I never consciously chose to be an entrepreneur. In fact, I didn't really know what the word meant until I was in my 30s and well on my way to being one. What I did know was that I had a hard time following rules and that I was much happier listening to the voices in my head over the voices of others.
In my early 20s I practiced the fine arts of making things and pouring drinks: ceramist by day, bartender by night. By my late 20s I had a personal catharsis and gave up both bar tending and clay-throwing to get my bachelors degree. At 32, I found myself with a degree and zero interest in getting a job.
So I did what all new grads do -- I decided to start my own company. A non-profit. A company that would try to shake things up in the world. I didn't think of myself as an entrepreneur yet, I was just responding to a problem with my own solution.
By the time I was halfway through my 30s, I was knee-deep in credit card debt but holding a tool-kit chock full of business-starting skills. I started my second non-profit around this time and a few years later, stepped down to put my energies behind my third venture -- a company built around a footed bowl and a philosophy of joy.
I frequently visit high schools to talk to young women about being entrepreneurs because I wish when I was that age a female mentor had talked to me.
Here's what the School of Life taught me on my journey to entrepreneurism.
1. Get comfortable asking for money and ask with confidence. Not always so easy for women. If you want to be an entrepreneur and you have an idea for a new [insert idea] that you are convinced will change the world, leave it's mark in the market, etc., go ask 4 friends to give you $25 to start your company. Because if you can't raise $100 from 4 friends then you will most likely not be able to raise the money you need to get your idea to happen.
2. Learn how to ask for advice. Finding a few male advisors helps. Why? Men do business differently than women. Hearing different points of view is invaluable in helping advance good decision-making.
3. Don't share everything but do share strategically and embellish wisely. Avoid the habit to over share or remain silent. Never underestimate the power of a well-crafted story to inspire, sell, and build confidence. Just know the story's ending first.
4. "Help a sista out" -- network with and support other women. One of the most outstanding factors found among male CEOs is the power of their networks to move them ahead. In my experience, I find that women don't always share the same ethos. Make it a point to keep connected to and support other women.
5. Understand what sacrifices you can make and when you should walk away. Sometimes the idea just won't work or won't work the way you see it. Being an entrepreneur is about seeing an idea come to life not about job-security. You can't "fix" an idea whose time hasn't come. As Kenny Rogers said: you have to know when to fold 'em.
Most of all try. This is the most important piece of advice I can impart. Try, learn, and grow. Put yourself and your idea first. You may be surprised at what happens!
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers. Learn more