There is little more exciting than launching our own business. From sharing the first conceptions of the idea with friends; to spending hour upon hour, finishing up that massive business plan; to picking out a name and getting that first business license, the process has a lot in common with pregnancy and childbirth. And, like raising a child, caring for our business-baby is a long term investment.
A Growing Trend
As a female entrepreneur, you are definitely not alone. As of 2017, there were over 11 million businesses owned by women, generating an employment growth rate that outperformed other businesses by at least 14%. Minority women make up almost half of this number of entrepreneurs, with new businesses being created at a rate of 71%. Reports indicate that women-owned businesses generate nearly two billion dollars in revenue, annually.
A Unique Opportunity for Stress
Some of the stresses involved with the process of creating and running a business are universal. Entrepreneurs characteristically take on several roles, at once, to make the dream a reality. We can find ourselves acting as the accountant during one phone call, and then switch into marketing like a pro, during the next. Balancing production factors and employee needs, while staying mindful of the ever-present bottom line, can become quite the act.
For many women, this juggling act is right up our alley. Females are often credited with being able to switch quickly between tasks, while maintaining a calm and poise that the males of the species can find enviable. Just because we can do it, though, doesn't mean that it always comes easily. The following is a list of some common stressors that plague all entrepreneurs:
- Lack of vision and clarity of roles
- Managing of conflicting demands
- Work overload
The stress generated by these factors can diminish the joy of our creation. Not only can it take a toll on our mental health, it can also impair our physical health. Symptoms of stress include headaches; insomnia; depression; frequent colds; and digestive issues. Females, in particular, are found to be susceptible to the stress that comes from taking on too much responsibility.
As an entrepreneur, there are no real days off. There is no one to cover for our unique role, should we feel the need to call in sick. It is of upmost importance, then, that we do what we can to keep ourselves mentally and physically healthy. Not only do we deserve that, our business depends on it. The following are some tips for reducing your entrepreneurial stress, and for keeping yourself in top business shape.
Keep Your Goal In Sight
The concept of being an entrepreneur has traditionally garnered the image of the “self-made man," who – through hard work and ingenuity – has managed to economically dominate the competition. There are many stories of men who sacrificed their home lives in order to make a name for themselves in the professional world. Success simply meant making money.
While modern women have that option, as well, we also have the luxury of freedom to not put that pressure on ourselves. Deciding what is important to you is the crux of a successful entrepreneurship. Are you seeking to be the next big thing? Are you launching your business as a means to pay the bills, while having more family time? Are you putting the business into practice as your creative outlet?
Whatever the spark that drives you, make sure to keep it in the forefront in your mind as you conduct your daily business. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to the achievements of others, and keep your eye on your prize.
Successful time management results in more flexibility. More flexibility is one of the most cited desires of an entrepreneur. If you aren't one who is blessed with the ability to discern the vital from the trivial, there are many resources available to assist you in building the skill of prioritization. Key points include starting the day with a brainstorming list, which can be rearranged and whittled down before beginning your work day.
Prioritizing can mean more than tasks and time. It can also apply to values. The multiple roles of the entrepreneur can lead to conflicting demands, which can bring stress to the unprepared. Pay heed to your business vision statement when deciding how to approach a situation involving values.
Does it suit your style to market your product emphatically, with the hope of it resulting in a better bottom line?
Or, will you sleep better after providing your clientele with a conservative estimate?
Learn to Delegate
Having the feminine ability to perform many, simultaneous, roles can result in the temptation to do everything, ourselves. This can quickly lead to mental and emotional fatigue, and can leave us without enough energy for the important tasks. Learning to delegate tasks effectively can result in more time and freedom. For some of us, though, letting go of the reins is a Herculean feat.
When learning to delegate, make sure that your needs are communicated clearly and simply. Like sending a hapless partner to the store for groceries, the likelihood of the surrogate returning with the wrong item is high. Unless the specifics of the request are made apparent, prepare yourself to graciously accept a bit of disappointment with the result.
Make Time for You
The term, “self-care," has become a buzzword, but the concept has been practiced by women, for ages. There is more to a box of chocolates or a bubble bath than meets the eye. While some recharging methods are healthier than others, both laypersons and experts agree that they are a vital aspect of healthy functioning.
With the extra time gained through staying focused on your goals; prioritizing and planning ahead; and delegating tasks, make sure to invest in nurturing your own mental and physical wellness.
As women, particularly, many of us have been conditioned to give of selflessly of our resources. While giving our energy to others is certainly worthwhile, there is a danger of giving too much. Without a set of tools for recharging our batteries, we risk being drained to the point of becoming ineffective.
Symptoms of stress appear when we have depleted our personal energy store. Develop the practice of not waiting for disaster to strike before indulging. Making a weekly – or daily – date with yourself can mean avoiding discomforts such as lack of focus; irritability; and anxiety. Spending time in some form of meditation or cardiovascular activity can not only reduce stress symptoms, but can also contribute to gaining new insights and solutions to your entrepreneurial challenges.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.