This week's blog post is brought to you by DeLisa Alexander, Executive Vice President & Chief People Officer at Red Hat. As an advisor and board member for several organizations advancing the entrepreneurial community in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the founder of the Women's Leadership Community at Red Hat, DeLisa understands the barriers faced by female entrepreneurs and she has rounded up her top three tips for women navigating the startup world.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical—to our community, to our country, and to the world. Entrepreneurs are a key part of a robust business ecosystem, because they generate new ideas, challenge the status quo, and help us solve the big problems that our world is facing.
But it’s hard to solve these problems when you’re missing part of the population. While research shows us that women make great entrepreneurs, they’re half as likely as men to start a business.
I’ve seen this play out many times throughout my career, particularly as I’ve worked with organizations like Soar Triangle, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), and other groups that support our local entrepreneurial community in Raleigh.
While the barriers women face in starting a business may be steep, it’s worth the climb. We know that diversity of many types (gender, ethnicity, age) creates greater diversity of thought. For the startup community, that means a better representation of customers, more innovative ideas, and better risk management.
I’ve observed some common traits among women who have been successful in creating and sustaining their own businesses. Here are three tips for those aspiring to be founders or leaders in the startup world:
1. Be aware of the odds and be ready to beat them
Women face additional barriers to entrepreneurship, including bias, greater responsibilities for family and life, and a lack of mentors. Being aware of these obstacles is the first step to overcoming them. For example, finding a mentor in your community might be a challenge. In addition to applying for programs that are open to everyone, take advantage of the resources offered by organizations like iFundWomen. They’re not only connecting women-led startups with mentors, investors, and resources, but also celebrating the successes of startups that are making an impact.
2. Be willing to bootstrap in order to stick to your vision
Entrepreneurs are innovators, and to innovate ahead of your time, you have to stick to your vision. The research tells us that women are resourceful, and they start companies with nearly half as much capital. So as you’re building prototypes and getting started, do what you need to do to bring your ideas to market. If your startup is addressing a problem that the market isn’t ready for yet, you may also need to be willing to make adjustments or find creative, cost-effective ways to communicate your vision. Striking a balance and being flexible on this journey doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your idea. If you’re open to new perspectives, they may improve or shift your idea and make it more fundable. This approach will prepare you to push forward when the market is ready.
3. Be resilient and open to feedback
Starting a new business is a risky undertaking, and there are times when you will get it wrong. It’s important to continue to iterate and build resilience as you approach roadblocks along the way. If you fail, what do you learn from it? How do you quickly iterate and shift your focus to better address the needs of the market? As entrepreneurs and innovators, you're often extending yourself to play many roles, climbing out onto skinny branches to bring your ideas to life. It's easy to want to seek perfection and avoid failures. I’ve learned that while critical feedback can be hard to hear when it’s something you’re deeply passionate about, it will help you avoid the big failures. At Red Hat and in open source communities, we call this “failing faster” -- constantly putting your early ideas out there, accepting input of all kinds, making those ideas better, and abandoning the ones that don’t pan out. This approach means you’re setting yourself up for continuous improvement, and laying the groundwork for the long-term success of your business.
There's no denying the obstacles that female entrepreneurs will face on their way to success, but preparing for these barriers ahead of time might just be the key to your success.
Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions designed to provide customers with scalable & flexible technologies that meet their needs. iFundWomen is honored to have Red Hat as a sponsor of iFundWomen Raleigh, the region's dedicated crowdfunding platform.