At Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO), we support the positive trend of empowering women in entrepreneurship. Specific groups including MyEO Women of EO encourage support as individuals pursue their unique entrepreneurial journeys. To celebrate Women's Entrepreneurship Day on 19 November, we are sharing exclusive content from three WOMENtrepreneurs from different countries, which may inform others as they embark on their own journeys. Mary Evelyn is Managing Director of Bushwood Golf Club and a member serving as president of EO Toronto; Deb Gabor is CEO of Sol Marketing and an EO Austin member; Kim Parascos is CEO of iVolve Pty Ltd and an EO Brisbane member. Here's what they shared:
The entrepreneurial path is wrought with exhilarating highs offset by sometimes demoralizing lows. A big part of an entrepreneur's success or failure is his or her fortitude in dealing with obstacles along the journey. Study after study shows that women entrepreneurs worldwide face unique challenges from their male counterparts. Yet, current research and global statistics also show a steady uptick in the number of women entrepreneurs entering the marketplace worldwide. How are women recognizing and finding ways to cope with the challenges they face? Why are entrepreneurial women worldwide committing to and succeeding in building businesses despite inherent challenges?
Intentional versus accidental entrepreneurship
Some fortunate women are groomed from childhood to pursue an entrepreneurial path. Mary Evelyn counts herself among them.
"My dad and maternal grandfather were both entrepreneurs; I had the luxury of working in our family business which taught me the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey," Mary explained. "I always envisioned having my own business. The job search after business school convinced me that I am an entrepreneur and would likely not be able to work for someone else."
For others, the thought of owning their own business never occurred, but rather just happened. Kim Parascos is a prime example: "To be honest, entrepreneurship snuck up on me," she shared.
Deb Gabor also falls into that camp, self-identifying as an "accidental entrepreneur."
"I realized that I make a terrible employee. So, I walked out of a lucrative, high-level executive position and hung my shingle as an independent consultant. Very quickly, my clients and I realized that I had a 'secret sauce' far bigger than what I could deliver on my own. I started hiring helpers who graduated into employees, and subsequently, it became a business," Deb recalled. "All of a sudden, I was running a company. I never set out to do that; it was totally unexpected. Yet, I settled into it when I realized there was a demand for the flavor of problem-solving I could deliver with the help of a dedicated, service-focused team."
There are many other paths to becoming one's own boss that women throughout the world pursue daily. No matter how their entrepreneurial path begins, like all business owners, they are guaranteed to face a few obstacles.
Research reveals that at least some of the challenges women entrepreneurs face are directly related to their gender. On an individual basis, however, the extent to which that is felt can vary. Deb, Kim and Mary―each with unique businesses and operating in considerably different places and spaces―bear that out in their personal experience.
Kim contends that there is no single, stand-out challenge that she's faced as an entrepreneur: "The biggest challenge for entrepreneurs is that there are always challenges. Always. Sometimes you think you have it nailed and that's when the next wave hits. The biggest challenge is growing your resilience."
Mary recounts a challenge as a women entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry. "The most difficult challenge for me was getting through the male factor in the golf industry; it is in many respects an old boys' club. When I tried different things in my business, I got push-back from others," she noted.
Deb, on the other hand, looks inward to identify the biggest issue she's overcome. "My own lack of understanding and knowledge of how to run a business was the main obstacle I had to overcome. As an accidental business owner, I had only my past experiences running someone else's business as preparation. With a lot of twists and turns along the way―and quite a few mistakes―I managed to succeed in spite of my limitations."
Read part two of this interview, as these entrepreneurs address work-life balance and encouraging young women to consider entrepreneurship in the future.