In the past years, women have emerged as key drivers of new business creation in the USA: in 2014, 1,200 businesses were created each day by women entrepreneurs, according to research from American Express OPEN Forum.
When it comes to catching up with their male counterparts, the 8.3 million women entrepreneurs have made great strides in the business world: they are employing more people than McDonald’s, IBM and Wal-Mart combined, with a revenue of $1.3 trillion that exceeds the market capitalization of Apple, Microsoft, GE, Google and Sony. But there's no doubt about it: female entrepreneurs are still up against a few major obstacles.
Agathe Assouline-Lichten, CEO and co-founder of Red Velvet NYC shares the biggest challenges she faces as a female entrepreneur in New York and gives advice to other women ready to take on the challenge:
Develop strong relationships and networks
One of the biggest challenges for a female entrepreneur today is not taking advantage of the power of networking. It may seem evident that to be successful, any business owner can benefit from different contributors whether it is to get advice, connections, recommendations, etc. But women are definitely late to the game and need to support each other more.
A network is a very powerful asset, and must be constantly used and expanded upon. Today there are so many women’s networking forums and groups that can be tapped into. It’s important to immerse yourself in a community of support, guidance, advice, and inspiration. I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from tremendous support from women’s empowerment organizations in New York (such as bSmart or Levo League), as well as through family and friends.
Inspire trust and receive funding
Access to funding is one of the greatest obstacles women face when starting and growing businesses. Not every entrepreneur looks for investors to help their business get off the ground, but those who do know how difficult raising capital is. This is even more difficult for women since only 3 percent of venture capital-funded companies had a female CEO according to a 2014 Babson College report.
Women start companies at a rate 1.5 times the national average but account for less than 10% of founders at high-growth firms; the passion and talent clearly exists, however barriers still stand in the way of women. What some of the most accomplished women entrepreneurs have discovered is that raising capital is especially difficult given their audience, since the majority of investors are men. It’s important to know who you’re pitching to, so you can tailor your message accordingly.
Celebrate other women
If historically men receive far more media coverage than women, the recent emergence of female entrepreneurs throughout the world is slowly closing this gap. It is therefore important for women to embrace each other, provide support and promote women not only as subjects of public and dinner-table conversation but also for their achievements, power and newsworthiness. This will encourage others to come along for the ride.
It’s important to celebrate women entrepreneurs, since they are breaking barriers and paving a road for the rest of us. It’s important to support one another, encourage, inspire, and work together to build a strong community. I am grateful for the support I’ve received from other women, and am excited to build a network of talented, inspiring thought leaders. Julia Child is one of my favorite entrepreneurs; she was able to create a culinary brand for herself in a world where no woman had before.
Manage a work-life balance
Working women face the expectation to succeed in all areas of their multi-faceted lives: family, friends and career. Time management and multitasking become important attributes for any woman wearing so many hats.
Managing a company and a personal life is often challenging. What’s important is to rely on the people who can support you – friends, family, significant others. I live through Sheryl Sandberg’s mantra - we need to “lean in” and ensure we have a partner to help us “do it all”. While running a business is challenging, if you have a strong support network, you can accomplish more than you ever thought was possible.
Do not fear success
Historically, women have been portrayed as less prone to take the risk of creating their own business than men; however the latest OECD insights suggest that this pattern is changing. Young women entrepreneurs are in fact braking stereotype barriers and thus addressing inequalities.
Portraying women as risk-averse or fearful is an outdated stereotype. It’s important as a woman to have the confidence that you can succeed – success isn’t tied to gender. Just like any entrepreneur, hard work, determination, and grit will make you successful. Use the tools, resources, and networks around you. Tap into your community, your friends, and your family. If you have a great product, or service, your company or brand will speak for itself.
About Agathe Assouline-Lichten and Red Velvet NYC:
Agathe grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and always knew she wanted to do something on her own. Having grown up in the food business, she pursued a Master degree at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, before deciding to launch Red Velvet NYC. The company grew out of a love of baking and entertaining. It provides gourmet pre-measured ingredients and a detailed recipe card to clients so they can create impressive homemade desserts. Red Velvet NYC: Gourmet desserts, made in your kitchen.