4 Things Female Founders Will (Likely) Encounter During Their First Year In Business
There is no denying that female founders often face an uphill battle in the business world. Not only do they receive a disproportionately small percentage of available VC funding, but they often face discrimination and sometimes even harassment.
Despite this, female founders continue to thrive. In fact, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners, “one in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned.”
Of course, to get to that level, you have to survive your first year in business. By being prepared for the opportunities and challenges that may come your way, you will be well positioned to make that first year a success.
1. Combatting ‘Proven Patterns’
Like it or not, female founders often face preconceived notions about what an entrepreneur should look like, what women are (and aren’t capable of) and even their dedication to their business idea.
In a blog post, Elizabeth Yin, co-founder of LaunchBit, writes, “I’ve been to startup events where it’s been all men and me. And, people will think I’m the caterer or the event organizer (even as I’m scarfing down the food and drinking all the beer). And, just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being a caterer or an event planner, but it reinforces to me that these stereotypes about what entrepreneurs look like definitely exist. It’s gotten better — with more and more women starting companies, this happens less and less to me (or maybe I just go to fewer startup events now). It will change – it’s a work in progress.”
Yin recommends female founders call people out when they encounter stereotypical thinking, while also being mentally prepared for outdated thinking at pitch sessions, conferences and other business events.
2. Building Confidence
As a female founder, you’ll face a lot of doubters. But the last place you want doubts to be coming from is yourself. Unfortunately, self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence can negatively affect your thinking — and ultimately keep you from reaching your full potential as a founder.
In an interview, Alison Gutterman, CEO and president of Jelmar, said that joining entrepreneur groups specifically for women went a long way in helping her “learn to build my confidence and overcome my negative self-talk. These groups have provided me mentors and peers to inspire me, hit me with reality checks on my capabilities and successes, and help me grow and learn from their outside perspectives and experiences.”
3. Connecting With Your Target Audience
Your first year in business isn’t going to be all hardships, though. Ashley Sarnowski, co-founder of Sunnie Hunnies, said, “Our first year in business was so exciting, because we got to see our audience and brand grow as we connected with like-minded customers who were interested in our products. I think a big part of that came from being true to ourselves and letting our personalities shine through on the website, in social media and elsewhere. Attaching our faces to the brand creates a personal touch and level of connection that we wouldn’t get otherwise.”
Studies have found that women are more empathetic than men, and this is something female founders can use to their advantage. When marketing your new product or service, it becomes easier to make an emotional appeal because you can better understand (and relate to) your audience’s pain points.
Helping your target audience feel understood should be a key part of your year one plans. A powerful emotional connection will result in loyal customers who stick with you through thick and thin.
4. Learning And Growing
If there’s one thing you can expect during your first year in business as a female founder, it’s a lot of learning and personal growth. You learn so much more through actually running your own business than you ever would after reading 100 articles about it.
Your first year is guaranteed to have constant ups and downs. You’ll undoubtedly face rejection and make mistakes. At the same time, you’ll find victories as you make sales and satisfy your customers.
The most important thing is to not give up when failures and setbacks come — and not to get overly confident when you succeed, either. Take a step back so you can look at the lessons that can be pulled from everything you experience during your first year in business. Identifying and applying these lessons in the future will put you on track for even greater success in the future.
Taking Year One In Stride
The first year in business for a female founder is full of challenges — but it also provides amazing opportunities to dig deep and come to understand what your strengths truly are. As you give your best effort and use the business acumen that you’ve already developed, you can lay a solid foundation for your new company, despite any obstacles that might try to throw you off course.
Business can be hard, but so are many other things that you’ve already conquered in your life. You can do this.