I’ve had my own accounting practice since the fall of 2007. So it’s been almost 14 years since I’ve been working for myself. I don’t really view myself as an entrepreneur, but according to the Oxford Dictionary, I am one. Their definition of an Entrepreneur is:
“a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.”
This got me reflecting about my journey so far and what it was that got me here and what changes, if any, have I seen for businesses owned and operated by women.
So I reached out to some friends, who happen to be women, who own their own businesses and asked them a few questions. A few short 30-minute conversations later, and I’ve been able to gather some thoughts about their journey and how they view their businesses and experiences so far. These women all have their own businesses, and they all started their businesses at differing stages of life. Some have had their businesses in operation for more than 10 years, and others are in the first couple of years of their business.
The questions I asked were:
- What was the catalyst for you starting your own business?
- What questions should people ask themselves before starting their own business?
- What has been the biggest hurdle for you to overcome and do you think that it is because you are female?
- Over the course of your career, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur, where have you seen improvements when it comes to women-led businesses and those that are allies of women-led businesses?
If you’re interested in learning more about what they had to say about what it’s like being a modern woman in business, keep on reading!
Question 1: What was the catalyst that prompted you to start your own business?
- In some cases, like my own, it was partially motivated by having a young family. The concept of possibly having more flexibility was intriguing. One of my interviewees said that while she was on maternity leave, she made the decision that when she returned to the workforce, she wanted to return to a position that supported the business and personal values she held in high regard. And this was something that she knew that she wouldn’t be able to achieve if she remained in her old position. Another said that the 2020 Pandemic was the catalyst, while another did say that she felt that the role picked her vs her picking the role. She was presented an opportunity to work with her father and she took advantage of it.
- There was also a realization for everyone, that there was a need or the ability to do something better than what was currently being done in the field that they were wanting to work in.
- It was time to make a change in her career. She always knew that she was meant to be an entrepreneur. She envisioned it to be more freeing. Yes, the workload would be more, but the flexibility was greater.
- Just took a leap of faith and quit her corporate job and started working remotely to help serve small businesses in Vancouver from the comfort of my laptop. She wasn’t a big fan of having her wardrobe and schedule so fiercely dictated.
Question 2: What are some questions that people should ask themselves before starting their own business?
The main theme that I found was related to the financial aspect:
- Can you arrange your finances to make your business work?
- Check your financial situation first. Not as a deterrent, but as something to be objective about.
- How do you want to live? Being an entrepreneur is a holistic experience. It impacts all levels of your life.
- Do you have people that will support you? Appreciate what it is you are going through?
- Starting your own business and getting to the level of success you’re aiming for is likely to take more money and time than you think. Are you prepared for that? Contemplate 2 times more than what you originally thought.
- Are you doing something that is safe/secure for yourself?
- Are you a good delegator?
- Are you a creator or an implementor?
- Make sure you have a clear idea of what you are offering.
- Do you have the discipline it takes to be your own boss and keep yourself accountable?
- Are you going to be able to prioritize client tasks when you’re working from home and there are a lot of distractions?
- Are you aware of how to take care of your own taxes and bookkeeping so that there are no big surprises down the road?
Question 3: What has been the biggest hurdle for you to overcome and do you think that it is because you are female?
The answer that I heard most frequently is “ME! I’m my biggest hurdle, and yes, it is because I’m female”. The Imposter Syndrome among female business owners, in particular, is strong. Which relates back to self-confidence. You don’t want to be seen as bossy. There are feelings of lacking qualifications or experience. There is the desire to be liked, to not ask to be paid for what problem you are solving.
There is also a huge hurdle in finding the right people to work with you as you grow your business. Training takes a lot of time. As a business owner, one of the hardest decisions to make is do you bring on a contractor or an employee? Do you want someone to grow with you? Or someone to just help with a short-term project?
One of the business owners I asked went through a strange period of getting a lot of “yes, we want to hire you but for less money, because we preferably want a married female who wants shopping money in exchange for the work” responses when she first started landing clients. Thankfully, that period is now over and she’s working with a lot of amazing small businesses.
Question 4: Over the course of your career, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur, where have you seen improvements when it comes to women-led businesses and those that are allies of women-led businesses?
- There are more female mentors that are now offering their knowledge to other women.
- Banks are slower on the uptake, but there are a couple that are making efforts to appreciate women-led organizations.
- More women in positions that provide lending to businesses.
- However, a couple of my interviewees noted that in the field that they have chosen, they have not encountered the stereotypical barriers that are heard about when they meet new clients/customers. They have always felt supported.
So in summary, this is a snapshot, and this is a way to get some conversations going about what you may think about each of the questions posed. Owning your own business for security and control is a bit of an elusive concept once you are operating your own business. Yes, there are some aspects of this, but overall, you need to create and maintain those levels of security. Nothing comes for free and nothing good is ever easy. I’m just really thankful that I’ve learned over the years to surround myself with amazing people who support and champion me and I hope they know that I support and will champion them as best I can as well.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my interviewees for their time and contributions to the blog post:
Monica Murray (firstname.lastname@example.org), Executive Coach