This week, women entrepreneurs from across the country shared the challenges they’ve faced and some of the secrets to their success at the latest U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Series event held in partnership with MetLife.
Many of the challenges the women shared at the event in Houston, TX, will be familiar to every small business owner: How do you hire the right people, find working capital, and grow your business? But they also face unique challenges and are creating unique solutions.
One common challenge for all entrepreneurs – men and women alike – is finding enough time in the day to accomplish all the tasks needed to run a small business.
“Definitely, the biggest barrier is precious time,” Maria Rios, founder and CEO of Nation Waste, Inc. in Houston, TX, said during a panel discussion at the event. “More than ever, we must be judicious on how we invest and prioritize time. There are only 24 hours in a day, so it is incumbent upon us – now more than ever – to use them wisely.”
Another universal challenge for small business owners is finding adequate working capital.
As CEO of Houston-based NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care Zawadi Bryant put it: “One big challenge was getting Nightlight funded. We utilized the consulting services from the Small Business Development Center to help us finalize our business plan and find the right banking relationship.”
She continued: “With the help of our SBDC consultant and banker, we were able to put together a business plan that was bankable. Our banker believed in our story, vision, and our capability to succeed.”
In such a risky endeavor as starting and running a business, it’s also important to trust your instincts, says Angela Hood, founder and CEO of ThisWay Global, based in Austin, TX.
“Women suffer more from Impostor Syndrome,” Hood said. “They self de-select, that’s unfortunate. We second-guess ourselves a lot, but it’s important to listen to your gut.”
Women entrepreneurs also bring skills and perspectives to their roles that their male counterparts lack, according to one Alexandria, VA, small business owner.
“Women are better at juggling multiple tasks and have better organization skills,” CEO and Founder of Lay-n-Go Amy Fazackerley said. “That’s advantageous when you’re running a business. I see that with my boys, they’re good at focusing on one thing. Women are used to having to do multiple things at once.”
Bryant also observed that female entrepreneurs also place a particularly high premium on work-life balance: “I think women still have the pressure of being the primary caregiver of the home. So essentially you have two full-time jobs. Rather than building a business or climbing the corporate ladder, women have to consider the impact on their families. I don't think men have the same pressure.”
Many of the women entrepreneurs on stage in Houston highlighted the importance of finding mentors – and being a mentor themselves and paying it forward.
“One of the most profound rewarding experiences imaginable is when I have mentored other women and young women who can relate to my experience,” Rios said. “We have been able to build a community of confident women entrepreneurs who are bold and fearless.”
One final word of advice from Fazackerley could relate to any hardworking entrepreneur putting in overtime or dealing with that week’s cash flow problem.
“Everybody thought we were crazy when we started our business,” she said. I could have said this was a crazy idea, too. A waste of time and money. I asked everybody until I got the right answer.”
The bottom line, she says: “Never give up!”
For more information on these events, visit the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business Series website.