The Truth About Being a Female Entrepreneur

When it comes to entrepreneurship, it’s not a man’s world.

Want more Amazing Women Entrepreneurs? Join us at Wanderlust Hollywood or by Facebook Live on November 5 as we welcome female luminaries in the mindful community. These amazing women will share their stories and advice about pushing a paradigm shift in the modern business world, as they rewrite the rules on corporate culture and social enterprise. Walk away from the day feeling inspired and ready to jump start—or re-boot—your destined path to true north.

It’s a fact: Women are becoming more entrepreneurial. Although aggregated data is sparse, according to the latest U.S. Census, women own 36 percent of all businesses—a jump of 30 percent since 2007.

“We’re entering a great period of opportunity for women business-owners,” says Lisa Calhoun, the founding partner of Valor Ventures, a venture fund that invests in female-run early-stage companies, and publisher of Female Entrepreneur Magazine. “Investors are looking for people with innovative ideas at at time when more and more women are coming to market with solutions.” Today, 18 percent of all startups have at least one female founder.

While women may be in the majority, they are often led to believe they live in a “man’s world,” and that they could find it challenging to get business ideas out there because of gender. Ask a female entrepreneur their thoughts on this, however, and they will invariably disagree with the assessment. Cultural differences are not the barrier we sometimes assume; the real obstacle to being a female entrepreneur is oftentimes within.

Changing the Story

Schuyler Grant is a co-founder of Wanderlust and director of NYC’s Kula Yoga Project. Given the strong female presence in the wellness industry, she says she doesn’t feel she works in a man’s world, but points out that often we judge our own successes according to criteria that were created by men for men.

In this regard, she says, her biggest hurdle was herself. “I have had to shift my vision of what success means to truly reflect my vision of a balanced life, rather than a linear path toward progress and measurable indicators of success. No one has ever stopped me from doing or aspiring to anything, [rather] my own conflicting desires and priorities have made if far more difficult for me to ‘succeed’ than any external factor,” says Schuyler.

For her those stumbling blocks have been having children and being unwilling to leave them for 8–10 hours a day, seeking balance in her day to include body and soul time as well as computer time, sustaining her passion for travel, and her “more subtle distaste for self-promotion.” These qualities may not fit into a cultural view of success, but as Schuyler points out, are all part of what it means to be a successful human.

“If you want the key to becoming a successful entrepreneur—male or female—it’s speaking up for what you believe and the solutions you bring.” – Lisa Calhoun.

Lisa says that to be a successful female entrepreneur means embracing who you are. “There are cultural differences between men and women as there are cultural differences throughout our society. The challenge is to learn to appreciate what different cultures bring instead of just trying to shoehorn ourselves into whatever the majority culture is.” That means recognizing the importance of what we each have to give, and having the courage to express who we are, she says.

“If you want the key to becoming a successful entrepreneur—male or female—it’s speaking up for what you believe and the solutions you bring,” says Lisa. “Yes, cultural differences can be frustrating, and as women we may have been raised to be quiet, but we have to let that go and find our voice.”

Canadian entrepreneur and best-selling author, Danielle LaPorte says she learned this the hard way after first company imploded. Facing her investors (most of whom were male) she says she realized she had failed to remain true to herself. “A micro version of one of those conversations [with investors] went like this: ‘Danielle, you shouldn’t get too emotional about this.’ To which I said ‘Excuse me? If I’d been more ’emotional’ along the way, we wouldn’t be in this mess…’ If I had been more courageous and self-aware back then, I would have fought for more for the feminine qualities that are too often belittled: inclusivity, transparency, intuition.”

From then on in Danielle says she vowed never to “de-feminize” herself.  “I’ve made compassion part of my business plan, every decision runs on the rails of intuition. ‘Emotion’ is rocket fuel,” she says.

The World Needs Your Ideas

The world needs more entrepreneurs. With an increasing number of people on the planet, the impact of climate change, a growing divide between rich and poor, and continued migration to ever-more crowded cities, we are certainly a world in need of creative solutions. And we each have ideas that could be helpful. Problem solving is in our DNA, points out Lisa. That is what we, as humans, have always done that has enabled us to evolve. Whether it’s planning a trip, or engineering a large project, each of has the potential to create something useful to our society, she says.

Entrepreneurship also leads to job creation. A net new 340,000 jobs were added by woman-owned businesses alone between 2007 and 2015, according to a study by Womenable and American Express.

The capital is there to support our ideas. According to an article in Inc. magazine, only one-third of female entrepreneurs see capital as a constraint. While it is true that the majority of seed money in the form of venture capital tends to fund male-run start-ups, that too is changing as more venture capital firms take on women partners, and more women start up their own venture firms.

More than anything, however, what female entrepreneurs do say is needed is support from other female entrepreneurs. Some 48 percent cite a lack of available mentors or advisers as holding them back, says Lisa. Learn how to support other female entrepreneurs—and solicit support for your own project—by being a part of AWE this November. Join the conversation by commenting below!