Women entrepreneurs are taking the business world by storm. In fact, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 26.8% from 2007 to 2012, according to the National Women’s Business Council.
NWBC is a non-partisan federal advisory council that serves as an independent source of advice and counsel to the president, Congress and U.S. Small Business Administration on issues of importance to women business owners.
International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, an event now celebrated on November 19th, was founded in 2014 to draw attention to the efforts millions of hard-working business women worldwide. This event seeks to encourage other aspiring women entrepreneurs to look towards their community for empowerment, advice, and even financial support.
Launching a business for the first time can feel daunting, especially if you haven’t yet developed your network. We spoke with a handful of seasoned women entrepreneurs for their advice on how to get started. Here’s what they had to say about finding success at the helm of your own ship.
1. Be Yourself
“Find work environments that allow you to be unapologetically you,” said Toni Hacker, a fashion accessory and handbag designer based in New York City. “If you’re in an environment that is stifling your voice and talent, move on and find one that won’t. Leadership lessons may be learned in the wrong environments, but you can’t put them into practice until you’re in the right one.”
2. Do What You Love
“Starting my own business was one of the most gratifying while equally challenging decisions that I’ve made in my life,” said Paige Dellavalle Walker, chief executive of Stella Valle, a fashion accessory brand seen on the ABC hit TV show Shark Tank. “No one is telling me what to do, when to do it or how to do it, which is the best part of being your own boss.”
Of course, that puts pressure on you to figure out the steps you need to take to succeed. To that end, Walker recommends that you do what you love “because then it won’t feel like you’re working a day in your life,” she said.
3. Expect Them to Doubt You
“The truth is that you’re likely to be underestimated,” Hacker said of rookie entrepreneurs. “Enjoy it. Then walk in and kill them with competence.”
4. Just Do It!
“Striking out on your own can seem daunting, but a personal dream not realized is a terrible thing to regret later in life,” said Hacker, who launched her first minimalist clothing line, THACKER NYC, this year. “Jumping off the bridge and working out of your comfort zone can seem very scary, but do your research and develop a network of support around your project, and you’ll be fine.”
5. Keep Going
“There are many challenges you may face when starting your business, but never accept no as an answer,” said Kim Etheredge, co-founder of Mixed Chicks, a successful line of beauty products for mixed-race women. “When one door closes, another will open,” she assured. “Be resourceful, and make friends with any and everyone answering a number you dial. Kindness will get you far!”
6. Face the Challenge
“If you decide to take the leap of faith and start your business, you will face challenges on a regular basis,” said Walker of her experience working on Stella Valle. “You should be prepared for the ups and downs of these challenges.” One way you can do that is by “managing your expectations and being able to keep on going when everything seems to be going wrong,” she said.
And don’t let those challenges dissuade you, said Etheredge of Mixed Chicks. “It’s important to persevere in your professional life,” she said. “There will be difficult choices and tradeoffs, but don’t allow that to blunt your ambitions.”
7. Save Money
“Don’t quit your day job!” Etheredge said. Starting a business takes time, resources and plenty of energy, and you’ll likely need to save money until you’re ready to strike out on your own. If you’re building credit like many aspiring young entrepreneurs, you may want to consider opening up a secured credit card, which requires a deposit, like an apartment rental. These cards, which generally report your activity to the three major bureaus, can help you build credit the smart way if you keep debt levels low and pay bills on time. In the meantime, consider drafting a budget to rein in unnecessary spending.
Jill Krasny is a reporter and editor at Credit.com. Prior to joining the company, she was a senior writer at Esquire and Inc. Magazine, where she covered a range of lifestyle and business topics. Her work has appeared in Mashable, Travel + Leisure and MTV.