Entrepreneurial Women: 3 Ways to Break Through Invisible Barriers to Growth.

06/11/2015 05:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2016

As a member of the National Women's Business Council, I've had the opportunity to engage with hundreds of female entrepreneurs. During our talks, I couldn't help but happen upon an interesting, yet frustrating discovery. 9 out of every 10 women I spoke with would rather stall their growth than ask for capital.

What they often don't realize is that accepting capital can put them in a far better position to grow. Yet the idea of asking for money brings many of them to a dead stop. That's not something we see with men. They don't worry about every detail, they just go for the ask.

According to Illuminate Ventures, women run, venture capital backed companies, experience a 35% higher return on equity than their peers who did not accept outside funding.

Clearly, we as women have the same ability as men to start, run and scale businesses. So why do only 2% of women owned US businesses bring in more than $1 million in revenue -- let alone scale really big?

Babson College, and EY, a global leader in advising top entrepreneurs, have put their resources behind learning why. Together they've identified 3 "force multipliers" for scalable growth: a strong community, an authentic purpose, and a flexible adaptive style.

A strong community

Communities offer women entrepreneurs much-welcome affirmation, know-how, peer-to-peer guidance and ultimately, role models.

We've all heard about the six degrees of separation: The fact that any of us are just six steps or less away from an introduction to any other person in the world. I've been fortunate to be one of seventy business leaders chosen over the last eight years to participate in EY's Entrepreneurial Winning Women initiative in the United States. What I've learned from that program is that being part of a community, makes it more like two degrees. The EY network provides fertile ground for opportunities and relationships that support those with the goal to scale their businesses.

As an example, last month my company was nominated for a prestigious award, The NEXTY, which recognizes the most category disrupting new brands led by companies with a strong environmental and social commitment. To win, by popular choice, we needed votes.

My sister winning women joined forces from multiple countries, and supported me from the sidelines up the steep hill. They all had much bigger things to do, but they knew how much this award meant to our company's growth plans. They engaged their networks on my behalf, and the cheerleading/rallying didn't stop until we won. This kinship of community spurs growth, and leverages our expanded networks like social capital.

Later this month, many of us will join forces at the Women's Business Enterprise National Council [WBENC] in Austin Texas. We'll divide our efforts amongst a group of 4,500 people committed to helping women owned and led companies grow their businesses.

An authentic purpose

A simple statement of a company's purpose serves as a company's North Star -- guiding it in every aspect -- from recruitment to customer management to product development and sales. Evidence suggests that purpose-driven organizations that authentically live out that purpose -- outperform those without one steeped into every part of its DNA. They build strong relationships between their brands and customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, and even regulators. According to [Feb. 10, 2011] purpose driven public companies also earn higher stock prices.

40% of Entrepreneurial Winning Women-led companies are scaling to solve a social problem or environmental problem. My own company began when I was faced with a huge problem on our farm: mice and the damage they'd do to our property each fall while our equipment was in storage. I had kids and pets, and poisons were not an option. So I set out to invent and commercialize a product that would offer the same level of protection as a poison, yet be made fully from natural food ingredients used in flavoring whiskey and vanilla ice cream.

We all start a business with a story. Lead with it and you stand a better chance of manifesting the social change you envision through business. I was committed to creating change in the pest control industry and as a result, I was able to bring the first, EPA approved, natural pest repellent to store shelves.

A flexible adaptive leadership style

When a company grows, its leader needs to evolve too. A small start-up requires different characteristics in its leader than a company with 100 or 1,000 employees. Entrepreneurs need the self-awareness to know when they need to change their focus and how.

Grit, perseverance and curiosity are all traits shared by the best entrepreneurs, but for those who are truly serious about growth, they must adapt from doer, to delegator, to visionary, if they intend to scale big.

In my experience, growing a company from the start up stage to a national leader in the retail pest control space, required a discipline of daily introspection, self-awareness and the development of highly strategic thinking in my decision making. My workdays became more about spending my time working 'on' the business, rather than working 'in' the business. It's a style of leadership that allows me to protect our culture at all costs, anticipate the market, break down barriers, and find gaps.

The proof is in: when it comes to making a business profitable as female leaders, women are excelling. And, when it comes to growing and scaling that business in ways unique to women, there is a formula that works: The 3 "force multipliers." So, ladies, put your worries aside and get the help you need to scale your business through organizations like NWBC, and EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women.
If you'd like to apply or nominate the next EY Entrepreneurial Winning Woman, visit: The deadline is June 15, 2015.