A great idea is the heart of every successful business. Some of the times we find ourselves wondering, "Why didn't I think of that?" And while these ideas can happen by a stroke of genius while driving to work, more often than not business are built on research and development, trial and error to create a sophisticated solution.
So if there are parts of our society that are underrepresented in corporate culture, how do those ideas come to fruition? Despite growing public understanding about underrepresentation of these factions in recent years, data still shows that of the total companies that received venture capital funding last year, and only 4 percent were founded by women.
While women and minorities in business is not a new discussion, there does seem to be a lack of knowledge about what type of businesses this underserved demographic can start. Our society is happy to see a female entrepreneur on the road to success, and like many entrepreneurs, her story comes with its share of challenges.
What about a woman running a woman's health company, talking about one of the most taboo topics that start conversations rarely before spoken outside of a bedroom.
Women's health is a sensitive issue, which makes it twice as difficult to fund, market, brand and grow the company.
I recently spoke with Colette Courtion, founder and CEO ofJoylux, an at-home medical device company addressing and solving an issue that affects over 30 million American women - pelvic floor issues. She briefed me on ways she's leveraging her personal experience and business savvy to solve a taboo women's issue:
1) Only Women Know the Real Problem
Many businesses out there provide services to men and women, but there are going to be some problems that only men can understand and some that only women can understand. The taboo topic of pelvic floor issues, and the resulting symptoms, including bladder leakage and sexual dysfunction, is something most men haven't even heard of, yet it's a problem affecting over 30 percent of the female population in the U.S. alone.
If you want to build a successful business, they say you should identify a problem that affects a large number of people. Solve that problem and you have an immensely successful business. Female CEOs are just now able to begin working on those problems and there are hundreds of them.
People start companies to solve problems they are familiar with. Many issues that concern millions of women still lack inventive solutions because women fight an uphill battle as entrepreneurs.
2) Finding Fundraising for a Woman-Only Product
After an entrepreneur identifies the problem they're trying to solve, what follows is a sometimes a magnificent number of roadblocks. One of the biggest barriers to entry is funding.
Launching a business that solves a big problem always piques the interest of investors but the challenge is, what if they genuinely cannot understand the problem you are solving?
"Men don't personally experience the embarrassment or discomfort of these symptoms and therefore have difficulty relating to or recognizing the significance of the issues," Courtion said. "I have met with countless male investors who, at the end of my presentation, ask if this is really a problem for women."
3) Steps to Victory
There are 7.8 million women-owned businesses across the country, which is less than 30 percent of all businesses. Luckily, that number is slowly but surely on the rise--women-owned businesses jumped from 30 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2015.
And now is the time to take the leap. Interest rates are at all time lows and the JOBS Act recently went into effect allowing entrepreneurs to more easily seek capital through online crowdfunding. This greatly lowers the barrier of entry for women and minorities alike.
For women entrepreneurs, there is a massive opportunity to grow their business(es) and solve problems that only they can truly understand. To help other women entrepreneurs follow the path that Courtion traveled, she shares her four-step formula for success:
- Identify: Find a problem that only women experience. The closer you are to an issue, the more inspired you'll likely be to find a solution.
- Solve: Research the problem and speak with those who experience it.
- Data: Before you begin fundraising, gather as much credible data as possible to help you highlight the problem.
- Target: There are thousands of grants for women-owned businesses and investment firms that focus strictly on women-owned businesses.