The word ‘Entrepreneur’ is cool! When pronounced correctly it sounds really awesome! And we all like to be masters of our own small and/or big enterprises. Given a choice, no one would really want to work with or under some one. We have our own ideas, we have our own beliefs and we have our own patterns of working professionally. While there is a huge chunk of risk involved in setting up an enterprise and becoming an entrepreneur, it is offset by all the intangible learning that we are able to glean from the entire experience.
Learning the art of weighing the pros and cons, learning the art of delegating tasks that we are simply not able to handle anymore, learning to take decisions after factoring in all the pros and cons, learning to accept the consequences of wrong decisions, learning to seek the counsel of experts etc. are all things that we learn when we become entrepreneurs.
Whether it is Sridevi who excels at making laddoos ( in English Vinglish Movie) or whether it is 50+ year old cousin who set up a nursery school in her house, whether it is the final year engineering student who tutors his juniors or whether it is the interior designer who works from home – it simply does not matter. The size of the enterprise is immaterial. The learning transforms our lives for ever.
Perhaps the word ‘entrepreneur’ has given way to a newer word called ‘start – up’. Does not matter. The essence of it is the same. What we gain from this entire experience is what matters the most. Obviously the more challenges we face, the more we learn. But women entrepreneurs face a completely different set of challenges when compared to their male counterparts. This calls for a small discussion. As usual, all comments are most welcome!
Some challenges that women entrepreneurs face!
- Most women are able to set up an enterprise and work on it only during their spare time. The prime priority is the family. I have no solution for this situation. I cannot answer the ‘why does this happen?’ question for you because I put myself in this category too. Family first – everything else can wait! How, when and where and if it will ever change …….no idea = suggestions most welcome here too!
- Young unmarried career oriented girls or a woman who has put the child bearing phase on hold or has grown up children are at an advantage because they are able to focus completely on the enterprise that they are setting up.
- Family members take their own time to understand and support the endeavours of the wife/mother or daughter- in – law.
- Unless there is a dire need for money, most families will just about tolerate or listen to the challenges that the woman is experiencing.
- Once her enterprise starts picking up business, everyone starts respecting her.
Yes, her biggest challenge is to make her family understand that she too has a whole host of dreams and ideas and that she too has the courage to turn her dreams and ideas into reality. With or without their support! J J ! I most humbly salute this spirit!!
The other challenges belong to the real world.
- She finds it extremely difficult to raise funds to set up or expand her enterprise.
- Here again, people think twice before extending financial backing to a woman entrepreneur.
- She has to work doubly hard to convince people to fund her enterprise. At the end of the day, no matter how professional you are in the corporate world, basically you happen to be a human being first.
- What will happen to your enterprise if you decide to get married? What will happen to the enterprise if you have children and decide to take a sabbatical?
Oh! Please – credit the woman with some sense! Give her some time to prove herself. Support her whole heartedly, mentally, morally, physically and financially in her endeavours – if you can and if you want to. She knows what she is doing. And then, I always wonder why all those questions are never asked to male entrepreneurs!! Funny? Strange? Weird? That is something to think about for sure!!
If you don’t want to do any of the above – it is fine – but at least don’t belittle her efforts or ridicule her for her efforts and/or when she makes mistakes!
How do women go about overcoming these challenges?
That is the simplest question to answer. It comes straight from the heart and will unfailingly hit the bull’s eye….
She has faith in her own ability. She ignores the criticism. She does not mind starting small and believes in steady progress. She slowly painstakingly creates a reputation for herself. If people hesitate to fund her, she will knock at other doors. Her idea is good –she knows it.
More importantly, she knows herself well enough. Given adequate time, she will create a niche for herself with an enterprise that is doing brisk business. It does not matter if it is a boutique selling exclusive clothes or she is a mehendi artist whose business peaks during the wedding season. It does not matter if she started out with two wailing kids when she set up her nursery school. It does not matter if there were no takers initially for her cupcakes and brownies. It simply does not matter……….because she will slowly, with determination overcome each and every hurdle that comes her way. The smileys in the previous section were put there with a purpose – she will do all this with a smile on her face! A beautiful peaceful knowing smile!
Women command respect with the nobility of their thoughts. She knows how, when and which doors to knock upon. She knows who will stand by her and who will not. She believes that her success will silence all her critics. While the criticism hurts and haunts her, she learns to brush it aside and focus on her enterprise.
She succeeds because she is determined to succeed! So simple!
Blurring the lines between male and female entrepreneurs!
When we weave in our heart and our emotions into an enterprise – it will work!
It has to work. Adapt, tweak, change something, rehash it and mould it according to the requirements of the market, be amenable to change and working and reworking upon the basic model, knock doors………………we do all of this and all else that is required……….but we do it with our heart and soul.
Women wear their hearts on their sleeves. Men are aces when it comes to mental strength. A beautiful blend of both these elements will literally infuse any enterprise with the spirit of success.
Take the element of gender out of the equation. Learn to think of women as professional partners. Only when all of us overcome our outdated mind sets, will we learn to look at women in a different light. We will value their contribution instead of dismissing it as immature advice. Then we will slowly start respecting them for their ideas, their intellect, and their creativity and for the host of other things that they are doing.
And then we all have our limitations and strengths. Learning to complement each other’s weaknesses is more important. I may be a big zero when it comes to numbers and finance. But I may be an ace at creativity and may excel in convincing people about the depth of my ideas. Perhaps the man of the house has excellent negotiation skills and is a technical and/or financial wizard. When two such counterparts join forces success is bound to follow!