Some women decide to start a business because they have an innovative product idea that fills a gap in the market or a service they can offer that is in high demand. We love it when women choose the entrepreneurial path because we know the power of feminine business leadership to change the world at large.
Regardless of the motivation, if you’re a woman considering entrepreneurship, here are a few reasons to get excited about taking the proverbial plunge:
Women are likely to be well-armed when it comes to the determination necessary to succeed at starting a business. Rutgers University includes determination in a list of necessary traits in prospective and burgeoning entrepreneurs, along with perseverance, curiosity, innovation, and fearlessness. They offer the example of Airbnb, which for many months apparently only made about $200 a week; the founders are now estimated to be worth over a billion dollars each.
There is a great deal of interest and momentum behind what’s known as “cause marketing,” at the moment. Forbes cites Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Research in noting that “Women are 1.17 times more likely than men to create social ventures rather than only economic ventures, and 1.23 times more likely to pursue environmental ventures than economic-focused ventures.” Considering the current popularity of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability issues, women would be well-advised to pursue a business putting environmental conservation, energy efficiency, or social justice causes front and center.
There is now the existence of Certified B Corporations, certified by B Lab—who define B corporations as “for profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.” A new interest in the triple bottom line of “profit-people-planet” is making B Corps especially appealing to a younger generation interested in supporting causes that value sustainability and economic equity. The new prominence of B corps should be especially motivating to women interested in starting forward-thinking businesses concerned with contributing to the social good.
It doesn’t cost as much money as you might think, at first. In fact, according to Intuit, “The majority (64%) of small business owners start with less than $10,000.” That’s great news to those of us on a budget—which, let’s face it, is most of us. One way to make the process more painful is to start your business on the side, rather than quitting your job and hoping for the best. That way, you have a bit more breathing room to settle in and figure out which aspects of the business need adjustment or revision before full-launch. Entrepreneur offers a list of affordable business ideas to get you started, in case you’re at a loss for reliable options that are also on the frugal side.
However, if you are willing to shoot for more capital with which to start your business—especially if your business happens to be tech-based—Mackenzie Burnett put together a list of female angel and early-stage investors in tech. It helps immensely to tap into female-run investment firms, since for whatever reason many male investors are still biased against female entrepreneurs. Look into Broadway Angels, whose founder, Sonja Perkins, was recently interviewed by Fortune.
The last and perhaps most significant reason to start your own business is because of more independence and greater money-making potential. Many women want to start a family or would simply prefer to be their own boss than be forced to put up with traditional male-dominated hierarchies in a more traditional office setting. There is a great deal of marketing and business-based interaction that can take place online, now, as well—as opposed to in person or with the luxury of a brick-and-mortar office location. The traditional overhead costs simply don’t exist, when you work remotely or from a home-based office. And being in charge of your own business means you get to set your own rates or prices, which can feel empowering!
Make no mistake: setting out on your own can feel intimidating, and it probably won’t be easy. Set goals for yourself, and don’t be afraid to share your idea with the world. You have most of the resources you need, and you can find the ones you’re missing with the support and collaboration of your fellow females.
Forming a concrete image of your future entrepreurial success can keep you motivated when the going gets tough. Try this guided visualization from Right-Brain Business Plan author Jennifer Lee to connect with your future success:
A 21st century woman who’s looking for a lucrative and in-demand field in which to start a career—or a business—may want to consider the skilled trades. While women have not traditionally filled job roles like electrician, carpenter, welder, or HVAC technician, they may find it easier these days to break in and find success than in the past due to shortages of skilled labor and greater emphasis on workplace diversity. Plus, many women could find benefits to working in the trades compared to traditionally female-dominated fields.
Skilled Labor Shortage
Over recent decades, graduating high school seniors have been steered toward pursuing a college degree rather than vocational training. Popular opinions regarding education and professional success have influenced this push. As a result, there are fewer young people trained to take up skilled trade positions for those who are retiring. One piece of proof for this trend is that the number of unemployed construction workers fell by 1.1 million in the four years before 2014 according to Associated General Contractors of America. Another statistic indicative of a move toward a skilled labor shortage is the fact that 35 percent of 112 economists surveyed in 2015 by the National Association for Business Economics reported skilled labor shortages.
At the same time that the skilled trade labor shortage is developing, businesses are becoming more and more eager to build a diverse workforce. Diversity in the workplace is not just about ethnic or racial diversity, but also about gender diversity. This means that women nowadays may find that it is easier for them to land a job in the skilled trades since an increasing number of employers are eager to diversify their teams.
Advantages of Skilled Trades
Among the advantages that working in the skilled trades might be expected to bring to female workers are higher salaries, more affordable educational requirements, and higher job demand, as this graphic below highlights. Equally enticing are the entrepreneurial opportunities available in the skilled trades: the construction industry has the second highest rate of self-employment of all major industries. More women-owned businesses could prove beneficial and inspirational for all women!
Check out this beautiful infographic to learn more about all that the trades have to offer women:
A few months ago, we had a feng shui master and his wife over for dinner. His wife and I were talking about our creative writing ventures and, when the master overheard, he chimed in with the simple question, “Where is your writing space? I love to see creative spaces.” I stuttered around an answer. The kitchen counter after the kids are asleep? A stolen afternoon at a coffee shop with thirty other coffee drinkers? The lobby of the rec center while my kids swim?
His look bored into my soul. He said, “Your writing will never take you seriously if you don’t have a sacred space to create in.” In that moment I realized what he was saying was true, but that actually doing something about it felt inconvenient.
“Your writing will never take you seriously if you don’t have a sacred space to create in.”
So I’ve been thinking about it: Does inspiration really squeeze in beside you if she has to contend with the sea of laptops and fancy coffee drinks, table to table with other aspiring creatives? Whether you are seeking to create a poem, a killer investor pitch or high tech breakthrough, if you want to invite inspiration to come visit you need a place for her to sit down. You need a “room of one’s own”, à la Virginia Woolf.
How many of us read A Room of One’s Own in high school or college and said to ourselves, “Right on, sister!” Her small book declares that women need space to tap into their creative power. Like me, you probably thought that when you grew up, you’d insist on the room. It would be a non-negotiable. But as our adult living situation becomes a reality, we concede the space to the distractions around us.
Some never conceded, like my friend and entrepreneur, Renee Israel. Renee is an entrepreneur and cofounder, with her husband Rob, of Doc Popcorn. They both work out of the home and they both have private home offices. When most people were remodeling by tearing down walls for larger living areas, Renee knew that she needed that wall. She insisted on articulated boundaries versus the larger communal space. And with that came intellectual freedom.
I am lucky enough to have an “office” that is shared with my husband, but stacks of to-do’s cover the space: brochures for potential summer camps, permission slips, bills, catalogs and then there’s Will’s desk, which is even more chaotic. When he is sitting at his computer, we chit chat and share, and we interrupt with things like, “Hey, is next Thursday a good day to get the furnace serviced?” My son walks in without a knock to ask if he can have a turn holding the bunny. The humdrum and the wonder have a hard time cohabitating at times. Busy work is worlds away from generative thinking. My office is a place to orchestrate the responsibilities, not the whisperings of my soul.
“My office is a place to orchestrate the responsibilities, not the whisperings of my soul.”
Lately, I’ve been eyeing the potting shed in the back yard. It’s full of straw, torn slip n’ slides, stacked pots, a wasp nest and a weed whacker. All of the that can find another home, I realize. So what is really standing between me and a room of my own? Maybe it’s my own self-doubt, or the fear of taking up space, but I’m getting over that. I may not write the next bestseller, but I just will have more than half an hour without an interruption to my thoughts – that sounds just as delightful. There would be nothing worldly in there, just a writing surface, some cool tchotchkes and creative quotations pinned to the wall. And ventilation. That’s it – all my room needs.
I like to think of it this way: HGTV is full of shows on creating the dream man-cave, but what would a woman-cave look like? Even if the best room of your own you can create is the kitchen counter after the kids are asleep – go for it. Find a talisman, light a candle and tell the others to stay away because inspiration needs a signal for the all-clear. Demand it. Do it for Virginia Woolf and the women who fought for the right. Because when we take up space, we take ourselves and our aspirations seriously. And so do those around us.
Show us your “rooms,” ladies. How do you take up space?
Annika Paradise is a freelance writer living in Boulder, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in Brain Child Magazine as well as various blogs. She is currently working on an historical fiction novel that takes place during the women’s suffrage movement in Colorado’s mining towns.
Surely you’ve heard the clichés: The customer is always right. Give the client what they want. Just do what you need to do to make them happy. If all else fails, give them their money back.
But when have clichés ever been a source of wisdom for building relationships with the people who matter most?
They offer no guidance in the often-messy reality of responding to customers’ needs and wants. It’s not for the faint of heart. Anyone who’s been in business long enough will know immediately what we mean: someone comes to you with a complaint, or a critical question, or a request that you change your policy just this once, as a favor, because it’s the “right” thing to do.
When you’re sitting at the computer with a knot in your stomach, you might acquiesce and justmake the problem go away. In the painful moments it may be easier to defy your intuition and good sense than to speak an uncomfortable truth or hold a contested boundary. This is especially tempting when you mistakenly believe that the goal of customer service is to make people happy.
But here’s the truth: “good customer service” doesn’t mean putting your needs second. In fact, a more seasoned, intuitive, and courageous approach to customer service may just get your clients what they need instead of what they want.
In thinking creatively and in your willingness to speak a harder truth when necessary, you may serve customers in ways that they’ve never imagined, which have little to do with the product or service you’re selling. That’s what’s possible here. And in that capacity, you build your brand value along with your contribution to the world.
Most of us don’t even realize the ways we undermine ourselves. So here are the top 5 ways businesses unintentionally weaken their brand:
1. Falling on your sword to make the customer right.
We’ve all heard it before, but it’s just not true. Customers are human, and as such, they are funny, silly, forgetful, emotional and prone to make mistakes – just like us. They are also compassionate, caring, full of grace and forgiveness – you know, the good stuff – and we wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s no need for the blame game with your clients or customers, but there’s no need for you or your brand take the hit to stroke their ego.
Case in point: we were recently consulting with a client on creating some friendly scripts for failed subscription payments. They wanted their message to be kind and free from shaming language. (Yes, yes, yes, we couldn’t agree more.) However, the current model that they wanted to keep stated, We’re sorry, your payment has failed; perhaps something is wrong with our system (it happens), please try again or use a new payment method.
Do you see what’s happening here? This approach presumes shame on the customer’s part and assumes the blame. But look, failed payments happen. They’re nothing to be embarrassed about. They aren’t a sign of financial insolvency or an indication of personal irresponsibility. More often than not, a failed payment is the result of an expired or stolen credit card. There was no need to preemptively diminish the company’s payment system or apologize for the customer’s own oversight. Neither approach establishes trust in your brand and, worse, the former makes a valid case for customers not using your system in the future.
So keep it simple, stick to the facts, and be positive: Hi there, it looks like we are unable to charge the card we have on file for you. This generally happens when the card expires or some information changes. Here’s a secure link to update your payment information. We appreciate you working with us to get this matter resolved. Thanks!
2. Apologizing for things outside of your control.
Along the same lines, apologizing for things outside of your control sends the message that your business isn’t firmly on top of its moving parts. So one of your emails went to spam, and a client missed an important deadline. Or a customer didn’t receive an autoresponder that was delivering paid-course content. These things happen as a normal part of doing business in the virtual world. Instead of an apology, extend understanding (“Well that’s frustrating, isn’t it?”) and immediately move to a solution. (“We’ve got you covered, we just sent that email again.”)
This holds true even if the response you’re crafting is a troubleshooting email or a response to a complaint. All too often “I’m sorry” is said reflexively, without much thought, as a way to avoid further accountability for a situation. It also weakens your brand. There are more precise and productive ways to express that mayyybe you messed up. (You mess up? Nah.)
If you feel sorry, express empathy, and then write with a focus on solutions, from a spirit of assumed, collaborative solution-finding (i.e., “Let’s see what we can do.”).
3. Taking complaints personally.
Complaints frequently feel personal, because your work is woven through with your efforts, your aspirations, your desire to serve. In short, your work is personal because you’ve put yourself on the line. But the truth about client communications is that when it gets tough or goes sour it is RARELY about you (though it feels that way) and is NEVER personal, even if you made a mistake.
Taking things personally takes you out of problem-solving mode and puts you into a defensive, deflecting state of mind. Here again, you don’t need to take responsibility for the things outside of the scope your work, but we all have felt the difference between customer service that takes time to listen and understand our situation, and someone on the other end who is in total deflection-defense mode. The former will win you clients and referrals. The latter will not.
When a customer complains, they’re doing you a favor and giving you the opportunity to fix the situation. If you can get to the root of their problem and arrive at a solution you have a real opportunity to make a happy customer for life.
4. Offering an unhappy customer a refund as a first line of defense.
All too often our clients think they are being kind or delivering the very best in customer service when they immediately offer unhappy customers a refund. But consider this: when you offer a refund to a customer you communicate, “you’re right, our product or service failed you.” Sometimes it comes out of conflict avoidance or simple dismissiveness – a quick fix to avoid having to “deal with them.”
Over and over we see it. A talented, committed business owner whose work gives incredible value to her people will suddenly dissolve into no-questions-asked when someone writes a nasty-gram. (And sometimes it doesn’t even have to be nasty, but there is fear that it could become nasty.)
When we can face the complaints and gnarly moments with poise, even while our heart is racing and our stomach is in knots, we can learn so much. The unhappy customer may teach you something valuable about your target market, what they expect or don’t like, or the ways that what they’ve tried have failed them and how they feel about that. (Yes, there are always needlessly painful moments and folks who are caught up in their own neuroses. But remember that the most difficult cases aren’t fundamentally about you or your work anyway.) So it’s important to appreciate the value of what can be learned in the tough spots, even though it always feels awful in the thick of it, and to respond with grace rather than reacting with fear.
Sometimes when your surprising kindness and graciousness saves the day (because often it will save the day) people are so blown away that they will come back another time.
If you can’t remedy the person’s real complaint or objection and you make a graceful choice to offer money back (an important distinction, by the way: your ability to choose to give a refund from graciousness rather than shame) – that person becomes a brand ambassador rather than a detractor. Your genuine connection with them can shift what they say from “This product or service failed me,” to “That company is great, but I just wasn’t ready for what they were offering.”
5. Assuming you have to reinvent the wheel of kindness with every reply.
Writing a kind, personal, unique email each and every time is the ideal, right? It means you and your team are delivering the very best in customer service. Well, not when it slows down the lines of communication or creates yet another unattainable standard of perfection.
Here’s the good news: it is absolutely possible to use a “formula” without writing a formulaic email. There is a middle way between pasting an impersonal blurb and feeling obligated to reinvent the wheel of kindness with every reply. This formula is the backbone that supports most of the communications that have come across our desks, because it allows for genuine connection that isn’t onerous or cheesy.
Here’s how it works… Use the 7 step non-formula formula:
Step 1: Thank them wherever possible.
Step 2: Make them feel heard and unique.
Step 3: If it’s a troublesome case, consider finding an alternative to saying “I’m sorry.” If you feel sorry, express empathy, and then write with a focus on solutions.
Step 4: Now work your particular magic. Move to a solution, recommend a service, etc.
Step 5: Outline the next steps involved and/or what’s needed from them.
Step 6: Clearly state what you need and make a call to action. Don’t bury this in the paragraph above (the one that’s full of abundant explanations).
Step 7: Keep the lines of communication and gratitude open, even as you sign off.
Good customer service simply means that you’ve honored the implicit and explicit agreements between you and the people you are helping. It means that your clients and customers reliably get what you’ve set them up to expect. And in order to provide those things, it’s critical to stand for yourself and your brand with dignity and integrity. When you model that, your brand’s trustworthiness grows, and so does its value. It’s a commitment worth making.
Now tell us: what are the hardest customer service moments for you? When are you most tempted to abandon your policies or to do the “nice” thing at your own expense? What might you do differently if you didn’t think your job was to make people happy?
Nita Apple and JessLarsen Jukelevics of nitaapple.com are the co-authors of Say It With Grace Toolkit: a Blueprint for Stellar Client Communications. The Toolkit contains email templates and a customer service guide for what to expect, how to say it, and what to do when customer service gets gnarly. Together they provide a custom service called Let Us Say It With Grace and consult with businesses about ways to use customer service to build their brand, engage and retain delighted customers, and empower their support teams to do outstanding work.
For Nita Apple customer service was hardcoded into her DNA, as she grew up working in the family store, The Happy Apple. Greeting customers with a warm smile and can-do attitude was the norm, even for a five-year-old. Nita carried that service approach forward throughout her corporate career – whether working as a Human Resource Manager or an Employee Benefit Consultant – her approach was to treat everyone as a customer with a problem solving mindset. Today, Nita calls herself a Customer Service Solution-ist for online businesses. She’s a problem solver by nature, an intuitive innovator, and the founder of the online consulting firm nitaapple.com.
Jess Larsen Jukelevics is the founder of two businesses: a copywriting + virtual support firm and a birth doula + childbirth preparation practice. (You may think online course management and labor support wouldn’t meet in the middle. You’d be surprised.) Jess has a background in public relations, public policy and public health. She brings an instinctive sense about what needs to be communicated, and curiosity about ways that inspired communication can facilitate professional, personal and spiritual growth.
Have any of you out there felt that you need to work really hard, climb high hills, carry big stones, and develop callouses on your hands in order to make big things happen? I have. Truthfully, I don’t remember achieving anything of note without really digging in and putting in some serious dedicated effort.
As a rule, I am suspicious of any approach that touts short cuts to getting what you want – affirmations, manifesting techniques, get rich quick groups. In my experience, when we really apply ourselves to any pursuit in life, we learn, grow and develop a wisdom that cannot be replicated by mere statements. I tend to respect perseverance, tenacity and weathered hands over glossy tales of being in the right place at the right time.
And yet when I came across this chapter in Vicki Saunders‘ book, How To Think Like A SheEO, I was totally blown away: It Doesn’t Have To Be Hard. Wow. Instantly, I wanted to franchise that sentence – I saw bumper stickers, t-shirts, retail stores, a travelling SUV. “It doesn’t have to be hard.” Say it. It does a number on you.
This is what I love about Vicki – she recommends that we lead by leveraging what comes naturally to us. By focusing on what we are masterful at we can increase our levels of success without increasing our levels of stress.
For me, the “hard” is not in the work itself (I am a Capricorn, I like to work hard!), but in the emotional exhaustion that comes with trying to do everything by myself – the learning curve, the top-line execution, the progressive leadership, the cash-positive business, the social impact, and so on. We all set high bars for ourselves, but must we tackle all of this by ourselves?
I, for one, am ready for a new model. One that is based on true connection and authentic relationships. For example, if you are at a networking party, focus on developing relationships with people you really connect with. You might end up in deep conversations with only two people, but then you later ask them to introduce you to their friends.
Choosing this instead of “working the room,” passing out your cards and not remembering who you spoke to at the end of the night? Hells yes! Easy, right?
When we connect with others as we reach for the stars life becomes easier – and the opportunities multiply. We learn faster, and we find the ropes we need to help us climb those high hills. But best of all, we are nourished – not depleted – by the shared human experience of striving. And that is not hard – it’s aaaahhhh.
Founder, Emerging Women
PS – The $100 Early Bird discount for March Power Circles ends on Wednesday at midnight! Register HERE to be matched into a group of women specially tailored to accent and compliment your desire to take your business to the next level (spaces are limited).
Chelsea has over 15 years of experience in administrative and executive support. After her years of working in the legal and oil and gas industry, Chelsea has made it her passion to fill her life with creativity and incorporates that into everything she does. Her position at Emerging Women allows her to expand on that creativity and assist with empowering women around the world. She is a native of Colorado and enjoys spending time with her husband, her son, bonus son, family, and friends. In her free time she loves camping, painting, and all things creative.
Online Business Manager
Michelle studied Marketing and received her degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her passion for marketing, combined with great attention to detail, and over 7 years of experience in the tech-world makes her a valuable asset to the team! In addition to Emerging Women, she is also a solopreneur and works with a number of different clients in the online business realm. She is an experienced Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant who specializes in marketing operations, project management and online course launch management. She is a Colorado native, mother of two dogs, a cat, and a turtle, and step-mother to an amazing little girl. In her spare time she enjoys live music, good food, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family.
Power Circle Administrator
Jen comes to Emerging Women with over 25 years of experience in event operations and volunteer management. She has worked various types of events as a Volunteer Manager for Integral Life conferences and as an Event Coordinator for various large arts and sports festivals throughout Colorado. Alongside her passion for creating and producing events, she worked as a hospital administrator for over a decade in one of Denver’s largest hospitals helping make care affordable to hundreds of patients. Jen was born in Lima, Peru but has spent most of her life in Colorado. In 2016, a year sabbatical morphed into a life living abroad. Jen has been living in Cusco, Peru for the past four years and cherishes her life in the Andes mountains. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the world, playing capoeira, and deepening her yoga and meditation practices.
Director of Power Circles
For over 13 years, Nicole has been a producer and connector in the field of personal and professional growth and transformation, creating diverse content, life-changing curriculum, and exquisite live and online experiences. She loves to unite and facilitate people in their work to live more good, true, and beautiful lives. She’s honored to bring this diverse expertise to Emerging Women. For the past two years she has been the lead producer for Emerging Women Live, and now is bringing her extensive production, coaching and facilitation skills to EW’s Power Circles. Nicole works in private practice as a Certified Integral Master Coach™, through her company, Unabashedly You, and has worked with hundreds of women (and men) individually and as a group facilitator. She also creates programs and interviews fascinating teachers and wellness experts in her role as U.S. Content Producer for Conscious Life. She is the co-founder of Core Integral, an educational company offering a comprehensive and accessible approach to learning integral theory. Prior to this work, she owned a large and lively restaurant and brewery in Pennsylvania. She has studied extensively and worked alongside Ken Wilber (Integral Theory), Daniel Brown, PhD (Tibetan Buddhism, Self-Development, Attachment, and Positive Psychology), and Sofia Diaz (Hatha Yoga and Feminine Embodiment). She holds a Masters Degree from Lehigh University. She regularly delights in the sunshine and mountains of Colorado with her two dogs and her partner Clint, and is a new mama to her daughter Truly Golden.
Founder & CEO
Chantal’s mission is to increase women’s leadership across the globe. After earning an MBA from the University of Colorado, Chantal left a career in medical device manufacturing in search of work that would align her dedication to transformative leadership with her passion for living an inspired, impactful life. In September 2012, she founded Emerging Women, a global leadership and media platform that serves over 70,000 women worldwide and has advanced women’s leadership within Fortune 500 companies such as HP, Oracle and more. Chantal’s ultimate vision is to weave feminine leadership and authenticity into businesses, and to create a world where women have a strong voice in the shaping of our future. Prior to Emerging Women, for over a decade, Chantal served on the executive team as the VP of Sales and Marketing for Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company focused on spirituality, personal growth, and holistic living. Chantal is a sought after speaker delivering keynotes at The Grace Hopper Celebration, Wisdom 2.0, and many other stages where women’s leadership is critical to the conversation. When she is not dancing or working to empower women around the world, Chantal enjoys family time with her husband and two sons in Boulder, CO.