While women-owned small businesses are still a minority, the numbers are set to rise with more and more women starting up on their own.
Why do so many women start their own businesses? For many of us, the reason is work-life balance. We believe that being our own boss will mean more flexibility and the freedom to order our lives the way we want to.
The reality is that a small operation can be incredibly demanding in its early stages, and more than half of small businesses fail in the first three years. It’s tempting to keep your startup small and “manageable,” but businesses with a less than $50,000 annual turnover have the lowest survival rate, while those turning over $10 million or more have a much healthier chance of survival.
While growth can be fear inducing, we want to see more women entrepreneurs breaking through that seven- and eight-figure ceiling—and enjoy the perks of being your own boss, as well.
Don’t let these myths hold you back from playing a bigger game:
Myth #1: Staying small means staying flexible.
Many female entrepreneurs are motivated by flexibility when they decide to become their own boss. Then they discover the reality that running a business is hard at any size. Early in my career, I felt stuck in my business because all our clients wanted to deal with me personally; I believed that growing it bigger would make it even harder.
It seems counterintuitive that it would get easier as it grows, but while the business is just you (and a few employees), it relies on you being available and involved 24/7. Once you’ve grown and trained a reliable team to implement what you’ve developed, you’ll have more freedom to get away from the office day to day.
I’ve been through this process with several startups now, and my comfort zone is getting bigger each time.
Myth #2: If I want it done well, I have to do it myself.
At work: You’ll never get free if you insist on being the only face of your business; if you do, your clients will never want to deal with anybody else. It’s your responsibility to set culture so that your team learns to run the business as you would yourself.
Partnering up with like-minded people is essential for growth, but a perfect partnership is hard to find. Follow a few key principles and you can foster a healthy, powerful partnership based on shared values.
At home: A 2013 study showed that women who earned more money than their partners also did a larger share of household chores. Giving up control of those tasks to your partner, family members or hired help isn’t a weakness; it frees you to focus your energy. Concentrate on the areas where you bring unique value, and invite others in to share your life and take care of the rest.
Myth #3: I don’t have the resources to break into the international market.
Taking your product to the global marketplace can represent a huge mental block. But local growth takes a huge amount of time and effort, too. Think about the energy that you’re going to invest anyway and then consider the most effective way to invest it.
You could sleep in your own bed and knock on doors all day to promote your product at home. Or you could sleep overnight on an airplane and spend the same amount of energy taking much bigger meetings in Beijing or New York.
In my case, my business partner, Janine, has combined lifestyle and business by taking an apartment in Los Angeles, from where she can coordinate Gutsii’s U.S. product launches to correspond with launching in Australia. Another benefit of not trying to do it all alone!
Myth #4: It’s better to be a big fish in a little pond.
You won’t grow unless you’re prepared to be a little fish in a big pond. When I’m choosing whom to spend time with, I want to choose people who challenge me. I like working with people who intimidate me a little bit. Those people can teach me something!
It’s intimidating to seek out people who are smarter, wealthier, more experienced or higher risk-takers than you, but the rewards are worth it. You can’t predict the kinds of connections you’ll make or the people you’ll meet.
When Janine took the leap to move to Los Angeles, she didn’t know what was waiting for her there—she just knew that she wanted to rub shoulders with more inspiring people and see if our products could stand up in a more discerning market. She was recently named as a wellness leader in the city, despite only having moved there five months ago, something that never would have happened if she’d stayed in her circle of comfort.
Pushing your business out of its comfort zone involves personal and financial risk, and can represent a huge emotional burden. The support of your tribe is crucial, especially for women. We all need a little black book of people we can call on for advice, resources and expertise to help us handle the challenges of rapid growth.
Of course, the best way to widen your tribe and meet more amazing people is to step out of your immediate circle and step into a bigger game.