5 things women need to know before starting a business

Analysis: Here’s how budding women business owners and entrepreneurs can overcome the pitfalls and challenges they face

Entrepreneurship has traditionally been associated with men and was once seen as a form of masculinity and a ‘male only’ career. In years past, some even claimed that entrepreneurship required high levels of testosterone.

Although it may now seem absurd, this traditional association of entrepreneurship with men and all of its built-in assumptions may still present challenges for those who envision entrepreneurship and who do not fit the ideal image of the male entrepreneur. – namely women.

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From RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime show in 2016, Della Kilroy meets some of the 800 Irish female entrepreneurs taking part in the 10th National Business Day for Women.

I conducted 35,000 hours of research and interviewed 300 female entrepreneurs at different stages of their journey. It’s clear that entrepreneurs, regardless of gender, face generic challenges such as finance, building a customer base, and growing the business, to name a few.

Here, I’ve distilled my research into five things potential female entrepreneurs should be aware of when trying to navigate the pitfalls. For women who decide to become entrepreneurs, they are positioned in contemporary entrepreneurial discourse, including popular media, as a separate and distinct category with their own label – “female entrepreneurs”, “mumpreneurs”, “fempreneurs” or “entrepreneurs lipstick”. . These particular rankings only confirm that there are normal entrepreneurs (men, family teams, partnerships) and then, apart from them, there are women.

Don’t be afraid to say “I’m an entrepreneur”

Women are often reluctant to claim entrepreneurial identity. Many women I have worked with refer to their “little business”! This reluctance is important because “owning/claiming” is an important first step in building a credible entrepreneurial identity (ie being perceived by stakeholders as an entrepreneur). Women need to be bold and not afraid to say “I’m an entrepreneur” when asked what they do for a living.

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From RTÉ Radio 1’s Reignite, Áine Kerr talks to Amy Cahill about her successful sole proprietorship Oxmantown Skincare

You have permission to start a business

Given that women often struggle to see themselves as entrepreneurs, and some feel that they need permission to be one, my key message is to be aware that it is not necessary to wait until you have a diploma, acquire 10 years of experience or reach another stage that you have prescribed for yourself before you can become an entrepreneur – do it. Don’t wait to have all your ducks lined up. Rather than waiting for permission, the right time and the right circumstances, be ready to act. Just do it!

Digital first

The rapid acceleration of digital technologies is reshaping markets and society globally. In Ireland, whether you are a student, an employee, a customer, a business manager or a simple observer, it seems that everyone is talking about “digital”. As the recent Covid-19 pandemic has shown, digital technologies enable new business models for every industry. Whatever your business idea, if you’re not starting digital or with digital in mind, ask yourself why. Rather than getting stuck on the divide between technology and non-technology, broaden your horizons by thinking about different degrees of technology.

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From RTÉ Radio 1’s Reignite, Glass Ceilings and How to Break Them with Chupi Sweetman, Paula Fitzsimons and Síona Cahill

You are your network

Networking is an important intangible resource for any entrepreneur. As well as being a resource, it is also a skill and, like any skill, practice makes perfect. However, it is important to be aware that when it comes to networking, as humans, we tend to flock to PLUs (people like us), in other words homophilia. When creating your networking training plan, try to identify the gaps in your network and how you can fill them. One way to fill these gaps can be to join a professional network.

There is a lot of debate about what is best for women, i.e. women-only networks versus mixed networks. My research shows the importance of women-only networks in startups, as they are good for building trust and reducing the isolation associated with starting a business. As you, your business, and your ambitions for growth grow, so should your networks. They should reflect the wider entrepreneurial ecosystems, made up of a variety of diverse stakeholders, including men.

Don’t just think big, think bigger

Mindset and expectations are important when it comes to creating a vision of what is possible (i.e. settle syndrome. When it comes to growth ambitions, try letting go of ideas preconceived ideas and don’t just think big, but think bigger. Once you begin to adopt a practice of expanding your expectations, what you see as possible becomes probable. Simply put, don’t be afraid of big things.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ


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