I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit Visa Facebook Small Biz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.
When I started Lipsticking, back in 2004, I was part of a growing network of smart women intent on making their own way in this world of emerging technology. The purpose of this blog was to show how powerful women were on the net, and how to market to them. We knew the regular route of the day to day grind in someone else’s office wasn’t for us.
As I grew my business, I discovered something interesting: women were not being offered the same chances to succeed that men were being offered. I learned from other women that banks sometimes laughed at them – without even considering the loan papers they’d painstakingly filled out.
I learned that many prospective clients were wary of a woman-owned business. Especially a ‘new’ one, supporting a product or service that was an unknown, like blogging. I heard from other women, and experienced this myself…impertinent questions that make your eyes cross!
“What can a woman possible know about <that>?”
Or, “How do I know you’ll deliver?” As if being a woman makes you more undependable than a man.
It was disheartening, to say the least.
While I knew that many people were stuck in that old 20th century thinking of women being in the home with the kids, the cleaning, and the cooking, I also knew I could help change things for the better, for myself and other women. So, I did. I started this blog.
Women-owned businesses aren’t new. Let’s state that right up front. I wrote about some of the early women’s businesses back in my early posts, on Lipsticking. The statistics show that women owned businesses are thriving and successful, and on the rise. And still, we’re challenged with proving ourselves.
If you’re a new woman-owned business, you’re likely facing some of the same roadblocks and challenges that I, and my contemporaries in 2004, faced.
We’re here to say: shoulder on! Embrace the hard work! Get creative! If you’re stuck in despair, there is help. Here are some thoughts on being successful in 2014:
- Build a network of business mentors. Understanding the business environment was a prime challenge in my early days. I struggled with the vernacular, meetings made me uncomfortable, and the very nature of having to be here, there, and everywhere, in order to represent my business across the board, was frustrating.
- I became selective in finding mentors. I attended chamber meetings and other networking groups, and made friends with some smart, talented folks. When things were confusing and tough, I leaned on them to guide me on the right path.
- Manage your time. Joining a business networking group, or a local women’s business organization, is helpful. Just remember to manage your time.
- Never miss a meeting. Become a mentor yourself. You learn as much by being a mentor, as you do by having a mentor. Build continuing education into your yearly business plan.
- Understand what’s expected of you. Nothing will stop your business in its tracks faster than not doing your homework. Whether you’re talking to a new prospective client, another business to partner with, or a bank, the goal is to ask questions until you’re aware of what needs to happen next.
- If you are planning to apply for a business loan, meet with the loan office first and ask questions. Find out exactly what you need to show, to gain the bank’s trust. And, if you’re not yet ready, get ready. The bank officer can be your best friend if you learn to listen well and ask questions.
- Women are often their own worst enemy. We expect to be dismissed. We worry that we’re not good enough. We shy away from challenges. The biggest lesson I can teach you, today, is that… none of what you’re going through is unique to you, as a woman. Yes, we may be on the receiving end of a misinformed society intent on pigeonholing us into a preconceived notion of woman as homemaker, but that should never hold us back!
Embrace your passion. Rise each morning with high expectation. In moments of distress, channel the great Katharine Hepburn, who said, “I never realized until lately that women were supposed to be the inferior sex.”
Here's a VISA infographic that will shock and surprise you, in a good way, I hope!