To mark World Entrepreneurs’ Day, Telegraph Women Editor, Claire Cohen, asked those in the know to give us their best advice for female founders.
So whether you’re thinking about starting a business, in the throes of it, or considering scaling up – read on…
Tracey Woodward, CEO of Aromatherapy Associates
1. Never under estimate the value of selfcare… CEOs do sleep and look after themselves. Be an athlete in your own life set goals and value and respect yourself.
2. Realise that networking and worrying require the same level of effort; I would always choose to network.
3. Chaos requires structure to ensure control. Women are really great in doing this get better at it and allow it to seed into all areas of your life.
Marina Fogle, founder of The Bump Class and The Parent Hood Podcast
Being your own boss sounds like a dream, but people don’t realise just how hard it is. You have to put in a lot of hours before you even start to generate an income and if things take off, no-one you employ will be as committed as you. When the buck stops with you, you can never clock off.
Elon Musk described how he nearly missed his sister’s wedding because he couldn’t leave the office. Sometimes you have to work 30 hour days, work hours it would be unethical to ask anyone else to work. But if it takes off, if people respect you for what you’ve created and you inspire others to take the leap that you have, it is one of the most rewarding things you will ever experience.
But just remember, as breezy as it might look from the outside, successful entrepreneurs only got there within a great deal of blood, sweat and probably copious amounts of tears.
Cassandra Stavrou, founder of Propercorn
1. We’re all armchair entrepreneurs to a certain degree but you have to be bold and start – that’s often the only difference between those who make it those who don’t. It’s 10 per cent idea, 90 per cent execution. And don’t be afraid of not knowing everything from the get go. This naivety can be incredibly powerful and enable you to make some big and brave decisions – right at the start of the Propercorn journey, it gave me the courage to ditch the initial packaging designs I’d spent most of my money on. I listened to my gut, picked up a pen and paper and designed them with a friend instead. It’s harder to listen to your gut further down the line.
2. Ground your business in creativity: so often, what we’ve lacked in financial or logistical muscle, we’ve made up for in creativity. There will always be bigger players with deeper pockets but real creative thinking and a confidence to challenge the status quo will set you apart. One of our most powerful tactics has always been design and aesthetics – they should never be viewed as merely window dressing. They are essential and powerful tools that can help you overcome commercial challenges.
Vanessa Vallely OBE, founder of We Are The City
1. Research your product, whatever you are introducing it has to be better than your competitors or cheaper.
2. Know your worth – people will try and gain your time/product for free – stand your ground. No one works for free!
3. Network, network, network, but appreciate that not everyone in the room is going to be a sale – play the long game, give before you receive.
4. Invest in your own growth, you need to run the business, but you also need time to learn.
5. Understand your numbers especially when pitching for funds – you will be picked apart if they are over inflated.
6. You don’t need to pay a fortune for marketing, you can do this yourself through social media and ambassadors of your product/service.
7. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. If it isn’t going to work for you commercially, don’t do it.
8. Get a good accountant, don’t fall foul of your business obligations, e.g. invoices/tax.
9. Make sure you build a decent cash flow – people rarely pay on time and it can hurt you as a small business.
10. Don’t employ friends, it rarely works!
Tamara Lohan, co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith
1. Build, nurture and give to your network – especially of other women in business. A great network will support and help you through the tough times.
2. Understand – and get comfortable with the fact – that nothing is ever easy and there are compromises to be made along the way. But be sure stick to what makes you happy, keeps you motivated and make time to enjoy the journey.
Josephine Fairley, co-founder of Green & Blacks
1. Everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much to get where you think you’ll be in the first couple of years – because you’re starting from ground zero. It grows exponentially, later.
2. Things only get done IF YOU DO THEM. Rather than talk about them. Create – and shape later. It’s much easier than chewing on a pencil.
Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet
1. Listen to your target audience and change your plan if necessary – It’s all too easy to become wedded to an idea, but you need to be flexible. In the world of social media, feedback is immediate and constant. See this as an opportunity refine and hone what you do and, if necessary, to pivot.
2. Ditch the high heels for trainers. If you’re late for a meeting you can run to make up the time and at the same time you get a work out thereby negating the need for time consuming and costly gym membership. Simples.
Trinny Woodall, founder of Trinny London
Never give up. Enjoy the journey.
Pinky Lilani CBE, founder of the Women of the Future Network
Be passionate about what you do, take risks, play the long game, believe in yourself and develop a vibrant supportive network.
Michelle de Klerk, founder of The Women’s Chapter network
1. Most of the time, the biggest obstacle you will face is your own fear. In business (and life), it is paramount to be honest with yourself and trust your gut instinct. You don’t need to grab every opportunity that comes your way – you can always afford to be selective about who you work with. If someone or something comprises your values, walk away.
2. Set boundaries. Otherwise you may find that the flexibility and autonomy you sought out to achieve by running your own business will be comprised at every turn. Running your own business is about working smart and surrounding yourself with good people who share your vision and passion.
3. I am a true believer in the value of support systems, networks and developing a trusted community of people, who you can turn to for advice, guidance and inspiration. When I’m faced with a problem or want feedback on an idea, I go to my network and ask someone.
4. No one has it together all of the time. We all need help and in order to succeed, we need to get better at asking for it – there is great power and enlightenment that comes from being vulnerable with the people you trust.
Sophie Jarvis, Head of the Female Founders Forum
Entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey need to be open about their product. This means allowing friends and family to critique their idea before they set it up. The drive to start a business normally derives from someone seeing something wrong with the world, and wanting to fix it for themselves and others. The most successful entrepreneurs I’ve met have been completely intertwined with their business. I would give the same advice to female entrepreneurs as I would male entrepreneurs. And the sooner the public, the media and the business world treat them as the same, the better.
Julia Elliott Brown, CEO and founder of Enter the Arena
1. Be clear about where you ultimately want to take your business and why. How do you want to make a difference in the world and what does that mean for you personally? This will then guide you as you make strategic business decisions.
2. Don’t let the headline stats about how little investment funding goes to female entrepreneurs put you off going out there to raise the money you need for business growth. If you have a great investment proposition, and your confidence in both your business and your own capabilities is rock solid, you have every chance of being successful in raising finance. Get the help you need to make sure your fundraising campaign flies.
Originally written by Claire Cohen for Telegraph Women – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/business/powerful-advice-12-female-founders-world-entrepreneurs-day/