4 challenges women entrepreneurs face and how to overcome them



I’ve been dreaming about having my own business for a long time and I think that I am ready to quit my corporate job to become an entrepreneur. Even though I feel ready, I am still a bit apprehensive. I think one of the factors that is fuelling this apprehension is fear. How can you help me overcome my fear and other challenges women face in starting a business?


Dear Entrepreneur-In-Waiting

Women entrepreneurs are the fasting growing segment in the business world. The latest research by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor supports this statement. According to its 2016/2017 Women Entrepreneurship Report, women’s entrepreneurial activity was up ten per cent, closing the gender gap by five per cent since 2014. In the past year, 163 million women started businesses across 74 economies worldwide, while 111 million were running established businesses.

Despite these outstanding statistics and the fact that more women are embracing entrepreneurship, there are some significant road blocks that women business owners have to face that are different to their male counterparts.

Let us breakdown the four key challenges faced by women and how to overcome them.

Limited access to funding

Accessing capital as a start-up company is hard generally. Financial institutions, venture capitalists and other lenders deny all types of entrepreneurs regardless of gender. Nevertheless, when this situation is compounded with the unique hurdles women encounter, you have a truly difficult situation. As women entrepreneurs, we must have a good credit rating, present a fantastic business plan, have a solid cash flow and collateral before seeking financing.

Notwithstanding the difficulties; there is hope in overcoming these obstacles and it starts with having the right attitude; being fearless, resilient and fully exploring all your potential options.

You need to seek out funding agencies and venture capitalists with specific focus on women-owned businesses. Research angel investment firms and grant institutions that specifically lend to female entrepreneurs and determine the financial institutions that have loan programmes for women-owned businesses. Additionally, there are new funding sources such as peer-to-peer lending and crowd funding. Networking with women entrepreneurs is another avenue you have for getting access to funding opportunities.

Feeling pressured to act a certain way

For women, talking business in a primarily male setting, can be intimidating. In this sort of situation, women may feel as though they need to adopt a conventional male attitude that can include things like being aggressive, competitive or overly harsh in an effort to be taken seriously. My advice to women involved in these types of situations would be to be yourself and have confidence in who you are. In other words be unapologetically you! You did not arrive on the scene yesterday. You worked hard and persevered to get to where you are. You have earned the right to sit at the table.

Taking a closer look at the issue, it is clear that some women may worry about being “too aggressive”. However, you will need to discern as you work on your business when this type of behaviour may be necessary. For example, during negotiations, orchestrating deals and pitching your business to investors. You must be confident and be able to defend and fight for your business. Being seen as aggressive is not tantamount to your success.

Building a Support Network

Women breaking the proverbial glass ceiling are on the rise but the business world is still dominated by men. What this means is that there are less women in leadership positions to seek out as role models and mentors. The old saying still rings true that is “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and this can be a huge factor in your ultimate success.

Knowing the right support network is not always easy and it can be difficult to find fellow entrepreneurs to connect with. However, you can begin by joining organisations such as the Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago (AFETT) which conduct women-focused networking events geared towards building relationships and making networking fun and easy. Up your game by attending women leadership conferences and events that are specific to your industry and career field. Join online forums and groups particularly for women in business. Seek out women business organisations that run programmes and training specifically designed for women. Equally important is finding a mentor, especially as you transition from being an employee to an entrepreneur. Of course, you need this type of support as the business grows.

Fear of failure

The fear of failure is noted as the top concern for women who launch start-ups according to the 2012 Babson’s College Global Entrepreneur Monitor. We cannot ignore the fact that failure is very real in any business venture; yet failure is an inevitable journey to success.

It is said that failure and rejection are necessary evils on the way to success. We must withstand the rejection and remind ourselves of why we started this venture. Keep in mind the big picture and recognise that sometimes you need 100 noes to get one yes, but that one yes will make you more successful than you are today. You need to dig deep and work through the moments of self-doubt that every business owner faces.

It is in these times when you are gripped with fear and filled with self-doubt that your support network kicks in so be sure to reach out to your group, mentor or coach for support. You need to work hard at ignoring that inner voice that discourages you from taking action.

Learning to be confident in the midst of adversity is no easy feat for anyone, but you will soon realise that failure is a learning curve. You will eventually gain a sense of wisdom through your failures and recognise that it forms part of the bigger picture for your business success.

AFETT is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2002 with the goal of bringing together professional women and engaging in networking opportunities, professional training and business ideas. Ask AFETT is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals seeking advice to assist in progressing in their careers. Today's response was written by AFETT member, Michelle Low Chew Tung, Communications director, AFETT. Learn more about AFETT at www.afett.com, search for AFETT Events on Facebook, follow us @AFETTEXECS on Twitter or contact us at 354-7130, email us at admin.afett@gmail.com

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors, meant strictly as advice and guidance, based upon their experience and expertise. In no way are they meant to be legally binding upon AFETT and or its members, servants nor agents.


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