Starting your own business is one of the most empowering things you’ll ever do, especially if you’re a woman. It’s also one of the most challenging. Business ownership is fraught with pitfalls ̶ ill planning, securing funding, learning marketing skills, lack of dedication and passion.
Entrepreneurs often only will talk about their successes, but the truth is every business struggles in its first several years with half of all businesses failing within the first five years. The causes of failure vary. It could be something as simple as not having enough revenue to cover the bills or something more complicated such as an entrepreneur’s own inner demons. Still, other business owners suffer from “if you build it, they will come” syndrome. They believe all that’s needed is to create a website and customers will start knocking down their virtual door. Others suffer from the employee mentality, where they are used to having a steady salary, benefits and a boss giving them instructions and can’t function without that structure.
No matter the cause, the struggle is real. Often, entrepreneurs suffer in silence, wondering what they have done wrong and lamenting where their dreams have gone.
This struggle, and the contrast between perception and reality, was the inspiration for the first edition of this manual, Enterprising Women: Practical Advice for First Time Entrepreneurs, which was released in March 2013.
During the previous two years, I had interviewed nearly 100 business owners for Enterprising Women and asked them a series of questions: What was your inspiration for starting your business? What services does your business provide? How did you choose your business name? Tell me about yourself, your education and what you did before starting your business? What struggles did you go through starting your business? What did the process of starting a business teach you about yourself? Where do you see yourself and your business in the future? What advice would you give someone who wants to go into business for herself?
The interviewees spoke candidly, talking as openly about their failures as their successes. Their responses were interspersed throughout the manual, and 40 complete interviews also appeared.
Even though I had taken a random sampling of female entrepreneurs, patterns emerged. The majority of the participants were mothers or grandmothers, who struggled with balancing business and family. Most did not begin their professional careers with the intent of starting a business, and 95 percent of them ran home-based businesses.
Enterprising Women: A Practical Guide to Starting Your First Business isn’t so much a second edition as it is, to borrow a term from the film industry, a reboot. There are two significant changes from the original. First, sample business and marketing plans as well as a glossary and business resources are included. Secondly, the interviews and quotations have been removed. The reason for this is quite simple. Since March 2013, some of the interviewees’ businesses have gone through a name change and many are no longer in operation. While the entrepreneurs’ advice is still sound, it no longer makes sense to talk about specific businesses. By removing the interviews, Enterprising Women becomes a timeless guide for aspiring business owners.
Many women dream of successful business ownership; few achieve it. The business world is, in many ways, still an all-boys club, but don’t let that dissuade you. If you’re smart and plan, the sky’s the limit. This guide will inform you of everything that’s involved in starting a business and help you determine if you’re an enterprising woman.
Best of luck.