The 5 Word Kiss of Death

By Frederique Irwin, Founder and CEO of Her Corner

When discussing the topic of what obstacles keep women entrepreneurs from growing their companies, researchers often point to:

  • Inability to access financing, whether through lines of credits from banks, angel investors, private equity or venture capital firms.
  • A lack of organic networking and collaborative opportunities.
  • A lack of female role models as entrepreneurs

But I have often said that there is one other major obstacle women face when trying to grow their business. I call it the “five word kiss of death”: when a woman says, “I’ll just do it myself.”

I have seen it again and again: from my female college students who would rather just do the entire team project than wait for their colleagues to pull it together, when my daughter would rather clean up the whole room instead of waiting for her brother to chip in so they can go to the pool, or when the women business owners that we work with weekly suggest they want to manage the entire business so they can control the brand.

Sure, it’s easier right now. It’s always easier to take the shortest route to the outcome we want. But in a small business, what works right now isn’t always what is sustainable or scalable in the long run.

And as a business owner, doing everything yourself isn’t just overwhelming, isolating, and exhausting. It’s unnecessary.

I discovered this five years ago when I asked a few other women business owners to have dinner with me once a month to discuss our companies. We agreed not to discuss our children, spouses, or homes, to only talk about business – the opportunities and challenges we were each facing and overcoming.

And what I learned was that I wasn’t the only one trying to do it all by myself. I learned from the others what success can look like when we learn to delegate, to hire, and to think much more broadly than beyond what we can do on our own.

I have found that peer groups of exclusively women business owners bring honesty to the conversation and a collaborative spirit to problem solving that I have rarely found elsewhere. In fact, we started referring to it as “The Power of Collective Intelligence.”

While there remain challenges to overcome for all men and women in order to grow small businesses, I am now convinced, more than ever, that we can solve this problem and change the game for women business owners. By working together and by removing the phrase “I’ll just do it myself” from our vocabulary, we can overcome the barriers that have kept 82% of women-owned businesses under the $100,000 revenue mark for so long.


Frederique is the founder and CEO of Her Corner, a global peer-group community of women business owners committed to growth in their businesses. Her Corner applies a systematic, process-based approach that includes business-driven agendas, carefully selected facilitators, and metrics-focused growth measures in order to give women the springboard they need to move forward.

Her Corner is Frederique’s fourth business that grew out of a personal need for access to other motivated and ambitious women business owners with whom she could collaborate in order to accelerate growth in their businesses.

When Frederique is not managing the business operations of Her Corner, she can be found either running accelerator programs for Her Corner members or at the Kogod School of Business at American University where she teaches entrepreneurship, business management and organizational behavior.

Frederique holds an MBA from the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary and a BA in International and Russian Studies from Davidson College. She is a dual citizen of the United States and European Union, is fluent in English, French, and Spanish, and conversant in Russian and Italian.