March 2, 2017
Inspiration can come from many places. Whether it's your family, your coworkers, or the inspirational posters hanging on your wall, there are plenty of sources that promote keeping your eyes on the prizes. For founders building a business, staying motivated and keeping their team focused is incredibly important to breeding success.
We asked three female startup founders about how they overcame challenges while building a business and what they use as inspiration to keep moving forward.
Trust Yourself and Take the Leap
Ask any early-stage founder and they'll tell you that they're constantly playing catch up while managing all the new challenges coming their way.
Maura Kolkmeyer, founder and CEO of Sitterly, an app that connects local families with college students babysitters, said her biggest challenge was taking the leap from corporate life to founder, and there hasn’t been a boring moment since.
“I was building Sitterly on the side while managing high visibility government clients,” said Maura. “I was quickly running out of gas and knew one or both would start to suffer, [so] I made the tough decision to quit. It was a challenge to trust myself enough to make that leap. Everyday holds a new challenge [and] sometimes it feels like playing whack-a-mole, but every day I reach a new high score! There is never a dull moment.”
Maura’s inspiration stems from her philanthropic nature and encourages founders to find time to help people for the greater good.
“Focus on one thing: connecting with and help people,” said Maura. “The world is so noisy and competing for attention. The one thing that cuts through all the b.s. is an authentic desire to help someone and the ability to execute on the promise. You don’t need permission to help people. So stop waiting.”
Release Your Inner Confidence
Maxeme Tuchman, CEO of Caribu, an educational platform that allows parents to have story time with their child from any location, had to dissolve her previous venture, a food tech company, back in 2012 after a short run because the timing wasn’t right. She continued to find inspiration and motivation by maintaining focus on her vision to change the world and create solutions to real-world challenges.
“Although the idea was amazing, and people think it’s a novel idea, the timing was not ideal. That summer four other food apps had launched or pivoted and diluted [the traction] we needed. We ended up dissolving our company, and sometimes that’s the right answer. Let your gut tell you when that is. If you’re going to fail, fail forward and fail fast,” Maxeme said.
As a woman-of-color, Maxeme has some strong advice to other female founders: ditch any self-doubt, take credit where credit is due, and if you are going to beat yourself up over something, do it in private.
“If you exude that lack of confidence, you and others will very quickly believe it,” said Maxeme. “Remind yourself that you’re building for a more inclusive community. Women tend to build for families, other women, and the underserved. Let that fuel your passion and hunger for making your business a resounding success.”
Ask For What You Want
Aleda Schaffer, cofounder of PureCarbon, the developers of the smart exercise and tracking Delta Gloves, founded the company with her husband. And while there are many couplepreneurs building great businesses, Aleda knew from the beginning that it could be a potential red flag for investors. Aleda faced the challenge by leaning on their accolades and expertise to overcome the obstacles.
“My cofounder is a brilliant man with extensive experience building IoT prototypes for Fortune 100 companies,” said Aleda. “It is a great partnership as our skill sets are highly complimentary to each other. Knowing [that being a husband and wife team] could be an issue, we have several slides in our appendix that highlight our work together at a large corporation, our experiences working together over the last 15 years and other companies with couplepreneurs that have been successful and exited. We never try to hide or marriage and see it as a strength.”
Aleda’s inner strength stems from growing up in a family of entrepreneurs. Her father had a business that went under and they had to struggle to make it back. Aleda pulls inspiration from this life experience and uses this motivation as her time as an entrepreneur.
“The reality of what can happen as an entrepreneur is not lost on me. There are days where everything clicks and you there are days where you feel like you are dancing with the infamous ‘trough of sorrow,'” Aleda said.
Women in the workforce consistently deal with the difference in pay grade, raises and promotions. One of the contributing factors to this problem is that women simply don't ask for more and that needs to change, Aldea said. Her advice to female founders is simple: remember to ask for what you want and that you are not alone.
“There are so many people rooting for you that you have never even met. There are corporations out there rooting for you to succeed – use them as a resource. I was fortunate enough to work on the Innovators Initiative at American Airlines providing travel grants to promising startups and also meeting with many other corporations who are doing the same. As a founder, these are a valuable resource as you are setting up your company,” Aleda said.
As a founder you have to learn to roll with the punches, appreciate the little wins and continue to believe in your product.
“As a founder, you have to learn how to ride the waves, celebrate the high points, learn from the low points and just keep going. What keeps me motivated is that as a founder these are problems I get to have and I believe in my product, my team and myself enough to keep pushing,” Aleda said.
Read about more inspirational moments from founders here on Tech.Co
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