For the majority of women in the world, entrepreneurship is a necessity--there are no jobs or other options for their immediate family members to sustain themselves. It is a means of survival that ensures food, shelter, and clothing for them and their families.
Being a woman in a developed country means that we have more options and entrepreneurship can be a choice. It's a privilege to be able to decide what we want to do with our careers. Creating value and solving problems is at the core of entrepreneurship no matter where you are in the world. In the U.S., women-led startups account for 11% of all companies. Globally, women run 37% of businesses. Yet, less than 5% of women-led companies are funded by venture capital funds. While the startup ecosystem is aware of this, the natural inclination is to invest in people that are similar to us. As of now, the investing community is predominantly made up of white men investing in other white men.
Unlike men, I find women are much more likely to ask the question, "What if?" Starting anything is challenging, but our tendency to overthink can prevent us from making the first step. Fear alone can stop you before you even begin. I spent years contemplating different startup ideas, but didn't take action because I was afraid. I let my thoughts about the risk of failure, humiliation, and criticism that would come along the way overwhelm my desire to start a new career on my own terms. Also, depending on where you are in life, you might have other people to keep in mind besides yourself that can increase the risks. In any case, the biggest risk is not trying. You'll never know what you're capable of until you take yourself not just to the edge, but jump off of it entirely. Take a risk on yourself: go after your dream and dream big while you're at. Go big or go home.
- Share and discuss your ideas. It may seem scary and counterintuitive, but you need feedback and advice from people around you. Don't share detailed information--trade secrets, patent pending, etc.--but keeping your ideas to yourself will get you nowhere.
- Surround yourself with other female entrepreneurs. It's possible to be a single founder, but you need support. There are issues only female founders encounter, so make sure to get yourself plugged in--try forming your own group of female founders and meet up regularly. There are also groups like Women 2.0, Wonder Women of Boston, and many more are out there waiting for your perspective and enthusiasm.
- Stop thinking about your idea(s) and make a list of actionable steps you can take everyday to work towards your startup. Get a notebook or put that smart phone to use!
- Sign up for events and accelerator programs. Learn about resources, ideas, and be inspired. You never know how your idea might change through the conversations you have with people and the programs you participate in. In Boston, Greenhorn Connect is a great site with events and resources. A search on Meetup or Eventbrite is another great way to find events happening around your area. Accelerator programs like MassChallenge, TechStars, Blade, and Y Combinator are just the tip of the iceberg. Find the right program fit for your startup.
- Support other women entrepreneurs. Offer you time and network to share what you know with others. You can help out women you already know or volunteer your time at the Center for Women and Enterprise, your alma mater, or at accelerator programs.
I can't wait to see the day when the percentage of women-led startups will no longer make headlines, but will rather be the norm. Jobs are created by startups, which fuel our economy. Take the leap of faith today and begin your startup or help a fellow woman out so that we can collectively, as women, continue to even the playing field for all of our sisters. Be fearless, be confident, become the person you've always wanted to be on this Women's Entrepreneurship Day. Let's get everyone, not just women, involved in taking the pledge to support women. It can be Small Business Saturday, or Giving Tuesday.
"Empower, celebrate, and support women in business and build a strong network for change worldwide. By empowering a woman you're supporting her, her family and her community. Working as a team, we can make this world a better place for women everywhere!"