As if starting a business isn't hard enough, female entrepreneurs are doing it with six times less capital than men according the latest research from the National Women's Business Council, a non-partisan advisory council to the President, Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Yet women are still starting businesses at nearly twice the rate of men. Being undercapitalized doesn't necessarily mean women entrepreneurs won't realize their first million in revenues, but it does mean that they must be smart in order to generate the revenues needed to scale.
Starting without cash in the bank is possible, but it takes an approach that is both practical and inspired. Since my business journey began with little more than an idea, I wanted to share three pieces of advice with you for making it big when starting with nothing:
Be the (wo)man with a plan.
You need more than just discipline to succeed. You need a plan to get you where you want to be. For me, I began by carving out one half-day each week to evaluate every business activity that took my time. Assign a value to each action and then do 'smart math.' A customer must find enough value in what you offer to pay for it.
Use other companies in your industry as a benchmark; are your activities - is your time - as valuable as theirs? This kind of smart math is the only way to figure out things such as if it's practical to purchase a software system, or when the time is right to hire employees. Without cash in the bank to pay wages, or to purchase programs for added efficiencies, you'll need to get an operating loan. To do that, you'll need cash flow. To get cash flow, you'll need to be faster, better, or cheaper than the competition. Pick one, and you stand a chance.
I believe the biggest reason only 1.8% of female entrepreneurs cross the million dollar revenue threshold has more to do with their failure in taking a practical, disciplined approach to examining the costs of time, process and people than not having enough capital in the beginning. But there are resources to help you through this process: SBA.gov has tools to help you create a business plan and SCORE has counselors to help you execute it. They helped me.
Pull the weeds and let it grow.
Jim Rohn said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." He's right.
Before I began earthkind®, I was a single mom on government assistance and food stamps. I knew things had to change, so I looked for positive role models that I admired and found supportive communities to help me think bigger and learn by example. As a result, I was able to turn a .99 cent packet of garden seeds into a multimillion dollar business by simply planting the seeds, weathering the storms, and removing several self-imposed barriers by learning from others who had done the same.
Take a hard look at what your goals are, how you are spending your time and who you surround yourself with. Your objectives, your daily practices, and your top 5 influencers can control your outcome. If you want your entrepreneurial dream to become your reality, you need to start doing the practical things that matter most and get rid of unsupportive interference.
Don't be afraid to color outside the (gendered) lines!
Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, I saw firsthand that starting with nothing was a powerful motivator to out-innovate the competition and claim market leadership. You don't have to look far to see male entrepreneurial role models who've made it against all odds through their ability to persevere and inspire others with their courage and vision.
The line of female entrepreneurs who've risen from poverty aren't as visible, but they're out there. We need more of them. Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies comes to mind. Mrs. Fields explains entrepreneurial success like this: "Entrepreneurship has no age or time limits...it thrives on hope and inspiration. Those who choose to participate can only make the world a better place."
Case Centre, the international leader in case studies for universities points out, "There is a shortage of inspiring and successful women entrepreneurs to serve as role models. We need more cases that highlight how women entrepreneurs have the unique ability to combine compassion and caring with business acumen to become successful leaders." I completely agree, and was honored to be featured as the number 1 entrepreneurship business case protagonist!
Entrepreneurial success does not have to be defined by your gender, economic status, or bank account. You can succeed with next to nothing when you align yourself with supportive people and a smart plan that transforms your resourcefulness into your future financial clout.