Entrepreneur is synonymous with disruptor, risk-taker and outlier. But entrepreneurship is more than a handful of dynamic personality traits. It is the defining theme of economic growth in the past 20 years and by many estimates, entrepreneurship will further define the next generations as they shape and reshape our economy.
Just as entrepreneurship has become essential to what it means to work and succeed, so has it become what many women mean by work and success. In the past two decades, the number of female-owned businesses has more than doubled.
So why are so many women striking out on their own?
For many, traditional workplaces don’t provide adequate opportunities for growth. After all, the gender pay gap still dictates that a young woman graduating from college can only expect to make about 90% of what her male colleagues will. And a number of women are looking for opportunities to work from home to take on the demands of raising a family.
At the same time, the large number of women turning to independent businesses and start-ups has created a highly-competitive atmosphere. Only 18% of SBA loans support women, and only 3% of venture capital. In addition, many female entrepreneurs are having trouble finding mentors to help guide their growth (something we know is key to success). So, what can an aspiring entrepreneur do to launch? How can she navigate the barriers both at home and in the market? What are the steps she can take to prepare herself for the inevitable obstacles?
Leila Mehra is the founder of Love, Indie B., an e-commerce site that promotes and sells select independent beauty brands. A few years back, Leila found herself working long hours as an event planner in one of the most male-dominated industries, investment banking. She loved her job planning but she knew that it was not her passion. When her family moved to Boston, and then across the country—picking up a baby along the way—she knew it was time to pursue her dream to launch her own business.
Starting up is scary for anyone, but when Leila joined the millions of women trying to launch in the growing health and beauty sector—a sector she had little experience with—she needed more than courage to make it happen. Leila shares her top five tips to launch your own business.
Make change your friend.
“You don’t have to hold yourself hostage to who you used to be.” – Oprah Winfrey
Change is stressful. Among the most stressful in life’s changes is starting a family and moving. For her part, Leila moved twice in one year, while also becoming a mother. When her family landed in San Francisco, she knew it was time to step back from the hustle and make a big change. She became acquainted with the local community of entrepreneurs and decided to stop stressing over change. Capitalizing on the momentum of moving to a new city and reshaping her own identity instead turned out to be the most important step in launching her own business.
Curate is the new create.
When Leila finally landed on skincare and beauty products as the retail business she had always dreamed of, she began to look around at what brands were already out there. She found hundreds of small and independent companies—products that had a lot to offer but were getting washed away in the sea of competition. Why reinvent the wheel, she thought, and looked into the concept of curation rather than creation. Brands like Amazon and Etsy have built monumental successes out of creating a curated platform of other companies products. With Love, Indie B., Leila was able to give her start-up an edge.
Work the (online) room.
“You don't get what you don't ask for.” ― Sophia Amoruso in #GIRLBOSS
Leila’s number one tip for actually getting started on your own is simple: leverage online resources and tap into communities--something that is particularly effective if you are working from home. Diving into an unknown industry as a first-time entrepreneur, she says that hooking up with like-minded entrepreneurs was key to tackling the logistics of establishing her business. Through the GirlBoss Gang on Facebook and The Wing co-working space in San Francisco, Leila was able to crowdsource information on topics ranging from corporate structures to showcasing products.
Lead by learning.
Since developing her original idea, Leila has been challenged to solve problems she never knew existed! From registering her trademark to making her company legal, what has always worked for Leila (not to mention hundreds of the most successful entrepreneurs out there) is a Growth Mindset. Reid Hoffman has credited the billion-dollar success story of LinkedIn, the company he co-founded in 2003, to learning along the way. He said "Starting a company is like throwing yourself off the cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down." Through courses, endless research, and networking, Leila continues to make learning an important part of her process. (One class recommended by Leila is Brand Camp, perfect for those who lack background on branding and marketing).
“Naysayers have little power over us unless we give it to them.” – Arianna Huffington
When Leila pitched her business to a male friend, he was less than impressed with the idea of indie makeup and beauty brands. But she listened to her gut and presented the idea to a different group – this time her female friends. They couldn’t wait to discover new and unknown products from small business-owners. She realized that you just can’t please everyone and persisted with her idea.
Whether you are a working mom in need of a flexible schedule or a woman in search of a career growth opportunity, entrepreneurship remains one of the most promising career paths for women. When Leila launched Love, Indie B., she joined the ranks of entrepreneurs like Julie Aigner-Clark who started Baby Einstein from her home back in 1997, growing the brand so much that it was acquired by Disney in 2001, and Alli Webb who founded Drybar, the $100 million North American hair salon chain, as a young mom driving to homes all around LA to style hair. Like them, she navigated through the uncertain waters of e-commerce in order to launch and today she’s glad she did. Customers coming to her site for holiday shopping see the passion and thought she put into her finished product firsthand. And her story shows that by getting creative with designing your business model and leveraging your networks, you can join the millions of women leaning in through entrepreneurship.
by Anuja Khemka