Key steps for women entrepreneurs to turn challenges to opportunity

  • Growing past the $5 million income plateau is a problem for any enterprise, and a big marker of success.
  • Women enterprise homeowners who’ve achieved that feat nonetheless face unfair skepticism from (sometimes male) funders, in accordance to a current report from Bank of America and Babson College.
  • The report recognized three key challenges that profitable women enterprise homeowners proceed to face, and laid out 7 methods women enterprise homeowners can use proper now to develop their companies.
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It is usually mentioned that the primary million are the toughest to earn — and it is even more durable for women.

Another income plateau appears to happen on the transition from the startup section to the all-important progress section.

A current report from Babson College and Bank of America took intention squarely on the query of how high-earning women entrepreneurs are rising their companies.

“We were intrigued to see how women at this level of success are still facing challenges,” Lakshmi Balachandra, a professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College and one of many report’s contributors, informed Business Insider.

The researchers surveyed 30 women who’ve grown their companies past $5 million in revenues.

One participant was Laura Tomasetti, founder and CEO of 360PR, a public relations and advertising company that at the moment makes $10 million per 12 months.

“There is an instant camaraderie when you meet another woman entrepreneur and a desire to share what has worked and what hasn’t,” Tomasetti mentioned in an interview with Business Insider. “That is really the spirit of this report.”

The research discovered three key challenges that profitable women entrepreneurs face, and really useful rapid actions they will take to develop their companies.

Three key challenges

After the startup section, women founders face three crucial limitations to rising their firms: market misperceptions, community exclusion, and lack of funding.

Male funders usually fail to see the market alternatives offered by feminine entrepreneurs as a result of they do not see the identical want for a lacking services or products.

“There are many viable business plans that are women-focused, but VCs aren’t able to see the opportunity,” mentioned Karen Reynolds Sharkey, nationwide enterprise proprietor technique government for Bank of America Private Bank.

The report cites the instance of Sara Blakely, who struggled to achieve traction with buyers for her clothes idea that might assist and form women’s our bodies. The product? Spanx, which now sells an estimated $400 million per 12 months.

Some of those misunderstandings come up from an absence of interplay between genders. Economist Justin Wolfers discovered there have been extra males named John than there have been women among the many CEOs of S&P 1500 companies in 2015.

Lillian Rafson, founding father of the journey company Pack Up and Go, described how she was the primary girl to attend an business networking occasion. After she felt excluded due to her gender, she raised her issues to the organizer.

“He suggested that I instead attend another meeting, one for executives at companies. I told him I’m not an executive. I’m a CEO, and I run a multimillion-dollar business,” she mentioned.

At each stage of enterprise, women wrestle to get financing. Even now, lower than three% of enterprise funds are directed towards feminine founders, in accordance to PitchBook.

Balachandra mentioned her analysis has discovered a disparity in how funders understand the enterprise targets of males versus women.

“Men don’t think women want to build big businesses,” she mentioned. “When a man wants to build big, he is lauded, but women are not.”

Capital constraints meant that the women surveyed used debt financing and natural progress methods to construct their companies extra slowly than their male friends.

These limitations lead many women to take a extra conservative, value-oriented method to enterprise, however many survey respondents remained occupied with different forms of funding.

Actionable methods for women enterprise homeowners

The report additionally made suggestions for methods for women entrepreneurs that the respondents use themselves, like various funding, sustainable progress, and constructing new networks.

The excessive price of enterprise capital can imply that it’s a much less preferable funding supply for some founders. If a enterprise proprietor is in a position to safe sufficient debt financing, she will retain management over the fairness possession of her firm.

Organic progress additionally helps to domesticate the habits and practices that prioritize long-term progress over fast returns. One such apply is the regular funding within the firm’s folks and tradition.

Tomasetti of 360PR says being financially threat averse allows her company to be extra risk-tolerant when creating novel advertising campaigns for purchasers.

Her firm has additionally been ready to climate financial challenges with out having to resort to layoffs, in contrast to her opponents within the business.

Women entrepreneurs can develop the alternatives for different women in three vital methods: financially, individually, and communally.

First, they will assist women-owned companies by shopping for their services, or offering entry to capital.

In addition, mentorship and networking initiatives assist develop the alternatives for women to increase their expertise standing of their business.

The report recommends that women associate up in particular person mentor-mentee relationships or create new skilled networks to obtain these goals.

Lastly, the report’s authors say that women’s experiences symbolize huge potential for new progress.

By utilizing their private expertise to establish enterprise alternatives, and speaking these concepts with like-minded companions, women can tackle a spread of underserved markets.


The women surveyed within the report represented a broad vary of industries, and whereas $5 million was the minimal income threshold, common gross sales for the group was greater than $40 million.

The challenges outlined within the report weren’t equally skilled by the respondents, however they have been nonetheless a serious concern even after years of working profitable companies.

“We were struck by how focused these women are,” Balachandra mentioned. “They acknowledge some barriers, but they are determined to build big businesses.”

The progress section places a brand new spin on outdated challenges that women entrepreneurs may need anticipated to fade over time as their companies succeed.

Significant challenges stay, however the rising variety of feminine enterprise leaders suggests there are promising options to the established order, particularly once they work collectively.

There are actually greater than 200,000 women entrepreneurs whose companies earn over $1 million per 12 months, and women are beginning companies at 5 instances the nationwide common, in accordance to analysis from American Express.

“It’s really hard to go it alone, and you don’t have to,” Tomasetti mentioned. “There’s a feeling that we have to do it all, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but it’s not.”

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