Being a female entrepreneur comes with unique challenges, like accessing funding, defying social expectations, and lack of representation in the workplace, and in the press.
However, there are a growing number of opportunities, and now is the time to succeed as a woman founder.
The number of female entrepreneurs is growing, and they are thriving. In fact, 40% of new entrepreneurs in the U.S. are female, and the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies hit an all-time record in 2020. These are encouraging improvements, but we still have a long way to go.
“One of the unique aspects of considering entrepreneurship as a woman today is that there is social momentum for promoting women and minorities in the corporate world as well as among the venture capitalists and other entities that fund and support entrepreneurs,” said Lyda Bigelow, a professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.
To help you take advantage of the growing opportunities for women entrepreneurs, we compiled the best tips we could find from researchers, experts, professors in entrepreneurship, as well as many female founders at the nationally ranked Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah.
By hearing their advice and stories, our goal is to empower you to execute your entrepreneurial aspirations and push yourself to that next level.
Tip 1: Now is the Time to Relentlessly Push Yourself
Much research alludes that females are excelling in business. Research compiled by BCG concludes that women earn two times the amount per dollar invested than those founded by men and generate 10% more revenue over a 5-year period. Additionally, research from American Banker concludes that companies with female CFO’s see, on average, a 6% increase in profits – and an 8% increase in stock return – compared to men.
“One of my greatest advantages as an entrepreneur is that I am a woman,” said Julia Perry, an alum of the Master of Business Creation program at the Eccles School and founder of Wyetta, a plus-sized women’s fashion company. “I see and understand problems that are unique to being a woman. This allows me to focus on making life better for other women and hopefully helping them feel seen and understood.”
Have you ever heard of the phrase “fail often?” Successful individuals have failed many times to find their success. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. “Remember that if your venture fails, you’ve just raised your likelihood of starting a new venture,” Bigelow said.
Tip 2: Fueling Your Growth through Funding
Several lenders and corporations are addressing the disadvantages that female entrepreneurs often face in the loan market and offer additional sources of grants specifically for women. For example, GrantsforWomen.org is a comprehensive database that lists all the organizations and foundations that offer grant funding for women.
“More is yet to come as women should ultimately compromise 50% of our investor and capital resource base,” said Tara Spalding, founder of Hen House Ventures, a startup incubator in Salt Lake City.
Here are a few grants to get you started with your research:
- The Eileen-Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant: This is for females who need capital to expand their business. This grant awards five women with grants up to $120,000. Requirements are: you have to be a woman-owned company that promotes social and environmental change, have existed for 3 years, and haven’t earned more than $1 million in profits a year.
- FedEx Small Business Grant Contest: This grant contest is for both men and women to help them grow and scale their business. FedEx awards more than $250,000 to 12 businesses across the U.S. and additionally they receive exposure through their media outlets as they allow the public to vote for their favorite company.
- Cartier Women’s Initiative Award: Cartier awards 21 female entrepreneurs with one-on-one coaching, workshops, and media coverage. Prizes range from $30,000-100,000.
- 37 Angels: Angel investors at 37 Angels are all female investors that invest in female entrepreneurs. The organization recognizes the disadvantage that entrepreneurs face in the credit market and exists to combat that. They offer $50,000-200,000.
Tip 3: Believe in Yourself; You could be the Next Unicorn
“2019 was a record year for producing unicorns with 170 ventures reaching that status, and a 50% increase in the number of unicorns with at least one woman on the team,” Bigelow said.
You have the potential to be the next unicorn, or be a part of one, just like Amy Pressman, co-founder of Medallia, a SaaS venture, Sara Leary founder of Nextdoor, and Julia Hartz, co-founder of Eventbrite.
“Believe in you!” said Camryn Polansky, an entrepreneurship student at the University of Utah and founder of Camspire. “The only thing stopping you is the fear of judgment from others. Girls can be rude and try and get in your head- you know what purpose you serve. Remember all of the things that make you thrive and let that ignite your fire.”
Rachyll Faeth, an entrepreneurship student at the University of Utah and founder of PureWare a sustainable and eco-friendly company producing utensils said, “I believe females have the power to do anything. It is the matter of how bad you want an idea to come to fruition.”
Tip 4: Stand Up for Yourself, or No One Else is Going To
You might experience times when you will have to speak up for yourself or others around you regarding equality and fairness.
Spalding shared an experience that she was faced within the workplace, what she learned, and how she shared a new perspective.
“Recently, I was told that I was chosen because I was a woman and that they wanted to ‘diversify’ placing me in a position that checked that box,” she said. “It was an empty feeling because I was not chosen because of my vast experience and skills that I bring to the table.”
“I immediately explained why they should never say that and instead take my innate character and experience that encompasses my diversity, instead of my gender,” she said. “They understood, apologized, and begun to think through leadership growth differently.”
Tip 5: Practice Entrepreneurship
“Younger women in their 20s and 30s are more likely to become entrepreneurs than they were in the past, suggesting that women who prepare for entrepreneurial opportunities in college are well-positioned to start new ventures post-graduation,” Bigelow said.
An entrepreneurship degree can be a great avenue if you want to create, launch a product, or start a non-profit organization. It can also increase your skill set, and provide you with a vast number of connections that will last a lifetime.
Heidi Herrick, an Oxford graduate and professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at the University of Utah, talked about the importance of practicing entrepreneurship early on in your career. “It is the skills and attributes you develop when putting your major into practice as a founder or joiner of a new venture,” she said. “And it is the relationships and network you build along the way that are most valuable.”
“This is the reason I believe so many of our students go on to become ‘serial entrepreneurs’ years after they took a class in the Eccles School of Business or participated in an event at the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute,” she said.
Tip 6: Find a Mentor, be a Mentor
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Find a trusted mentor who will listen to you and help you make hard decisions. Mentors could help open your mind to new ideas as well as opportunities.
Keep in mind your success doesn’t just affect you. It affects girls and women everywhere seeing that they are being represented.
“The biggest difference that I see in male and female entrepreneurs is that females have fewer role models that look like them,” Herrick said. “As an educator of entrepreneurs, this is something I am trying to correct.”
Offer up your skills to a female entrepreneur who was like yourself and might need it. You will never know the lasting-affects it will have on them.
Angela Ahrendts, SVP of retail at Apple, concluded: “If the end result is that someone, somewhere winds up believing they can do something out of the ordinary, well, then you’ve really made it.”