Every year, more and more women decide to leave their jobs and start a business, in the hope of one day joining the ranks of other successful female entrepreneurs.
Maybe you are harboring this desire too? Or perhaps you’ve taken the leap into entrepreneurship?
Throughout my corporate career, I constantly dreamed of working for myself. I yearned to be able to do whatever made my heart sing, spend time with people I loved and not have a boss breathing down my neck.
Back then it seemed such an impossible dream.
Although the Internet was around, I didn’t know anyone who had quit their job to start an online business. Every time I thought about leaving I was overcome with fear and self-doubt.
It was not until 2010 that I took a leap of faith to start my lifestyle business. Compared to the steady pay check from my well-paid job, the first couple of years weren’t easy. There were many dark moments and I often thought about giving up.
I now realize that all my challenges made me stronger. They helped me connect with people and provide support and inspiration through my coaching sessions.
More than ever, I’ve come to appreciate the difficulties women especially face on their journey to becoming female entrepreneurs.
Although many of these women are smart, talented and strong, and should be an inspiration to all women who dream of launching their own business, entrepreneurship is still largely male-dominated territory. This throws up a host of challenges for female entrepreneurs.
Let’s look at 5 of those challenges.
#1. Female Entrepreneurs Don’t Have To Act Like Men
In business, you get to deal with different kinds of men and women – some are more honest than others, some are hard-nosed and aggressive, whilst others are easy-going.
I often come across women in business who feel they have to put on a front to protect themselves and compensate by adopting the typical male attitude in the business world – that of being aggressive, competitive, and even harsh.
We may live in a diverse world but you can still be you. You can be feminine, classy and strong, and still become a highly successful female entrepreneur.
If it’s not in your nature to be a harsh, tough person, even if you are negotiating with men then don’t change yourself to fit in. Be yourself, be confident and take pride in who you are.
The beauty of running a lifestyle business is that you can choose how to run your business and how you want to present yourself to the world. The more authentic you are the more people will resonate with you. People are looking for inspiration and leadership so don’t hide your true light by conforming.
You are where you are because of your hard work, talent and determination. Be proud!
#2. Your Emotions Affect Your Business
Although adopting masculine personality traits won’t ensure you will be a success, letting female qualities get in your way isn’t helpful either.
Women by their very nature are nurturing and emotional and I know from personal experience that this can be a hindrance in the running of your business.
We women can get emotionally attached to our business relationships. For instance, you may start a new venture with a friend or colleague but after the initial excitement things start to go horribly wrong.
What do you do?
If you’re anything like I used to be, you probably agonize over making tough decisions or worry about upsetting someone you see as a friend.
I notice that my partner never has this issue. For him, business is business. When it’s time to move on for the good of the business he does so.
I’ve learned a lot from him and although I don’t advocate losing your emotional or nurturing side, it is important to stay focused on your business and make decisions that are aligned with your goals and core values.
Say what you need to say and move on. After all, female entrepreneurs need to be true to themselves.
#3. Lack Of Solidarity Among Women
Female entrepreneurs are still a rarity.
Look around and you’ll see that there just aren’t enough of them to build real relationships with, to act as sounding boards or to be positive role models.
The lack of women in leadership roles can make it difficult to find other like-minded female entrepreneurs especially at the crucial start up stage.
Men just don’t seem to have this problem. There are many business groups and networking circles in most cities. Although they are open to women, most of the members are male.
In other instances, you might find successful women just aren’t interested in giving other women a helping hand.
I certainly struggled under female bosses in the workplace and many women have told me they have encountered peer envy – hostility, jealousy and competitiveness – at work and in business.
The lack of solidarity among women could stem from the fact that a woman may have had to overcome obstacles in her rise to the top so she is reluctant to open doors for her younger, ambitious peers.
Whatever the reasons, I believe this kind of competitiveness is very damaging to female entrepreneurs as a whole. It is based on fear and lack-thinking; the notion that there isn’t enough success to go around for all of us.
The truth is we become more successful by helping others. Women everywhere should be inspiring, encouraging and supporting each other.
Be The Change You Seek
If you don’t find the kind of female support you want in your immediate environment, vow to be different in how you do things.
It can be very isolating working from home. You have to make a lot of decisions and work things out by yourself. Before you know it, being on your own becomes the new normal.
But you don’t have to let this stifle your creativity, overwhelm you or turn you into someone you’re not.
Seek out female-focused networking events in your area or online groups and forums for women in business. Attend a few to see if you like the “vibe” and how they operate.
Meeting fellow female entrepreneurs might be nerve-wracking at first, especially if they are more successful than you are. Just remember that we all start in the same place.
Don’t use these events solely as an opportunity to pitch your business but a chance to meet like-minded female entrepreneurs, build relationships and feel inspired.
Above all, be generous. Help and support other women whenever you can.
#4. Balancing Business With Family
The work life balance is always a challenge, but women who are mothers face even more obstacles as they juggle caring for their family with running their business.
These days, there is tremendous pressure on women with families so it’s not surprising that so many female entrepreneurs feel guilty about neglecting their children and never reach their full potential.
One of the biggest advantages of having a lifestyle business is that it doesn’t have to take over your whole life.
You can go as fast or as slow as you want and balance it alongside all your other commitments.
Since you will be working from home most of the time, you can actually build it around your schedule and be there for your family. What’s more, if you set it up correctly, your lifestyle business can generate passive income for you so you can spend more time with your loved ones.
But until you get to that stage, just take one day at a time. Don’t worry if you don’t clear everything on your to-do list or beat yourself up over the small things.
You have more important responsibilities so do your best to find a balance between work and life.
#5. Female Entrepreneurs Fear Failure
A recent article highlighted that the fear of failure tops the list of the biggest worries for female entrepreneurs. The graph below compares female and male entrepreneurship activity rates by region. Cultural expectations aside, lack of confidence and fear of failure seem to hold many women back from starting a business.
It’s understandable. You may have been great at your job and been able to do things with your eyes closed.
Now, all of a sudden that safety net has gone and you find yourself having to learn new skills from scratch – marketing, social media, WordPress, blogging and product creation just to name a few.
This was one of my biggest challenges when I started out and I still get days when feelings of fear and overwhelm come up. I think this is perfectly normal.
Successful people aren’t totally fearless. They just don’t let fear block them or stop their progress.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed or helpless, look for one tiny step that you can take right now to dissolve the fear. You might not be able to take a giant leap but there are probably a few small things you can do.
Pick one and go for it.
It could be writing the first shaky draft of that blog post, choosing a theme for your WordPress blog or reaching out to someone to help you start something you’ve been putting off.
The key thing is to ignore your inner voice that might be discouraging you from taking that first step and to work through the moments of self doubt.
So there you have it, five challenges that female entrepreneurs typically face and how to overcome them. Remember, challenges are part of your story and will make you the person you are meant to be.
Don’t fear them or let them hold you back.
How About You?
Do you connect with other female entrepreneurs? Have you had to overcome any of the challenges above? Please share below.