By tradition, the “self employment culture” has been characterized as a male phenomenon. Entrepreneurship, a game of risk and chance, used to be the exclusive domain of the male population
Not anymore. A growing number of women are venturing into self-employment and getting inclined to start an enterprise. Many women are finding that entrepreneurship could pave the way for their “need for new challenges”, the wish to “be one’s own boss” and a “better organized working life”.
What motivates women to pursue self-employment and start their own businesses?
We interviewed Kimberly Yorio and Caitlin Friedman, founders of YC Media, a successful PR firm), to give us insights on women and entrepreneurship. Kimberly and Caitlin recently wrote a book entitled “The Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business” (HarperResource Category: January 2004), which is a great primer designed to give real advice to women on business planning, hiring and managing a business.
Question: From your interviews with women entrepreneurs, what came out as the common motives behind the important decision to start their own businesses?
- Flexibility with time
- Frustrated with working for other people or large corporations
- Wanted more control over income
- Wanted to challenge themselves professionally and personally
Question: For majority of women, we’ve seen that freedom and flexibility are motivating factors for becoming self-employed. They wish to integrate their family and working life. Unfortunately, the two roles sometimes do not mix: traditional family responsibilities and the perceived role of women in relation to children decisively restrict the development potential of the businesses while their children are young. What steps have you seen women entrepreneurs take to fulfill their family responsibilities while ensuring the success of their startup enterprises?
Authors: We spoke to several women who have struggled with this but not because of society’s expectations or limitations, but more because there is just not enough time in the day to be giving 100% to your career and family 100% of the time. Communication and prioritization are the keys. Speak to your family before you decide to launch a business. If your children are old enough to understand explain to them the time commitment you are looking at and how running this new venture will affect the family. Even if they are young, involve your family in your new business. We spoke to a chef who brought her children to work starting at a very young age. At this point, ten years later they feel that they are a part of her business, and have seen it grow and change over the years. Have your children help you with mailings, or take trips with you to the post office if you work from home. The key is to make them feel included not excluded.
Question: One of the most important problems to a woman is if she wants to become pregnant in the course of the start-up and growth phases of her business. Can you cite success stories of women who have managed to start successfully a business while pregnant?
Authors: Rest assured it is possible to be pregnant and start up a business. Funny that you should even ask because one of us is actually trying to get pregnant right now. And with all of the doctors appointments, it is actually better that we run our own business. We can schedule our workload to suit our schedule. As for being pregnant while running a business, one of the women we interviewed, Laurice Duffy, ran her cleaning business for 6 months while on bed-rest because she was pregnant with triplets!
Question: Some women start their own businesses because they are “pushed” into it. They were either fired from their jobs, or felt that their jobs denied them the flexibility they need to combine family and working life. Some are simply dissatisfied with where their careers are going, or felt a lack of connection with their bosses and colleagues. Whatever the reason, the shift from being an employee into a self-employed individual is definitely a life altering decision. How did the women entrepreneurs who were in this type of situation reacted to this drastic change in their lives?
Authors: We have found that women who are ‘pushed’ into starting a business won’t last very long. In fact a very good friend of ours was laid off, and after spending almost a year looking for a job she decided to open her own business. She was anxious about the decision and was really only doing it because nothing had come through in the corporate sector. The six months she ran her consulting business were torturous for her. She worried about money all of the time, she was lonely, she missed working with a team. As soon as a job was offered she took it, thrilled to close her business. We strongly believe that 1.) you take sometime to evaluate yourself before you make the decision to launch a business and we offer some questions to ask yourself in the book 2.) if you are going ahead with the business start networking by joining professional organizations it is important to create a support system for yourself since you will have lots of questions 3.) give yourself a few months to adjust to the change don’t expect that it will be easy at first to be responsible for everything.
Question: When I talk to some women entrepreneurs, the reasons I always hear as to why they started their businesses are to seek pleasure in their work and satisfaction with what they do. They look to their businesses as a step towards self-fulfillment. They simply want to feel happy about going to work each day. I hardly hear anything about money as the motivating factor; they were not motivated by materialistic status symbols in their decision for setting up a business. Is this something that you heard in the course of your research for your book?
Authors: When you run a business you wear all hats—bookkeeper, marketing director, public relations executive, CEO, CFO—so you get such amazing professional and personal satisfaction because you are never bored, you are always learning new things, and you feel a sense of accomplish when you tackle a difficult issue. The women we spoke to were not in it exclusively for the money, but many of them did choose to be an entrepreneur because they wanted the potential to make more money. For instance, many of the consultants we spoke with—graphic designers, website designers—liked the control they had with how many projects they took on, what they charged, when they worked.
Question: What advise do you give women who want to start their own successful businesses?
Authors: Evaluate yourself before committing to a business. Even though it sounds great to be your own boss, it isn’t the right lifestyle for everyone. So ask yourself and the people around you questions like: Are you comfortable being responsible for making 100% of the money? Are you capable of compromising? If you are a writer, artist or other creative professional how are you going to feel about spending a large portion of your time with accountants, lawyers and bookkeepers? Are you intimidated or energized when faced with learning something new?
Do your market research. If you have always wanted to open a bookstore but live in a town with ten of them you might think twice about this being your business choice. Successful businesses are those that fulfill a need for the community or public. So before you fall in love with an idea ask your friends, family and anyone who crosses your path what kinds of businesses they would like to see open.
Write a business plan. This is an intense process but believe us, necessary. Spend time on the plan and if you need help check in with the Small Business Association because there may be advisors in your area.
Hire a great team of consultants. Your small business team should include an accountant, lawyer, and perhaps bookkeeper. Find consultants who are familiar with your type of business. Hire people you enjoy spending time with and make sure they will be patient when explaining the unfamiliar with you.