By: Kathey Porter
50 Billion Dollar Boss: African-American Women Sharing Stories of Success in Entrepreneurship and Leadership, Supplier Diversity Expert and Adjunct Instructor
There has been no greater time to be a woman in business than now. Whether its challenges to workplace advancement, unequal pay, or a lack of social capital, in a business world still dominated by men, women are opting to become their own boss. Although, women are starting businesses in record numbers, they lag when it comes to getting traditional or VC funding, sustaining past the five-year mark or reaching $1 million in revenues. These are critical benchmarks for long-term success and sustainability, however, they should not deter women from pursuing entrepreneurship. Here are ways in which women entrepreneurs can make being a woman-owned business work for them.
Focus on profitability, not just passion
It seems like one of the “in” things to do is to inspire people to follow their passion. It sounds great, but it begs the question, “is your passion profitable?” While some entrepreneurs strike gold and build a business based on their passion, many times, following your passion can lead to slow growth and low revenue depending on a number of factors. Take for instance the growth and revenue potential between business-to-consumer vs. business-to-business entities. Both are great, viable paths. However, they can result in completely different outcomes when it comes to revenue potential, cost per sale/order or the ability to scale. Cultivating multiple lines of business and revenue is key.
Build your net worth based on your network
The internet, and specifically social media, has changed the way entrepreneurs do business, disrupting the traditional model of business, allowing businesses to connect immediately with consumers and become more responsive to opportunities and threats in the market. They’re also a way of networking, allowing people to develop and grow business networks faster and more efficiently. While traditional networking – going to events, passing out cards, making key connects still work, social media takes the networking model a step further, allowing savvy participants to connect to literally hundreds or thousands of contacts in a relatively short amount of time, providing unprecedented access, allowing users to leverage “friends” and “followers” to create a robust business model to generate revenue and build their net worth based on their network.
Think outside the “ideal” mentor box
As many women are first generation entrepreneurs, access to networks where financing, references, resources, etc. are not always readily available. Often, this access comes through the advance of a mentor relationship. However, women oftentimes look for mentors who are similar to them, whether across racial or gender lines or common social interests. This can create a cozy, comfortable “BFF” situation, but it may not be the best formula for advancing a business. Mentors might not always come in the form that we envision. Women have to be creative and step outside the “ideal” mentor box.
Consider non-traditional entrepreneurial opportunities
Starting a business that is enjoyable and based on passion is an idyllic situation and a somewhat romantic notion. Yet, following one’s passion is not always the most lucrative path to profitability and the romance quickly leaves when bills cannot get paid. There are many lucrative, non-traditional industries for women to consider such as construction or technology (one of the most entrepreneurial and fastest growing industries today). While they may not be considered “sexy,” a business that makes money is very sexy!
Tout your status as a woman-owned business and target programs that actively seek women-owned businesses
Many business owners miss out on resources and support available to them simply due to lack of awareness. Becoming certified provides businesses with increased access and visibility to entities that actively seek to do business with women-owned firms. Most corporations, higher education institutions and federal and local government agencies have supplier diversity programs focused on finding qualified women-owned businesses to do business with.