Women have long been underrepresented in entrepreneurship, but that trend is shifting. Since 2007, the number of women entrepreneurs in the US has increased over 30 percent, making up 36 percent of all businesses, according to the 2012 census.
Globally, entrepreneurship rates among women increased by 13 percent versus 5 percent for men, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which monitors 40 economies from around the world.
Moreover, it has been estimated that if more gender parity existed in entrepreneurship, and women started businesses at the same rate as men, global GDP might increase by $28 trillion by 2025.
Even greater than the gender disparity between entrepreneurs is that of role models for aspiring female entrepreneurs. In a business environment dominated by males, the ability to access a woman role model with personal experience is a significant challenge.
One female entrepreneur trying to have an impact in this regard is Kavita Sahai, CEO and Founder of Have BIG Plans, which conveniently, affordably and virtually (through a unique text business coaching platform) connects entrepreneurs with certified business coaches. Kavita has more then ten years experience working with entrepreneurs and helped establish the entrepreneurship program at Lynn University.
"Even though I had been a successful coach, consultant and investor, and seen the common pitfalls and mistakes," recalls Sahai, "I still hesitated when starting my own business. As I reflect on the day that I finally made that jump, I wish someone would have been there to give me tips and told me, 'this will be the best decision you ever make.'"
Sahai has made it a point to help other female entrepreneurs who find it challenging to access other woman role models with personal experience. Here are ten tips she gives to others.
1. Do not be afraid to fail.
You have to move outside of your comfort zone. Resumes that include failures are great proof that you have taken the necessary risks in your journey. Often, women are more affected by failure and let it affect their confidence. Don't let it. Failure is an inevitable part of success, from which we learn.
Remember the great advice of George Burns, "I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate."
2. Get feedback.
Feedback is critical to validate your business. Competitive research can also help you understand what customers want. You will need to go beyond researching on your competitor's websites. Read reviews, find articles about them, and interview their customers. Pay particular mind to negative reviews and ask people specifically what they wish they were getting out of the product or service they're using from your competition.
Doing this in-depth analysis will help you determine where your competition's strengths and weaknesses. Once you find their weaknesses, you should exploit them by making sure your product or service fills that gap for customers.
If you are in a business that produces a product, then crowdfunding can be a great way to quickly validate your idea. Even though there are several crowdfunding sites, iFundWomen is a new platform for women-led startups and small business and offers free crowdfunding coaching.
3. Keep learning.
The key to growth, innovation and success is knowledge. Every successful entrepreneur I have met is an avid learner. In fact, the average CEO reads up to 60 books a year. If you don't like reading, try audio books, online classes, masterminds and/or continuing education classes at a local university.
Mentorbox is a great resource that helps busy entrepreneurs by picking out the best business and leadership books and providing summaries and webinars on each book so you can absorb the information in the way that suits your learning style.
4. Become an expert.
The marketplace has shifted, but people still value authenticity and expertise. You can showcase your knowledge through speaking, public relations and/or even blogging. You want to be as visible as possible so make a wish list of places you want to be seen that range from TV to YouTube and podcasts. Guest blogging is another great way to gain exposure.
5. Ask for what you need.
As you navigate through your business, you will come across resources that you need ranging from capital to knowledge. Figure out what you need at each stage and ask everyone. It is often the most unlikely people that will give you the insight you are looking for. Ask people you meet in person, ask in Facebook and LinkedIn groups and ask your personal network.
6. Minimize negative people.
You will meet a lot of doubters and people who do not get or understand your vision. Try to avoid these people or at least any work conversation with people that do not inspire you to move forward.
7. Network. Network. Network.
If you want to build a large and successful business, you cannot do it alone. You need to get over your fear of rejection and network like it's your job. The amount of collaboration and connections that can be gained by a large but close network is invaluable.
8. Have BIG plans.
Women often underestimate their own potential and fail to dream big enough. It is important to tap into the inner reason behind your business and really think about the legacy you want to leave behind.
I always think about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, who said, "The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
9. Support #DontDoItAlone.
Female entrepreneurs can shorten the path to success by learning from the success and failures of others. It is important to have both mentorship and accountability to make sure you do not get stuck in your own head or the overwhelming amount of information on the web.
At HaveBIGplans.com, we strive to empower women and millennials to becoming business owners and guiding established entrepreneurs toward prosperity with coaches and mentors who have actually had real world success as business owners.
10. Be confident.
Believe you can do it and you are most of the way there. Entrepreneurship does not follow any "hockey stick-like" projection and looks more like a staircase at best. It is important to maintain confidence and believe that the rocky journey is worth it, because the world needs your impact.
The businesses women who start businesses are usually ones that help make the world a better place. Once we equip women with the right tools and knowledge, we will see an innovative business landscape that is diverse, tolerant and looking to better the world.