Women entrepreneurs come from varying backgrounds, from ethnicity and culture to socio economic background. But what they all have in commoner challenges they have faced being female founders. To truly understand the barriers that prevent women from launching, growing and scaling businesses at the rate of their male counterparts, it’s important to understand and recognize the barriers they face. Here’s the first in our series roundup of women sharing their challenges as entrepreneurs.
At the age of 21 I started working on my own business. I started investing some time in an idea after work, no big deal. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Four years later and Gifting Owl is now in 115 countries, which makes it the largest experience gifting platform in the world. There have been so many lessons learnt over the years. As a twenty-something female, I unfortunately had to learn to co-exist with both ageism and sexism. I learnt the hard way that there is nothing more important than your health and looking after yourself first. But the biggest lesson I had to learn is how to celebrate my own achievements. Young women are terrible at acknowledging their achievements. I am only now just starting to celebrate mine.
Jackie Babbage, Co-Founder of Gifting Owl, @giftingow
Part of being an entrepreneur is becoming a great problem solver. While technology made startup pretty easy, growing and expanding the business was definitely a challenge. When I started getting Kinky-Curly products into more stores, production became a major challenge. We were running out of stock more frequently and could not make the stores and customers wait. I had to spend more money upfront to order more bottles and labels. I had to quickly learn things such as average lead time and the correct reorder point. I did this by looking at past order history as well as making estimates for future orders whenever we signed up with new stores. Even though we still experience spikes in sales, with this plan in place we started doing much better keeping Kinky-Curly products on the store shelves.
Shelley Davis, Founder of Kinky-Curly, @officialkinkycurly
I wouldn’t necessarily reference my experience as difficult or with barriers. Period protection has obviously been around for a while. However, period apparel is a new and growing category in the Femtech space entirely. So for me, learning what this new customer wants and the feasibility of it was the focus. Exploring how I could make my brand offer extremely functional, discreet, high performing, and yes, cute options was a focus. I also asked myself, “How I can differentiate my brand from others.” Once I came up with the answers to this question, my journey was to replicate every product produced with the same focus in mind, but with what my specific customer wanted and wasn’t previously offered. I handled identifying my customer by simply listening to their feedback. I dug deep to explore their unique wants, their needs and their brand. With the collective input of my growing customer base, I was able to define exactly what was needed in order to succeed. The challenge here was to source the most cost-effective materials to produce what I’d love to become a household name—Ruby Love.
Crystal Etienne, Founder & CEO of Ruby Love, @shoprubylove
I am a women entrepreneur who transitioned from the practice of law to an online bakery 3 1/2 years ago. I have faced several challenges in launching this business and they have all been overcome. A brief summary of those challenges include: 1) Being overwhelmed with technology—there is so much to do and so much to learn. I have overcome this challenge by setting small goals for myself every week and being open to learning from others and from experts. 2) Developing my products—from the start, I received advice from other successful business owners that I should start small and simple, and I did. Rather than introducing many different products at once, I had one flavor and one size package. As I learned, I was able to expand to over 20 varieties, four different packages sizes, a subscription and a gluten-free line. 3) A personal challenge is working for myself and not having someone else to bounce ideas off of. I have become involved in a few networking groups with women who are also entrepreneurs and always make sure that I am surrounded by others who are passionate about what they are doing and are smarter than I am so that I can learn.
Daphne Subar, Founder of Subarz, @subarz
I overcame many obstacles and fears to pursue my dream of creating a pet wellness line. Growing up in the Philippines with its patriarchal values, made it nearly impossible to be a young woman entrepreneur, both in my family and in society. My father actually disowned me for six months when I started my first business. I opened my own clothing store and never looked back. I’ve always been a strong, ambitious person with drive, although moving to the US as a newlywed, tested me when I seemed to have lost my drive and forgotten what my dreams were. Becoming a Tory Burch Fellow has been life-changing and inspired me to help other women succeed and embrace their ambition too.
Donie Yamamoto, Founder of Vital Pet Life, @vitalpetlife