“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success”
The UK is considered the start-up capital of Europe, however the number of women starting and scaling businesses remains much lower than that of men and even women in similar economies.
What is holding British women back?
Women’s inherent fear of failure and perfectionism
Women are 55% more likely than men to admit to a fear of failure as the primary reason for not starting a business.
Failure is a very real possibility in any business venture but it should not be viewed as a negative. It is an opportunity to learn from mistakes, regroup and try again from a different approach.
The road to success is not a straight path. It is paved with losses and diverted by mistakes and failures. Keeping your vision on your goal, your actions adaptable and your spirit unbreakable and focused will lead you to create success.
Continue to push through those moments of self-doubt and don’t use perfection as an excuse to sit back and procrastinate. The best antidote to fear is taking action.
Women are less overconfident and more cautious by nature
Women commonly downplay our abilities. We face the hurdles of our own mindset and limiting beliefs when embarking on an entrepreneurial journey. Our natural tendency is to play small, to understate our accomplishments, to not overpromise and to be less visible.
Entrepreneurship requires visibility, courage and risk taking. A big challenge to any budding entrepreneur. Those female entrepreneurs who have successfully forged a path onwards suggest surrounding ourselves with other successful women as well as those who are just ahead or at the same point in their entrepreneurial journey. Use them to learn from and to gain support and mutual encouragement.
Women’s strengths are in our communal nature and our inherent desire to help other women succeed, together we are beyond powerful.
Women are not comfortable asking for help
We are used to taking the role of caregiver. We love to help each other but as individuals it is extremely difficult to ask for help. We tend to want to do everything and find it challenging to delegate. We are drawn to starting businesses around coaching, mentoring and training and feel like a fraud when we consider asking for help ourselves.
No woman is an island and businesses are built on collaboration and leveraging others for the skills we lack. A solid support network is invaluable for this. Good places to look are women focused networking events, Facebook groups, LinkedIn and other online groups. Step out of your comfort zone and ask for help and where appropriate, follow your natural instincts and return the favour by offering your help to others as well.
Women juggle building a business and family life
Women continue to strive for what people increasingly realise is not possible, the elusive work life balance.
Entrepreneurship gives us the freedom to step away from the treadmill of trying to establish that balance in a corporate career and to create how we want the allocation of our time between our work and family to look.
A study by Business Link UK found that the interaction of women’s entrepreneurial ventures and their family lives is positive, resulting in women being able to achieve a more fulfilled work life as well as a happier family one.
The key to achieving this successfully is time management, planning our businesses around our family lives complimented by leveraging the technology available to us and a good support infrastructure.
The beauty of running our own businesses is that this dynamic can change and adapt as our families needs change over time. No balancing act necessary.
Women do not have access to the same level of funding as men
Not all small businesses go the route of seeking start-up capital but for those who do this is an extremely challenging and stressful task. It is even more so for women as the funders are generally male and not familiar with what women’s businesses offer.
Only 1% of available venture capital funding goes to female led businesses. A study by BCG and Mass Challenge in the US found women funded or co-funded businesses generated 10% more in cumulative revenue over a 5 year period achieving $730,000 versus $662,000 for men led businesses.
Furthermore female founded start-ups generated 78c per $1 of funding while male founded start-ups generated just 31c . This is a missed opportunity for women led businesses but more so for economies where excluding 50% of the population from funding impacts the productivity and competitiveness of the nation.
All is not negative though as there is a clear indication of change coming. According to a recent article by CNN the amount of venture capital invested in women led businesses was $46.3 million in 2019, double that of the year before. This was more than 15x the amount awarded in 2010.
This positive trend is to a large extent driven by the successes of women founded businesses in the last couple of years with a large number of them hitting the $1 billion Unicorn status. In addition women founded businesses exit and pay back their investors either through IPO or buyout within 6 years as opposed to the average 7.4 years for male founded businesses.
Successful female founders suggest getting educated on the fundraising process early on in your business, including engaging with potential funders as mentors and advisors.
The entrepreneurial world has a unique set of challenges for women but this is where our skills are honed and refined and I would suggest why women founded businesses are proving to be so successful as we are almost forced to become accomplished problem solvers.