Amazing Women Founders Tell Us: What I Wish I Knew When I Started
March 8, 2021 | Inspiration
This International Women’s Day we celebrate the wisdom of the women from our community cohort who are not only smart and strategic, and head up exciting businesses, but who are also committed to lending a hand to the people on the next rung of the ladder.
In entrepreneurship we amass so much valuable expertise through trial, error, bravery, hard work, research and experience—sometimes without realizing how far we’ve come. We ask the question, “What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?”.
And we also share some great snippets from women we love from afar.
“In the beginning, you’re so scrappy and you take on (inevitably) every or nearly every responsibility, which is an incredible and valuable learning experience. Over time, I’ve learned what my strengths are and I’ve hired people who are passionate about things that are not necessarily my strengths, and I’ve been able to give away those responsibilities. You can take everything on or give away responsibilities to people who are passionate about them. Investing in the company to invest in my team and provide opportunities for them to grow is important to me.
I feel like I learn something every day, but one big lesson is don’t be too hard on yourself and just have the conviction to keep going. Try not to take on too much – even a small or simple business or project will have a tremendous amount of complexity and it’s better to do one thing really well than multiple things poorly. That is something I’m always working on.” — Jen Pelka, Une Femme Champagne
“I thought I knew this, but it’s a different experience when you are actually are in it, getting funding to scale the business has been much slower than I thought it will be. It is a difficult and super slow process, that requires patience and not getting discouraged but believing in the reason you started the business.
My advice for women who are just starting is to be patient, always remember why you started your business, let that be at the center of everything you do. When things aren’t going the way you envision it to be or you are not getting the funds you need, be patient. Things have a way of working themselves out. Try and focus on the wins, not just what’s not working out as this will help give you that encouragement and motivation to move you forward. Holding onto discouraging thoughts will hold you back.” —Yemisi Awosan, Egunsifoods
All we can do to create change is work hard. That’s my advice: Just do what you do well. If you are one of those people who has that little voice in the back of her mind saying, ‘Maybe I could do [fill in the blank],’ don’t tell it to be quiet. Give it a little room to grow, and try to find an environment it can grow in.— REESE WITHERSPOON, HELLO SUNSHINE AND DRAPER JAMES, WELL+GOOD
“Taking the first step is 100% the hardest thing you have to do. Everything gets easier after that point. The day you ask yourself the question, “what if I started a business?” is the day you need to take action. Changing a behavior is like flexing a muscle- it becomes easier and easier the more you exercise it. And, the beautiful thing is that making change in any part of your life makes it easier to make change in the areas you care about. So, all you have to do is take a small action, and it will literally open up a world of possibility that didn’t previously exist.” — April Wachtel, Cheeky
“Believe in yourself!
Women oftentimes doubt their abilities to be rockstars! You have to take that first step and believe you can do it.
You should also find a solid group of friends and mentors that can help you navigate through the pitfalls of an early startup.” —Natalie Barnes, Squad Plans
“We learned that unless you can go viral, user acquisition can be pretty hard and expensive. Tapping into free organic resources is a great option for products without large marketing budgets.
Though this can all sound overwhelming, our biggest learning has been that bringing a new product to market is incredibly fun!”— Nishtha Dalal, Funded App
I think mindset matters immensely…As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to reframe failures as learning opportunities and to persist. The person who rests on their laurels fails. A core to being successful is a willingness to keep persisting and a desire to constantly learn and grow. — PAYAL KADAKIA, CLASSPASS, ELLE
- “Have a clearly differentiated product
- Nail down what type of business you are going to be.
– Are you DTC, wholesale, both? Carefully analyze your distribution options. What other avenues are available to you?
– Do you want to have a small business or are you looking to scale quickly? If you are looking to scale quickly you will need money. Where will you get this money?
– The answers to these questions (and more) should influence your goals and go-to-market strategy.
- Know your business goals (sales, marketing, etc) and plan your milestones. Do not half-ass this. Make it specific and create a roadmap for short and long-term goals.
- Before you launch, create a marketing strategy with an actual budget against it. Be ready to experiment and change your strategy according to what works and doesn’t. I recommend starting with 1-3 “channels” (PR, Instagram, Paid Advertising, Events, Content marketing, SEO, etc) and going from there.” — Evelyn Frison, Pivotte
“I would advise women who are just starting out to remember to just ‘stick with it’ because there are many ups and downs when starting a business and everyone struggles at one point or another. We live in the time of social media where people don’t publicize their downs, but they are most certainly there, so don’t compare yourself to others. Stay true to yourself, your values, and your goals, and be kind to everyone who crosses your path. Whether it’s my pattern maker, a factory worker, or the head buyer at a major retailer, I treat everyone with the same respect and kindness and that has taken me far with my business and life in general. A smile can go a long way!” — Rebecca Fadden, finn + me
“I don’t think this should be a surprise, but it’s relentless. 🙂” —Anna Peck, Oswald Co.
Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself.— OPRAH WINFREY, HARPO PRODUCTIONS
“The biggest lesson I learned about bringing a product to market is to learn not to wait so long. You will never be able to please everyone, and you will never be able to launch a perfect product. Maybe what’s perfect for me is not perfect for you and vice versa. I really like the Reid Hoffman quote:
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
I’m always looking to solve a problem and deliver something that’s different. We want everyone to try out our woman-owned brand in this space and to hear your feedback. We love feedback, positive or negative. I want to hear it all.” — Stephanie Ferro, Vodo Sound
“I jumped into this business as prepared as I could be, but it’s still been a learning experience. I spent months hand juicing lemons wasting time and money, and when I found a fresh lemon juice I could switch out, it made my production more efficient. Find your lemons!
I could spend days giving advice, but my condensed version is: stay true to yourself and your mission, know your time is valuable, get a massage, learn how and when to adapt, don’t be afraid of change, as for help, and curate an amazing support team for yourself.” — Diana Egnatz, Hot Spoon Preserves
If your dream only includes you, it’s too small. — AVA DUVERNAY, ARRAY
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