According to The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), more than 9.4 million firms were owned by women, employed nearly 7.9 million people, and generated $1.5 trillion in sales in 2015 . In addition, 2.9 million firms are majority-owned by women of color in the U.S., employ 1.4 million people, and generate $226 billion in revenues annually.
In the tech world, women founders and leaders are heavily underrepresented and it’s going to take all of us to work towards change. To start, women founders need to know that there is a strong support system throughout the country filled with people who are cheering you on and are willing to roll up their sleeves and help you succeed-so keep going!
We talked with two women founders, Sara Morgan, the founder of Eleven Eleven PR and Leigh George, the CEO of Freedom, who have built a successful business and have some advice and encouragement for you ladies out there grinding it out everyday to grow your company.
Trusting Your Gut
When asked about some of the most important learning experiences while growing a business, staying lean and trust your gut were at the top of the list.
“When you’re starting a business, avoid spending money on things that won’t directly impact your bottom line,” Sara said. “So many times I’ve seen founders spend money on things that don’t really help them grow, like an extravagant launch party or costly team trips.
[Another important lesson is to] follow your gut instinct. Whether I’m making a hiring decision or choosing which client to work (or not work) with, I have learned how important it is to go with my gut instinct, it has rarely led me in the wrong direction. If it doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.”
Leigh reminds startup founders to stay competitive in the market and true to your brand.
“To stay competitive, you must constantly innovate, but no business today can afford to wait for perfection,” Leigh said. “If you aim for perfection, the market and opportunity will pass you by. I use iteration, experimentation and collaboration to develop new solutions quickly and test my way to success.”
“[As for your brand] to be successful, your brand needs to be as much about your clients as it is about you. I call it that sweet spot at the intersection of a brand’s purpose and clients’ passions.”
Work With Clients That Fit
Acquiring customers is one thing, but working the right customers can be motivating and help position and elevate your business.
“Although there's the pressure in a B2B business like mine to accept any client, I learned very quickly to only work with clients who are the right fit for me,” Leigh said. “Not every organization is a good match for my services and having a clear, distinctive brand helps me quickly identify the relationships that will work. By positioning myself as a different kind of agency that helps organizations innovate, I found I organically attracted clients who wanted to break from what they had done in the past. This taught me to stay true to my brand and not try to be all things to all people.”
It’s easy to look back with 20/20 hindsight and say if only I’d know now what I could have known then my business would have flourished earlier-but that’s life as a startup founder and all people can do is learn from other’s mistakes, experiences and wins. For Leigh, she encourages women to be fearless, learn from your failures and keep going.
“[My 20/20 hindsight is that] I would have started my own company sooner. I had thought about it for years but fear always held me back. However, I realized that like any big life decision, I would never be truly ready and I just needed to do it. Have I made mistakes? Have I fallen flat on my face? Of course!” Leigh said. “But I view these moments as learning experiences and take that knowledge and invest it back into the business to keep moving forward. You never will know what you’re capable of accomplishing if you don’t try.”
For Sara, she encourages other women founders to reach out to each other and provide support and guidance where you can.
“Support each other! I am so proud to represent a number of female-founded companies,” Sara said. “I love working with female entrepreneurs and I feel a true sisterhood with other women that know what it’s like to take a chance to pursue their dream. When you meet another female founder, go out of your way to try to help her. I promise, it will come back times ten.”
Let’s face it, women just don’t take care of themselves as they should, these founders suggest for you to start making a commitment to your health in preparation for the long marathon known as startup life.
“Remember to take care of yourself. The startup culture is so hustle-driven that it can be easy to think you need to work non-stop to be successful,” Leigh said. “I believe in working smarter not harder. Working with incredible efficiency means I can feel good about taking time for myself to exercise, meditate, eat well and get enough sleep (ok I'm not great there!)—all things you need to stay sharp, creative and innovative.”