Most of us become entrepreneurs because we're good at what we do, and we want the flexibility to do it on our own terms. We want to put our personal stamp on something meaningful. It's exciting, it's hard work, it's fulfilling, and...it can be exhausting and stressful.
A recent Fast Company article, “How to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship” talked about this confluence of opposites.
“The reality is that entrepreneurship is an emotional roller-coaster–it’s either going to kill you or make you stronger. Most entrepreneurs out there are wrestling with this flux day in and day out. No doubt, the lifestyle can be exciting. The work can be incredibly fulfilling. But it can also be insanely stressful at times.”
In my experience as an entrepreneur, I've found that there are two things that keep me sane:
- Building and maintaining a community
- Making time to feed my soul
Building a community
Working on your own can get lonely. Especially when you're in development mode and spending long stretches of time not talking to another human being. It's important to make opportunities to share ideas, get feedback, and simply connect with others for community, support and, let's not forget, laughter.
A few years ago I put together an AdviseHERy Board. The initial goal was to create a small board of directors (there were three of us, and this has now grown to four) who would help each other build our businesses, talk through issues, give feedback and ask questions that would move us forward. Over the years it has developed into an incredible support system both professionally and personally.
Another thing I've done to build community is join a co-working space. It gets me out of my home office a few days a week, and I can walk there, which is another benefit. In our current sharing economy, co-working spaces are becoming increasingly popular. Most even organize social and business-related events to help connect people.
Feeding your soul
The second thing that I think is really important for entrepreneurs - or for anyone really - is to take time (make time!) to feed your soul. Whatever that means for you.
We often get so busy trying to get that next gig or to keep up with all the responsibilities of business ownership that we forget to take time to rest and recharge. How often do you say, "I don't have time for a break," or, "I just need to get through this project, and I'll take a break"? Don't...put...it...off!
It doesn't have to be a two-week or even a one-week vacation (although I highly recommend them!) It can be a 30-minute walk three times a week. An hour a day reading something that has nothing to do with your work. A concert. The theater. Yoga. Whatever it is, factor it into your schedule and make time to do it. Feed...your...soul.
Oh. And don't forget laughter. You need at least one belly laugh a day!
Till next time,
Last week I attended the SheEO Activation Summit, in Denver. SheEO World is a nonprofit organization that brings together women entrepreneur investors who provide no-interest loans, plus mentoring and coaching to other women who are building their businesses. Women supporting women. Just as it oughta be - #RadicalGenerosity.
Between 2007 and 2016 the number of women-owned businesses in the US increased by 45%, according to a report commissioned by American Express. Compare this to just a 9% increase in all businesses during the same time period. The 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the US employ nearly 9 million people, and generate more than $1.6 trillion in revenues. Since 2007, employment in women-owned businesses has increased by 18%. Employment among all businesses, on the other hand, has declined by 1%. We women are pretty amazing!
Not only that, women entrepreneurs are happier. According to a 2013 report on global entrepreneurship, American women entrepreneurs “rank their well-being higher than other women in the US, higher than women entrepreneurs in other countries, and higher than men.”
Yet here’s the startling reality. Despite the fact that over the past 10 years the number of women-owned businesses has grown at 5 times the national average, only 4% of venture capital goes to women. Only 19% of business news content mentions firms led by women.
Most of us who go into business for ourselves do so because we want to pursue our area of expertise without the constraints of corporate ladders and company politics. We want to be more in control of our time and our future. What we discover, though, is that in addition to pursuing our strength, we also need to manage other parts of the business that may not be a strength (or that we just don’t like doing) e.g., the finances, business planning/strategy, marketing, selling, record keeping, HR, etc. Getting to that position where you can afford to hire others to do those things while you focus on your strength is one of the biggest challenges of entrepreneurship.
The good news is, you don’t have to figure this out on your own. This is where women supporting other women comes in. If you are a woman planning to start a business, wanting to grow your business, or feeling you need to make some changes in your business, here are some tips for moving forward.
Start your own personal Board of Directors. Gather a small group of other women entrepreneurs who will commit to meeting on a regular basis to share ideas, discuss strategy, give feedback (and yes, hold each other accountable!) Need help getting started? My personal Board and I have a “how to” book coming out soon: The AdviseHERy Board. We’ll announce publication on Facebook (like PeopleThink to be in the know!)
Find a mentor. Think about someone you know through your personal or professional network who is farther along in their business, and whom you admire. Invite them to coffee to seek their advice on a particular topic and to explore whether a mentoring relationship would be a mutual fit.
Leverage available resources. The Small Business Administration has lots of information and tutorials about starting a business and also offers business loans. Also, SCORE, a nonprofit organization that offers workshops and business advice for entrepreneurs, has chapters all over the country.
Join a women’s entrepreneurial group. Network with other women entrepreneurs, in groups like SheEO World, Watermark, Astra - Women’s Business Alliance, and NAWBO. Also, check your local Chamber of Commerce to see whether they have a women’s networking group.
Stay focused and ignore the naysayers! Yes, there are a variety of challenges in starting and running your own business, and…the rewards are so worth it! Just. Keep. Going.
And remember as you navigate the entrepreneurial landscape to turn around and help the women coming behind you. Women supporting women. Just as it oughta be.
“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” – Maya Angelou
Till next time,