At ReBoot Accel we are fortunate to connect with many women committed to helping others succeed in their job searches and career reentries. In this blog post, meet five inspiring females, who are blazing their own trails as company founders and freelancers, and who offer up their candid advice about what it takes to start a business.
Determine What You Want.
Nhu Le, co-founder, and partner at Banyan Legal Counsel LLP encourages a new founder to take the time to reflect on what she wants out of her business and her life because what you want dictates how to set targets and timelines, mold company culture, hire the right team, and identify best fit funding sources. How much do you want to work? How long do you want to bootstrap? When do you want to fundraise and to whom do you want to be held accountable? Peggy Chang, co-founder and CEO of ActivityHero notes this is even more important when you have partners, so have those awkward conversations early with yourself and your partners and then concretize dreams into goals with milestones and operating agreements.
One Fund Does Not Fit All. The stories of these five founders were diverse, especially when it came to funding. Nhu’s launch was backed by one large client, Ashley’s through friends and family, and two are currently self-funded from previous gigs or through their current 9-5. Only one had VC funding, and she bootstrapped for a long time. Which goes to show, even though Sandhill Road looms large in the minds of some, there are many more paths to launching a successful startup.
Roshell Rosemond Rinkins, the founder of Liquid Courage Cosmetics, admits “I don’t sleep” and is working her 9-5 while getting her business established. The buck literally starts and ends with her. As Liquid Courage grows, she and her spouse will be evaluating the right time for her to go full time. Roshell advises women to “be realistic” and ask “what would need to be true?” Then set a specific revenue goal to help guide your decision. She also advises someone with a significant side hustle to keep learning applicable skills from her 9-5 so she can reapply them to growing her business.
Diversify Your Networks. Beth Blecherman, co-founder and VP Product at Savitude, shared that that one of the most important things an entrepreneur can do is to deliberately cultivate different kinds of networks. All founders agreed. A personal board of directors will keep you accountable as a leader, another group might nurture you as a whole person, and others will catalyze your company by making introductions or extending your message through marketing partnerships. This means an entrepreneur must be proactive, open to new relationships and show up! Sometimes in unexpected or uncomfortable places.
Enjoy Your Flex and Autonomy. Don’t Expect Freedom. A freelancer and entrepreneur must be customer centric and market responsive to succeed. You will build a reputation and a referral business by serving existing clients well, and working networks and marketing outreach channels constantly to acquire new leads. So you may get to do some things your way, but your client is Queen and will shape your future too.
Build a Team. Ashley Hunter, the founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Fitkids, wishes she had asked for help sooner and really “had no idea what I was getting into”. While her company is the perfect intersection of her passions: kids, health and fitness; starting a 501c3 is time-consuming and she soon realized that fundraising was her full-time job. After three years of operation, she has hired a program manager and has learned to release control. Former panelist, ReBoot Accel alumnae and founder of Ladder, Laura Hale, concurs with Ashley about the downsides of going it alone and the value of building a team in this related blog.
Try Things Faster. Women often hesitate to act (vs. their brethren) in favor of investing more time and money for more data and knowledge. Peggy Chang says don’t. Try things faster. Don’t be daunted or intimidated. Break scary decisions and new ideas down into smaller pieces and then risk testing them.
Blog to Build Your Brand. Freelance or Join a Business to Make a Living. Beth Blecherman started her blog, Tech Mamas, in 2006. In those early days of blogging, there was business demand for distinct online voices and a living could be had. That was then. Now the blogosphere is overcrowded. But blogging can still pay off if you have a passion you want to share with the world, or if you’re in a job search mode and want to up your online presence to prospective employers.
Finally, Pay Attention to Your Business Operations and Your Outreach. In hindsight, Roshell wishes she had spent more time, early on, getting some business fundamentals under control, like trademarking her brand. Nhu shared that she so loves practicing the law, that networking, administration and marketing can get delayed. They both note there are tools out there that can help, but ultimately it takes intention and discipline to build a backend that can sustain and grow with your business.
Thank you to Beth Blecherman (Savitude), Peggy Chang (ActivityHero), Ashley Hunter (Fitkids), Nhu Le (Banyan Legal Counsel, LLP), and Roshell Rosemond Rinkins (Liquid Courage Cosmetics) for participating on this panel; and to Singari Seshadri, Director of Stanford Venture Studio, for moderating.
Want to read more about entrepreneurship from ReBoot Accel?
- Yes, Entrepreneurship is a Return-To-Work Path for Women
- Want to Be Your Own Boss? It’s a Return-To-Work Trend
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