October is Women’s Small Business Month, and frankly, small businesses should be celebrated every month. Women account for over half of the new business ventures launched in the U.S.* Many are driven by a desire for flexibility, financial stability and being able to prioritize their work—how and when they want.
Regardless of whether you’re a small business owner or not, everyone should aim to have an entrepreneurial mindset. We need to push ourselves to grow, to be innovative and to think of new ways of doing things. Getting out of our comfort zone means getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s not for someone else, it’s for yourself. These are your best growth moments.
I like wearing high heels, they look good. My mother says when you first wear new shoes they pinch. The more you wear them, the more they stretch, and the more comfortable they become. Being entrepreneurial can feel the same.
As an employee, I broke all the rules. As an entrepreneur, I rewrote the rules that never worked for me. Do the research and discover the why and the what for the business you want to launch. Why are you doing this? What is the hole in the market you want to fill?
I reached out to a few entrepreneurs in the FQ network with startup expertise to share their tips, including the red flags to watch out for, and how to protect yourself from liability.
As we’re well aware, women-owned businesses historically receive less funding when compared to male founders, which limits scale and growth opportunities. Only 2% of all VC funding goes to women.
In addition to having challenges accessing capital, women also often lack business development resources. “Legal is one of the most important things that often takes a backseat,” said Nuzayra Haque-Shah, founder of NH Legal. “This highlights the importance of networking, seeking out female-focused funding sources, and considering alternative financing options such as 0% intro APR credit cards, grants, debt financing, angel investors, or crowdfunding.”
Women often feel uncomfortable discussing their finances and especially those of their business. Leyanis Diaz, founder and CEO of Major shared, “You don’t need to become a finance or accounting expert, but you should strive to be an expert on your own business.”
Imposter syndrome, lack of confidence and self-doubt are also likely to creep in. Men in general ignore this, women let that voice get louder. Turn it off and tune into a different channel. Keep an email folder with positive emails you’ve received over the years from colleagues, partners and contacts, and whenever you feel unsure—read those reminders. Imposter syndrome is made up, it’s not real.
“You absolutely need to believe in yourself and fight those feelings of self-doubt as well as any negative input or cautionary tales from others. Only you can do this, and you have to believe in your vision first and foremost,” said Jennifer Justice, CEO and founder of The Justice Dept.
Red Flags to Avoid
You need to fully vet your partners. “This is a marriage, you should know everything about that person. Another one is understanding your mission and vision. Do a deck for yourself. Answer the questions of why you’re doing this, who you’re serving, and how you’re solving a need in the market. This seems simple, but if you can’t answer this easily, that’s a red flag,” said Justice.
Be wary of individuals who over promise and under-deliver when hiring and building your team. “They say you should ‘hire slow and fire fast’, and that begins with a well-defined job description that clearly outlines the role’s responsibilities and expectations,” said Diaz. “Also, consider offering a trial period of approximately 90 days for new hires, which will let you evaluate their performance and whether they can contribute effectively to your team and company.”
Protect Yourself From Liability
Establish a professional support network; this includes finding an accountant and legal advisor you trust. You want to be able to reach out to them whenever you have questions – even if you don’t require their services regularly.
Don’t put off investing in insurance, even in the early stages of your business. “There are affordable insurance options which provide essential protection against liability, and can shield you from financial setbacks from unforeseen events or legal claims,” said Haque-Shah.
You may be doing business with people in your network, friends, acquaintances or vendors you’ve known for years, and feel a verbal discussion and agreement is fine. But, I strongly advise you to document all agreements in writing. This will safeguard your interests by providing a clear reference point in case circumstances change or disputes arise. Otherwise, it’s she said, he said, she said…and you will go in circles and burn relationships, and jeopardize the health of your new business.
Lower Startup Costs
Justice advises hiring consultants in the beginning, so you can feel people out before bringing them on full time. “You don’t have to pay benefits and can save yourself some liability issues if you don’t end up working well together.”
Bootstrapping (launching and growing a business without external help or capital) is a great option if you can afford to do it. Initially, consider self-funding or using revenue generated by the business to finance growth rather than seeking external investment.
“Virtual offices are a great way to establish a professional presence without the costs associated with a physical location,” said Haque-Shah. “Also, consider outsourcing non-core functions like bookkeeping, marketing or IT support to reduce your overhead.”
While it may be tempting to launch with all the bells and whistles, avoid unnecessary expenses and focus on the essentials. Be lean and prioritize spending on what directly contributes to your business’s growth and success, and that may not be luxe leather, ergonomic office chairs…at least not yet.
And most important, seek legal counsel early in the process to ensure your business is structured efficiently and is legally compliant,” said Haque-Shah. “This can prevent costly legal issues later on.”
Think of the female entrepreneurs in your own circle and work together to cross-promote and share the values and unique strengths of each of your businesses. If you need small business advice (accounting, tax, legal) consider this FQ list of female experts in our network, who not only have the knowledge, but have been on this entrepreneurial journey themselves.
You’re never alone. Real growth happens when we collaborate, this is the power of the pack. Pay it forward with generosity and shove that imposter syndrome in the trash. Walk out the door with confidence – we have your back!