There is no doubt that the U.S. economy is being buoyed by women entrepreneurs. Every time a new business is launched money is distributed to a variety of vendors required to get the company up and running. In many cases, new employees are hired and put to work. So why are women entrepreneurs seen and spoken about differently than male entrepreneurs?
I believe that the differences can be broken down to three myths about women entrepreneurs.
(MYTH #1) Women start business on their credit cards. This myth has been spiraling out of control since the early 1970s when the Equal Credit Act was passed giving women a right to have credit in their own names.
The fact is many entrepreneurs launch their business on their credit cards (men and women). Since a majority of small businesses are started for under $10,000, entrepreneurs who have saved for the day are ready to invest in themselves and their ideas. Women entrepreneurs tend to be older entrepreneurs who have spent time learning about their craft working for others and therefore may have the necessary funds needed to launch on their own without pressing upon friends and family. Women entrepreneurs also are less likely than some male entrepreneurs to go for venture funding. Perhaps, it is because the industry statistics demonstrate that they have about a 3 percent chance of getting funded or more likely because they have a well thought out business plan to get revenues rolling in early.
In my experience working as a business coach, women entrepreneurs don't use their credit cards any more often than men entrepreneurs, particularly when operating a small business. This myth just won't go away because its existence portrays women entrepreneurs as victims of the financial world. The women entrepreneurs I know are not victims, but victors.
(MYTH #2) Women entrepreneurs start small businesses and have trouble surmounting $1 million in revenue. This one gets written about at least once a year to attempt to prove that women don't have what it takes to grow substantial businesses. Of course, tell that to Sara Blakely, Spanx; or Oprah Winfrey, HARPO Productions and OWN; or Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post; or Tory Burch, Tory Burch; Diane Hessan, Communispace; and many of the members of the Women's President's Organization and The Commonwealth Institute whose members have $1 million and up revenues. Women entrepreneurs who start small businesses and keep them small often make a choice to do so just as the male entrepreneurs with small businesses do. Not every male entrepreneur becomes a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or even wants to. When a woman entrepreneur makes the decision to become an entrepreneur let's give her the choice to be small or grow big. Let's not bully her into thinking that there is no success in her small business. On the contrary, I work every day with women who have business revenues between $250,000 and $1 million and they feed their families, employ people, enjoy their lives and plan on selling their businesses to pay for their retirements. Bigger is not always better.
(MYTH #3) Women entrepreneurs need to act like men to be successful in business. This is probably my favorite myth as it is the furthest from the truth of the three. As a matter of fact, a savvy male entrepreneur must learn to connect with his feminine side if he truly wants to find success in business. Women are 85 percent of the consumers in the U.S. and to pretend they don't understand what the customer wants is ridiculous. Without the customer the entrepreneur has no business. Of course, being able to negotiate contracts, vendor agreements and employee compensation is critical to business success also, but women entrepreneurs, for the most part, are quick learners and lean on the importance of relationship building.
A woman's greatest asset is her belief in her intuition. Women in business are much more likely to go with their gut than their male counterpart and it serves them well. Taking time to connect with your employees, vendors, customers and community will always bring success to your business. Every entrepreneur makes mistakes but it is how we react to our mistakes that determines the future. The women entrepreneurs I know take lessons learned and move forward not afraid of admitting they didn't know it all.
These three myths about women entrepreneurs will most likely be around for another 40 years or so, but that doesn't mean women business owners need to believe them or live by them. As a matter of fact, the only way to shatter myths is to ignore them and demonstrate their inaccuracy. Eventually the day will come when women entrepreneurs will walk the earth seen as the leaders of the economy -- small, medium and large.