Startup stories from real women entrepreneurs
"Really define what it is you want to do. Whether it’s a dog walking company or a coffee company, know your industry top to bottom and have an excellent understanding of why you are filling a hole in that industry."— Valerie Gordon, co-owner of Valerie Confections
Today’s job market – let's be real – primarily ranges between meh and neh. Being your own boss? Hey, that might not be so bad. Make your own hours, control your own workload, and take coffee breaks whenever the urge to caffienate hits. Where do we sign up? Alright, a girl can dream. We know being a business owner is hard work, and entrepreneurial fantasies should be tempered with a healthy dose of reality. So we got in touch with a few busy business owners to find out what running the show was really like. Here's a peek into the reality of striking out on your own as an entrepreneur, from women who have done it.
Play it safe
“Be as safe and conservative as possible,” says Valerie Gordon, co-owner along with Stan Weightman Jr., of Valerie Confections, a purveyor of chocolates, vintage cakes and baked goods. “Double any costs you may have run in your initial analysis. If you’re partnering up with someone, secure some freelance work on the side. Handle things on the weekends and evenings until you are certain you can generate the amount of revenue necessary to sustain you and your business.”
If your start-up business is outside your home, rent a small space part-time, Gordon advises. Rather than tapping outsiders, do any work that you can by yourself. Keep your focus sharp.
“Do as much exhaustive research in your industry as you possibly can,” Gordon said. “Really define what it is you want to do. Whether it’s a dog walking company or a coffee company, know your industry top to bottom and have an excellent understanding of why you are filling a hole in that industry.”
Be prepared to work extremely hard, and not necessarily get paid for it, says self-starter Nanette Fridman. “There are going to be huge learning curves and, initially, you might not be compensated for all of the work that you put into it,” says Fridman, a corporate lawyer turned stay-at-home mum who decided to strike out on her own as a private consultant to not-for-profit organisations.
“Have a detailed business plan,” Fridman said. “Keep a ‘kitchen cabinet’ of advisors, a group of people whom you trust and respect and whom you believe possess the skills and attributes that you want to emulate.”
According to Fridman, one common mistake novice entrepreneurs make is that they confuse their ability to create a great product with their ability to market it effectively.
“Just because you’re good at baking cookies doesn’t mean you can open a bakery,” Fridman said. “You may be very good at the actual substantive part, but you need someone to handle the business end.”
Timing is everything, according to Marcia Rosman, a certified business evaluator from Onset, Massachusetts.
“When laying the foundation for a profitable business venture you need to be confident but also patient,” Rosman said. “When I bought my first business – a fitness centre – everybody told me to wait until the spring to open it up because I would get a better response, but I was so excited and emotional that I opened it right away. I lost money. Had I waited, that never would have happened. Believe in yourself, but be cautious.”
Who's the boss?
Commit to running your business from the ground up, suggests Beatriz Acevedo, founder and president of Hip Entertainment Group, a production company.
“Be excited to roll up your sleeves and do every position in your company so you know how it’s all done,” said Acevedo, whose company has produced shows for Food Network, Discovery en Español and MTV Tr3s. “That way you can be far more efficient in delegating responsibility. Stay on top of every penny you make and spend.”
And don’t be fooled by the notion that running your own company means you’ve got nobody to answer to but yourself.
“One of the biggest misconceptions in business is that you don’t have a boss,” Acevedo said. “You have so many bosses in every single client that hires you. You need to expect to have many bosses and all with different personalities and styles. When you own your own business you wind up working 24/7, which is more than most regular jobs.”
For anybody starting out, Acevedo recommends the following: Get advice and get mentored.
“Surround yourself with people who are better than you at what they do,” she said. “It’s a fool-proof way to succeed.”
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