Saturday, June 23, 2012

Entrepreneurship Advice from the Smartest Women in the Biz

Smart Women Entrepreneurs and Their Lessons for Us All:


Michele Markey – Kauffman FastTrac
Belinda Waggoner – hr-haven, inc.
Jill Meyer – Technology Development and Commercialization Specialist at UMKC

More women are starting businesses than men, but a lot of them are doing it as “just a hobby” and aren’t expanding their businesses at the same rate as their male counterparts.  This is just one of the many problems faced for women entrepreneurs today.  At iKC, the “Smart Women Entrepreneurs and Their Lessons for Us All” panel had a roomful of eager women (and a few men, too!) ready to soak up the knowledge of Kelly, Michele, Belinda and Jill.  The panelists mostly focused on the (generalized) differences between men and women entrepreneurs.

If there’s one thing any entrepreneur doesn’t need, it’s a yes (wo)man.

The panel was mainly concerned about women feeling more comfortable in their own circle of friends.  However, the practice of using friends on your advisory board (when there are more qualified people you could have chosen) is a dangerous idea.  Friends tend to say “Gee, that’s good” instead of offering constructive criticism. 

Making “someday” today.

Michele said, “Life is full of somedays. Make someday today.” Jill did just that and discussed the difficulties of dropping everything—the security of your job and its 401K in particular—to start a new business.   She had been working for ten years at the same job and was essentially running the company without the financial benefits of doing so.  She was single when she decided to leave her cushy corporate job, and so she had no additional source of income to “piggyback on.”  However, she did it because she “knew [she] could do a better job than what [she] saw in around [her].” After taking a leap of faith (along with lots of hard work), she became successful on her own and would have never changed a thing about her decision to do so.

Don’t forget the handshake!

One of the things Kelly noticed is that businessmen typically give a handshake upon meeting, and some women may feel that this is too formal.  So after she goes into the handshake, she’ll feel awkward, then she’ll think about the awkward situation instead of remembering her new acquaintances name!  So avoid this by going all in for a firm handshake—it’s what’s expected in the business world—and then focus on the more important things.

The advice given by the panel was useful for both men and women—much of what was discussed were common mistakes in the entrepreneurship world.  The greatest takeaway? Start brainstorming how to solve the world’s problems and then go do it…and make that “someday” today! 

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