My most recent book, ‘Female Entrepreneurs – The Secrets of Their Success’ was written to encourage every woman who has dreamt of being an entrepreneur but hasn’t yet taken the leap to take the first steps towards realising their dreams – as well as every woman who has not yet thought about running their own business to consider it.
Today, women make up only one third of all U.K. entrepreneurs, less than 20% of leaders of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and less than 10% of leaders of entrepreneurial start-ups in the science, engineering and technology sectors. Yet a number of U.S. and U.K. reports indicate that, once started, female-led start-ups are more profitable than their male-led counterparts.
Below is some wisdom and insights from our 52 female entrepreneurs to inspire budding female entrepreneurs who are keen to start their own business but have not yet taken the leap.
You can start your business at any age
Being an entrepreneur is not just the preserve of thrusting youth with a gilded technology breakthrough. Our interviewees ranged from the youngest, actor and filmmaker and founder of Limes House Films, Verity Drew Firth at 12 years old, to Jane Mosley, founder of Granny Olive’s Kitchen, who started her small but vibrant baking business after retirement. Some want to be a sole trader and others aim to be in big business – both can work well. The younger ones felt that they had less to lose and more time to make and learn from their mistakes. The older ones used their previous life and work experiences to help them hone their business idea and build their confidence. No one is too young or old to take the leap.
You can start your business at any life stage
For some, the appetite to be an entrepreneur emerges early on in life when a childhood passion or hobby becomes a business. For others, it comes after working in the corporate world for some years, driven by a desire to create a more balanced and enjoyable life. For example, combining a career with a family or working in a more collaborative, female-friendly workplace. For some, it’s borne out of necessity such as needing to make money or rebuild a life after facing difficulties. And for others it originates later in life when turning a hobby, passion or product or service that solves their own life issues into a business. If you’re not an entrepreneur today, the passion and drive to be one may well come in the future.
Not knowing your proposition isn’t a hindrance to success.
The main predictor of entrepreneurial success is the desire to be an entrepreneur, even if you don’t know your proposition. Some budding entrepreneurs honed their skills within another company before breaking off to do something similar for themselves. Others looked back over their life’s journey to find an idea that they were passionate about and could turn into a commercial entity. Others didn’t have a clear business idea and so looked externally for one, for example by disrupting a traditional market or researching overseas markets for new ideas or surrounding themselves with interesting people who inspired them.
Validate whether the world needs your idea.
When deciding whether to launch an idea, many cited the litmus test of ‘Would you buy or subscribe to this product or service if it was offered to you by someone else? Or would someone you know buy or subscribe to it?’ If not, then perhaps think again.
Some validated their idea using pre-launch research, by testing the product themselves or with people they knew or by conducting more formal qualitative or quantitative market research. As one of our interviewees Stephanie Wray, founder of Cresswell Associates, said: “No one is going to steal your idea. No one will be able to do your unique thing better than you.” So, there is probably little to lose by doing some research before launching.
Balance the ‘perfection versus getting on with it’ dilemma
Many of our entrepreneurs faced the dilemma between getting their idea up and running and hopefully making money versus perfecting their product or service before launch. Most advised to launch as quickly as possible but to recognise that constant improvements would most probably be needed, and thus the importance of seeking feedback early on.
Enjoy the journey
Not all business launches succeed in the way that founders might have initially hoped. In fact, some reports suggest that just 7% of start-ups result in a sale. Consequently, our entrepreneurs advise people to start a business in something that they’re passionate about so that they can ‘enjoy the journey’. As 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’.
People start entrepreneurial ventures at any age or life stage – in our interviews in their childhood through to their retirement.
- Six underlying catalysts encouraged our female entrepreneurs to take the leap:
- Building on childhood experiences
- Combining career with caring for a family
- Creating a better, more flexible and collaborative work environment
- Out of necessity to overcome difficulties
- Having a great idea
- Following a passion
Not knowing your proposition is not a hindrance to success. Being determined to find your idea and succeed is much more important.
Some of the entrepreneurs validated their idea before launch, by testing the product themselves or with people they know or by conducting more formal market research.
But they also suggest to launch as quickly as possible, recognising that constant improvements will most probably be needed as you learn and grow.
Most importantly, start a business in something that you’re passionate about as when the going gets tough it’s important to enjoy the journey.
Ruth Saunders uses her 30 years of experience as a strategy consultant at McKinsey, marketer at P&G, advertising planner at Saatchi & Saatchi and market researcher at Mars Inc, to help clients be ‘On Point’. She is a marketing and branding consultant, trainer, speaker and coach – and author of “Marketing in the Boardroom: Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Board.”
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 7768 600906.