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.
If you are a woman, a person of color or LGBTIA+ identified and are a part of a start-up company, this is the competition for you. The SoGal Global Pitch Competition is being hosted in over 25 cities and will culminate in a final contest in Silicon Valley as well as a "3-day immersive educational bootcamp." This could be an unprecedented opportunity for you, your business and for the future of entrepreneurial diversification.
We all know how important diversity is for the world and for any business entity. But the statistics need to catch up with these ideals, because diversity isn't just a moral imperative it can also have an impact on the success and efficiency of a business. So if the ethics isn't enough to get you interested, maybe these statistics will.
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have above-average financial returns
- Bottom quartile companies (in both gender and racial diversity) are less likely to achieve even average returns
- In senior executive teams in the US for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) rose 0.8%
Despite the fact that diversity is good for business, funding as a woman or a minority is incredibly challenging, but this competition could be someone's game-changing opportunity.
SoGal is a global education and empowerment platform focused on diverse investors and entrepreneurs. Their mission is "to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship and venture capital." A tall order, given that 2.2% of VC funding went to women in 2018. Compounding the gender gap with race shows an even poorer picture: in the past decade only 0.1% (yes, that is a decimal) of funding was allocated to black women.
It is a straight up fact that companies with higher levels of diversity perform better, so why is it so hard for diverse start-ups to get funded? Oh right, racism, sexism, homophobia, implicit biases, inequality, classism... the list goes on, but thankfully that's where SoGal comes in! According to Kelley Elizabeth Henry, director of SoGal, "We're done waiting for these statistics to change; we're taking action to point investment capital toward these diverse-led startups. [...] We will change the future of entrepreneurship."
To enter this competition all you have to do is be a part of a pre-Series A startup (raised less than $3M) and have at least one "woman or diverse" founder. After you apply to pitch, you'll have to be able to make it to one of the "regional round location," which range from the more typical options of New York and Los Angeles to global locations such as Nairobi or Bangalore. And, if you're really playing to win, you better earmark February 28 to March 1 of next year, because that's when the top teams will be in San Francisco duking it out to the very end. And by "duking it out," I mean participating in "curated educational programming," talking to press and getting "facetime in front of top-tier investors." Though not everyone can win, the experience in itself looks to be well-worth the time it takes to fill out an application form and huff it to the nearest large city for the first round.