Are you a woman with a passion for entrepreneurship? Do you spend countless hours daydreaming about the day when you finally can run your own business and be your own boss? You have the drive. You have the passion. But you’re hesitant. You lack the confidence you need to make that final leap into entrepreneurship. Five key practices that will help you build and maintain your self-confidence as a female founder are: networking, establishing and maintaining boundaries, setting realistic expectations, offering a quality product, and focusing on the positive impact of your business.
Networking is an activity that all women do on a daily basis, whether we know it or not. It’s simply about building and strengthening relationships. Vanessa Abron, owner of Agency Abron in Chicago, IL, stresses how networking with other women entrepreneurs strengthens and encourages her, both personally and professionally. “Networking is easiest when you seek to develop genuine relationships with others, and not have it be something where you are only looking for those who can help you. Learn to value and appreciate what everyone does and what they have to offer, no matter if they can help you now or later,” she says.
“Having the support of other women who understand your situation is important.” Her company, Agency Abron, provides clients with creative direction. “We work with clients to develop a recognizable creative identity, including conceiving, developing, and implementing the artistic vision and focus for an organization,” Ms. Abron shared with GREY Journal.
Entrepreneur Jennifer Bradsher, fitness instructor and owner of the Jazzercise Fitness Center in Fernandina Beach, FL, says that networking with other business owners is crucial for her business. “Surround yourself with smart, supportive people. Support is critical to being successful.” Networking in business is the framework for growth and success. Ever heard the phrase, “It’s all about who you know”? There’s a reason for that. Not only does networking provide a framework for success, it is also a source of encouragement for women entrepreneurs.
The owner of the Fernandina Beach Jazzercise goes on to say, “I have a group of managers/mentors through Jazzercise I can reach out to for help and advice, as well as many seasoned facility owners who are very supportive. I also have other business owner friends I bounce ideas off of or reach out to if I hit a speed bump. I know I already said this, but being connected to a supportive community is so important.”
Establish and Maintain Boundaries
Many women spend so much time at home, making their family a priority, but not themselves. While there is nothing inherently wrong with serving others—giving of yourself can be personally gratifying—forgetting to take care of yourself in the process can have damaging and lasting results. Not only will you suffer from “burn-out,” but your business will be negatively affected as a result. Establishing a proper home/work balance will carry you through stressful times as a female business owner and keep you feeling confident in your abilities!
Ms. Abron shared her thoughts with us about maintaining personal boundaries as a woman in business: “I pray, I meditate, and I seek help and support from others when I need it. If I’m overwhelmed, I communicate that I’m overwhelmed. If I need help or if I need grace, I communicate that. I retired my cape and I relinquished being everything to everyone all of the time.”
In our interview, Ms. Bradsher also reminisced about what it was like as a new business owner. “Balancing time for family and time for the business was a struggle. The business will eat all my time. It’s a pit. I had to establish limits because my family was/is my number one priority.” So, on the flip side, saying yes to every business opportunity that comes along can put stress on your personal life and friendships, especially when you think you need to be a people-pleaser to be successful.
However, recognizing appropriate boundaries and saying no to things that aren’t essential is a necessary part of life. You would think learning how to say “no” could be emotionally draining; in reality, expressing healthy boundaries energizes you and boosts your confidence, both in your personal and in your professional life. Your colleagues and employees will respect you more when you set expectations about how people should treat you, and this respect will give you the confidence you need to be a successful leader.
Set Realistic Expectations
When I asked Ms. Bradsher if she had tips for other women who would like to start their own businesses, she admitted, “You get out of it what you put into it. Be real with yourself on how much you are willing to work. It’s a lot of work.” As a new entrepreneur, you will make the rookie mistake of seeing your business through rose-colored glasses. It’s important to be realistic about your limitations. I also asked Jennifer to name some of the challenges she still faces today as a seasoned business owner. In response, she continues, “Maintaining energy, interest, and momentum. When you’re a new business, everyone is excited and interested. After a while, the newness and excitement wear off. It takes effort to keep up energy and interest.”
“Manage your expectations. I think a lot of companies expect to be an instant success. It normally takes years to become the success you have in your mind. You have to allow yourself and your business the opportunity to fall, make mistakes, grow, refine your voice, etc. There’s actually beauty in the struggle,” adds Ms. Abron, when I asked her about the expectations versus reality when she started growing her business. “The hard times refine us and make our business better and it makes us better individuals and leaders.”
Offer a Quality Product
Do you have an idea you can’t wait to try out for a new business venture? Maybe you love crafting, painting, or baking, and would love to implement your talents into a business model. Perhaps you’re passionate about health and would like to become a certified fitness or yoga instructor and open your own studio like Jennifer Bradsher. Maybe you dream about guiding others to achieve their business goals like Vanessa Abron. Above all else, make sure to offer a quality product that your target audience will want. Without a desirable product, you will not generate sufficient revenue. And without sufficient revenue, businesses fail before they even have a chance to take off.
Regarding the business model, Jennifer says, “Do your research. Make sure you are aligning yourself with a reputable product/program/resource/whatever that has a proven track record and reputation. Don’t be a gullible sucker.”
Focus on the Positive Impact of Your Business
Lastly, to boost and maintain your confidence as a female founder, remember why you started your business in the first place. It’s easy to get sidetracked by the minutia and forget the important things in life. The same principle applies in business. Creating a mission statement is a great way to keep the purpose of your business in the forefront of your mind. To get started, ask yourself a few questions. What would you like to accomplish through your business? Who do you want to influence? And what positive impact would you like to make on your community, and ultimately, the world?
Have any more tips on how to boost your confidence as a female founder? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.