging your network when starting out and growing. And remember to give back when you do have something to offer and take the time to go to coffee or have a phone call when someone reaches out. It goes both ways.

posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 at 12:29 PM by Rachel O


Great article. Do good and you will do well - a wise friend told me this once and it is key - lead with information, connect, or advice - give do not take.  
Also, do something once a day that is outside your comfort zone - pick up that phone, reach out on email, learn something new.

posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 at 12:35 PM by Mary Juetten


When I think of women in technology, I think of three names: Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman and Marissa Mayer. If I thought really hard, I might remember Carol Bartz and Diane Greene. Sort of a mixed bag. 
 
If Marissa Mayer returns Yahoo! to first class status, she will deserve every accolade and nobody can say anything bad about her. If she doesn't, she'll be another over-priced, over-hyped, no-performance, no-talent Yahoo! CEO who will be mostly remembered as Larry Page's ex-girlfriend. 
 
If Marissa Mayer fails, she could set women in technology back 15 years. Women really need her to become another Diane Greene, not a Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman or Carol Bartz.

posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 at 12:53 PM by anonymous


Agreed, there has never been a better time to be a young female entrepreneur and tapping in to resources seems to be the core of successful startups and entrepreneur’s dreams everywhere. As crowdfunding takes its place as the “go to” for raising capital, I believe women and entrepreneurs in general should familiarize themselves quickly, which is why I have elected to attend the largest Crowdfunding Bootcamp of the year in Vegas. The event is this upcoming October and will be filled with industry leaders offering advice and sharing their experiences as well as a cash/prize pitch competition. I hope to lots of aspiring women there, please visit http://www.crowdfundingroadmap.com/bootcamp/.

posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 at 3:39 PM by Katelin


Lovely insight, thank you Kate! 
 
I'm very young and just starting my career - you've made me realize that I need a mentor. It's not easy or convenient to pick up the phone and ask for guidance over coffee, but it's headed straight to the top of my to-do list.

posted on Thursday, September 06, 2012 at 1:44 AM by Jasmine Henry


If we want to change the world for the better, women are our best investment

posted on Thursday, September 06, 2012 at 10:50 AM by Shachar


I value my female entrepreneur networks SO highly. Thanks for this inspiring article and for a few new resources and networks.

posted on Thursday, September 06, 2012 at 3:07 PM by Carolan Ross


I have currently involved myself in a fantastic network marketing company which is primarily dominated by women. A Health and Wellness company which provides botanically based, safe and beneficial line of Swedish skin care which is presented on top of a fair and inspiring business model. Point behind this message is that I watch these women each day / every meeting tell stories of how they have changed their lives by choosing to do something different and walk against the traffic of a 9-5 day job. It is very inspiring to hear that they have turned a plan B side project into their primary source of income which not only matched their current pay but has surpassed their partner's significantly enough where they can decide whether to work at their now Plan B 9-5pm job or not. Entrepreneurship is about leveraging your time and boosting your financial position and I am proud to sit in on those meetings dominated by women because they are showing me how I can develop my business better than I have ever experienced before.

posted on Thursday, September 06, 2012 at 8:43 PM by Anthony


Thanks very much for this article. Four months ago, I made a totally crazy, bold move of resigning from a full-time position that was draining my enthusiasm for life and passion for living. I'm now a one-woman show with a growing strategic consultancy and the founder of an online start-up. I now look forward to get up in the morning, discovering parts of me I never knew existed. I totally agree with the importance of networking. I used to be a wallflower but now I find it so much easier to talk about my passion to strangers! Perhaps because I'm in love with what I do and just couldn't wait to share it. Good article again!

posted on Sunday, September 09, 2012 at 10:29 PM by Hanim


I really appreciate your 4 pieces of advice, with the links in the first item. I've tended to do it all alone (and I know I am not alone with that tendency), and it's a journey that's hard, lonely and less joyful. I encourage us all to follow your advice and celebrate the results of community when aligning with women who come into their power.

posted on Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 3:47 PM by Robyn Stratton-Berkessel


Minor: You probably meant "Don't forgo funding" instead of "forego". 
 
That notwithstanding, I find this blog very useful.

posted on Friday, September 14, 2012 at 3:02 PM by Ashish Arora


The Time is Now! We must get more girls 15+ into the mindset of leading, owning, venturing and being socially responsible! Great article.

posted on Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 9:11 AM by Juan casimiro


Interesting and very useful article. Thanks for posting this one.

posted on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 2:31 AM by dealsoy


Comments have been closed for this article.