Ruth Saunders co-wrote the book ‘Female Entrepreneurs – The Secrets of Their Success’ to help every woman who has set up their own entrepreneurial business to enjoy the journey.
The 52 female entrepreneurs had a number of reflections on how to stay sane along the way.
Separate yourself from the business
While some fully identified with their businesses, others separated themselves and their identities from their enterprise in order to make better commercial decisions. They deliberately walked away and left business at the door each day to focus on other things and live a more balanced, well-rounded life. Again, this is a personal choice – there’s no right way, just your way. Our advice is to make a conscious rather than an accidental choice.
The value of a supportive partner
A constant theme in our interviews was the value of a supportive home partner. They can act as a foil, critic and cheerleader, challenging you to think differently and nudging you to make things happen. They can also help to shoulder the responsibilities of family care. Both Warren Buffett and Sheryl Sandberg agree that the most important career choice you’ll ever make is whether you will have a life partner and, if so, who that person is. We encourage single female entrepreneurs to choose wisely.
The value of a supportive network
Some people don’t have a home partner, or one that plays a supportive role. And so many of our entrepreneurs talked about the importance of having a supportive network of people who believe in you. People who you can bounce things off or will pick you up and encourage you when you need support. They can be family. Parents are a great source of candour – they know you better than most and will say the unsayable – as are wider family like siblings. They can also be friends, teammates or even pets. Co-author John had dogs that took him for a walk after a busy day for a reflective drink in a local pub.
Handling guilt over children
Women tend to be the primary carer of children making all kinds of sacrifices to look after both their family and business. Our pages are littered with examples of women managing this divide with grace, humility, hidden energy reserves and the ability to deflect exhaustion. Many experienced guilt at being absent from their young children. Our advice is to not be too hard on yourself, and that it will get easier as the children age into teenagers and understand the great things you’ve achieved. Also remember that you are not alone – there are lots of people in the same boat. And there are sites out there like Elizabeth Cowper’s WOMO and Justine Roberts’ Mumsnet that can give you much needed advice and support.
Keeping the plates spinning
Whether true or false, it has long been said that women are experts at juggling multiple roles. That hypothesis tested positive in our 52 interviews – with many of our female entrepreneurs running a start-up, raising a family and in some cases managing pro bono work or day jobs as well. Their secret is to create a schedule and support structure that works for them, and to not be afraid to plan, prioritise and ruthlessly focus on what matters most. Ours is qualitative validation that women can successfully keep many plates spinning at a sobering rate – although we are reasonably sure that these traits will also resonate with many men.
Be proud of what you’ve achieved
Some of our interviewees expressed discomfort at being labelled ‘an entrepreneur’. And most were reticent to talk about their success. We concluded from our conversations that this is perhaps due to modesty, a sense that ‘anyone could do what I’ve done’, as quite a few inferred. Our culture disincentivises women from expressing confidence and pride in themselves. Reshma Saujani’s book ‘Brave Not Perfect’ talks about how women, unlike men, are brought up to be ‘perfect rather than brave’. She exhorts women to fear less, fail more and live bolder. This is slowly changing, and we encourage women entrepreneurs to be a part of that change by being proud of taking the entrepreneurial leap and celebrating their achievements to date.
As 12-year-old Verity Drew Firth, founder of Limes House Films said: ‘If you’re doing it solely for fame or money, then it’s probably not going to work’.
Many of our interviewees had much to say on the importance of enjoying the journey and staying sane along the way. They advise to:
- Separate yourself from the business in order to make better commercial decisions as well as live a more balanced, well-rounded life.
- Build a supportive network around you, with people who believe in you and will encourage you when you need support.
- Handle guilt over children, by not being too hard on yourself and recognising that it will get easier as the children age.
- Keep the plates spinning, by not being afraid to plan, prioritise and ruthlessly focus on what matters most.
- Be proud of what you’ve achieved, by as Reshma Saujani, author of ‘Brave not Perfect’, advises: ‘Fearing less, failing more and living bolder’.