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Five Lessons From One Career-Focused Mom To Another

Here are five of the lessons Allyson Downey learnt from her experience and research.

Catherine Clifford

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Learning how to be both a business owner and a mom was not easy for Allyson Downey. Prior to motherhood she had worked in the wealth management department of Credit Suisse in New York City. Her clients were billionaires.

Once she had her first child however, Downey did not return to Wall Street. Instead, she launched her own business, weeSpring, a platform where new parents can find reviews of products from friends, peers and other trusted voices in their networks.

The experience of building a business and becoming a mother at the same time was exciting, challenging and often overwhelming, so much so that Downey has now written a book entitled Here’s The Plan. Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenting.

For the book, Downey interviewed nearly 75 professional moms and used survey data. It’s a comprehensive, straight-shooting guide to all of the questions that new moms are too afraid or naive to ask.

Related: Is It Possible To Be A Mom And An Entrepreneur?

1. Communicate what you want clearly

Whether you want to work from home part-time or you want to be sure your boss knows that you still want that promotion even though you have just had a baby, Downey says that women need to be ready to communicate often and clearly.

“We tend to assume that people know what we are thinking but they very rarely do,” she says.

“The onus is on the woman to be crystal clear and vocal.” She recommends women set quarterly reminders for themselves to proactively communicate with managers both what they want to do and how they will accomplish their goals.

2. Build up your network

It’s especially important to keep the networking going when a woman is pregnant, on maternity leave or taking care of young children.

“It’s often one of the first things to go when they are having children because they think that they don’t have time anymore to go out and go to networking cocktail events or show up for an industry breakfast,” says Downey.

Don’t forget to lean on partners and caregivers so that you can attend those professional mixers, advises Downey. Also, there are ways to network from your computer, too, she says. Proactively make email connections that don’t necessarily have an immediate impact. You get the benefits of networking without having to put in the face-to-face time.

Related: Bankrupt And Dreams In Tatters: How Sheree O’ Brien’s Self-Belief Drove Her To Success

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3. Arbitrage your time

You can’t be everywhere at once. Pay people to do things for you. Take your annual salary and reverse engineer your hourly rate and when you can afford it, pay people to have tasks done that are less than what you make per hour.

“I know that people don’t have endless resources, but people also don’t have endless time,” she says.

4. Create a paper trail of your achievements

This isn’t just in case you find yourself the victim of pregnancy discrimination, either. Women need to keep a “dossier of their successes,” says Downey.

Every Friday afternoon, take 15 minutes to document your successes. Put in writing conversations that commend your work. That way, when it’s time for you to meet with your manager for a review, you have a detailed list of everything that you have done well.

5. Change the way you think about having kids and a career

You can’t be leading a meeting in the board room and changing your baby’s nappy in the nursery at the same time. So switch how you feel about that reality.

“Everyone feels torn all the time. I do not know anyone who doesn’t suffer from working mom guilt. That is an absolute truism,” says Downey.

Related: Farah Fortune Of African Star Communications On Choosing The Right Clients

But there is a way to reframe how you feel about being pulled in two directions. “If you are someone who enjoys work and loves work and you are home with a baby all day long for two years of your life,” she says, “it is not going to be good for you and it is not going to be good for your relationship with your kid.”

Catherine Clifford is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Catherine attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Email her at CClifford@entrepreneur.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

3 Ways Women Owners Of Early-Stage Companies Can Fight Adversity

Only 11 percent of venture capital firm partners are women, which explains why men get funded so disproportionately more. So, what are you going to do about this?

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Male entrepreneurs have an inherent leg up over their female counterparts. This may not come as a shock, but maybe the actual numbers do because they don’t represent an equal playing field.

Take start-up funding, for instance. Pitchbook revealed that only 11 percent of venture capital firm partners are women. This is a strong reason why runway capital – a vital resource for any business – is awarded to male leaders instead of female leaders at an astoundingly disproportionate rate.

Still, there is some good news: In April, the Female Founders Fund – which includes Melinda Gates, Whitney Wolfe Herd, and Katrina Lake – did its part to begin to fix that disparity. The collective set up the Female Funders Fund II, a $27 million initiative aimed at investing in early-stage companies led by women.

Lack of funding hamstrings any young company, limiting the level of talent it can target and stunting its ability to scale in a number of areas. And for female entrepreneurs, unfortunately, funding is just one of several uphill battles they face – along with harassment and issues pertaining to family and childcare flexibility.

These barriers, and many others, can derail women early in their entrepreneurial quest. Luckily, the climate and resources are now finally there for women leaders to persevere and thrive in the face of early obstacles. Here are some tips on how they – perhaps you – can thrive.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Don’t let the muck keep you down

Naya Health co-founder and CEO Janica Alvarez had one mission when she was pitching her startup to VCs, according to a Bloomberg report: to raise capital for her young company, which had just patented a smart breast pump. Instead, the (mostly) male group of VCs peppered Alvarez with questions about how new mothers stay in shape and how she expected to balance motherhood and a business. Others were visibly uncomfortable discussing the product or even touching it.

Alvarez’s dilemma was one that’s not new to women in business. Of course, some struggles are simply a part of entrepreneurship, but there’s no question that women need more grit and determination than most men in order to find success.

Women certainly have the ability to inspire their teams in unique ways, and we are seeing them use that strength to deliver effective and enduring business strategies. But getting there isn’t all roses and sunshine. Adversity will hit, and the fate of your company will hinge on your ability to push through it. I myself made it through, mostly with the help of three methods:

1. Free your mind so the rest will follow

True story: Someone at a VC fundraiser once asked me if I was creating an all-lesbian management team because I was there with two other women leaders. Dumb comments like that one happen, but you can’t let them mentally distract you from where you want to go. When people disparage your product, revenue model, strategy or expertise, you need to keep your head above the fray even when it feels like the sky is falling.

Ban.do founder and chief creative officer Jen Gotch regularly shares about her struggles with mental health with her Instagram followers. She’s a big believer in the role a full night of sleep plays in her mental recovery. Sleep gives your brain the break it needs to declutter and put all your highs and lows into perspective.

Develop your own routine for keeping your mind fresh. These methods can be anything from meditation to set-aside times each day for a mental recharge. No matter what, it’s a habit that can mentally prep you to face whatever challenges get placed at your company’s feet.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

2. Don’t take physical fitness for granted

During a speech at the 2017 TEDWomen Conference, neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki spoke about the transformative effects exercise has on the brain. She explained that even a single workout improves our mood, energy, memory and attention by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline.

After a workout, the ability to focus lasts for at least two hours. Likewise, a workout can speed up your physical reaction times and cause everyday stumbles, such as spilled coffee or bumped shins, to frustrate you less. Being a black belt in taekwondo, running marathons and weightlifting all provide me with a physical outlet to work out my frustrations and start emotionally fresh.

Body and mind work as one, so don’t let your fitness routine fall by the wayside in the pursuit of entrepreneurial glory. Carve time out each day to get a physical workout to maintain mental fluidity.

3. Lean on others when that’s needed

Having a strong network of men and women leaders who’ve paved the path before you is paramount. They can tell you when you are on track; when you are off track; and when you need to pivot, tilt or speed up.

If you have to face additional challenges compared to male entrepreneurs, you need additional practical resources. While male entrepreneurial success stories are all over pop culture, we women have to look a little harder for triumphs by our gender in business. Hearing other women tell their stories will encourage you.

If you’re having trouble finding great mentors, find an entrepreneur networking group for women, such as Women Who Tech. Networking groups offer workshops, free events and resources.

And when all else fails, take a girls’ night out with friends: Drink a bottle of wine, cry a little, laugh a lot and be surrounded by unconditional love. Even if your friends don’t know a thing about software or coding, the power to refresh your emotional health should never be taken for granted.

If you care about your business, don’t let negativity hold you back. These tips have helped me stay sane and determined throughout the challenges I’ve faced. To overcome the odds, find what it is about you that’s empowering and apply it to your business.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Too Few South African Women Become Entrepreneurs, But This Can Change

Organisations built by business women and that speak loudly and assertively for business women will send an unambiguous message that women belong in the community of entrepreneurs.

Gugu Mjadu

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Although South Africa’s constitutional democracy has been advocating for gender equality for the past 24 years, the level of entrepreneurship among South African men and women is still far less equal than the country’s economic peers such as Ghana and Uganda. This is an indication that a progressive constitution alone is not enough to ensure that women join the local community of entrepreneurs in equal numbers to men.

Illustrating this, are the latest figures from the 2017/2018 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) which show that 13 out of every 100 South African men are involved in total early-stage entrepreneurial activity, compared to just 9 out of every 100 women. 

This research shows that the inequality goes deeper than just the headline figure. A higher percentage of women who do start their own ventures do so out of necessity (34.3 percent for women vs. 18 percent for men), whereas South African men, on the other hand, are more likely to start a business in response to an opportunity (82 percent for men vs. 65.7 percent for women). As research indicates that opportunity-driven entrepreneurs are more likely to create wealth than necessity-driven entrepreneurs, this is definitely an area for improvement for our country.

The GEM study is an annual survey, and dishearteningly, a look at the GEM figures over a number of years shows no discernible trend towards closing the gap, while some of South Africa’s economic peers such as Brazil and Vietnam consistently show an equal number of men and women starting businesses. 

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

Gender parity in entrepreneurship needs a consistent stretch of truly high economic growth, north of 6 percent, to shake lose any remaining cultural, psychological and economic chains that are keeping women back. Unlike its counterparts, South Africa’s economic growth over the past few decades has seldom breached 4 percent – hovering around 3 percent since 1994. 

This might also explain the general low levels of entrepreneurship in the South African population, among both men and women, compared to its economic peers – 11 percent of the South African population is involved in entrepreneurial activity. Wealth creating businesses start in response to opportunities, which multiply when economic growth is strong.

Short of a massive economic stimulus needed to propel South Africa’s economic growth upward, is there anything that can be done on an incremental level in order to establish entrepreneurial equality between men and women in South Africa? 

I believe that there are many low-key ways in which to entice more women to become entrepreneurs. One place to start, is to focus on the income-generating side-lines that many South African women are engaged in. A scan of social media shows that South African women are not short of ideas nor initiative. From activities that are traditionally seen as female-oriented such as baking and sewing, to truly innovative social clubs and online initiatives seem to provide an outlet for many women’s entrepreneurial urges. Yet too few of them develop into proper full-time careers.

Programmes focused on women and their side-hustles might find fertile ground to grow them into fully fledged businesses.

Another factor that might entice more women to start businesses is more accessible finance. There is no easy solution, however, as research shows that men are more likely to start looking for finance early when they launch their ventures. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to use their own funds to start a business and thus delay seeking finance until their venture is potentially in trouble making it more difficult to secure finance. 

The solution, if any, lies in education and training deep enough to effect a significant shift in mind-set. Given the poor state of the educational system, South Africa still has a way to go, but it could be argued that any incremental improvement in the education system would boost the country’s levels of entrepreneurship. 

It remains to be seen if an increase in gender equality and representation among bankers and financiers may lead to improved access to finance for female entrepreneurs, but because it is a good thing in itself, gender parity in the finance industry is worth pursuing. 

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

The celebration of female entrepreneurship in popular culture, social media and as part of cultural events remains important and probably cannot be overdone. Awareness of the possibility of success in the business world for females remains fundamental to any young woman’s decision to choose entrepreneurship.

Finally, a strengthening of the profile of women’s business associations in South Africa can become an important factor in increasing the number of female entrepreneurs. Organisations built by business women and that speak loudly and assertively for business women will send an unambiguous message that women belong in the community of entrepreneurs.

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11 Quotes On Hard Work, Risk-Taking And Getting Started From Beauty Billionaire Estee Lauder

The cosmetics tycoon provides lessons on the importance of passion and perseverance.

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Like most entrepreneurs, passion was at the core of cosmetics tycoon Estee Lauder. From a young age, Lauder was obsessed with beauty, and it wasn’t before long that she turned her dreams into reality. With the help of her chemist uncle, Lauder developed creams and other products that she would sell to local beauty stores in her hometown of Queens, N.Y. In 1946, Lauder officially launched her now world-renowned beauty company Estee Lauder with her husband Joseph Lauder. The business skyrocketed to success.

In 1998, Lauder was the only woman to land on Time’s top 20 business geniuses of the 20th century. In 2004, the year Lauder died, the beauty entrepreneur was named Time’s person of the year. Estee Lauder has become one of the biggest brands in beauty, with a worth of more than $50 billion. The company employs more than 46,000 people worldwide.

To learn more from Lauder and the cosmetics empire she built, here are 11 inspirational quotes on hard work, perseverance and getting started.

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