Most people have a vision of who they are and the path they want to travel in this world. Yet some people have a vision for carving entirely new paths for others to follow. When I started my first company I may not have known where my journey would take me. But I’m grateful for how empowering it’s been to create something of my own, step by step.
What we build as entrepreneurs shouldn’t just reflect our idea of how a product looks or how a service functions, however. It should reflect who we are as people. That’s one reason my company, Sparkfly, has such a successful customer-centric culture. Being collaborative and fostering partnerships is a large part of who I am and, I think, characteristic for many other women.
Yet we know women are underrepresented and underestimated in leadership roles. I’ve spent more than a decade in marketing tech, but there are still a lot of meetings where I’m the only female at the table. That’s a lost opportunity for the incredible female leaders waiting out there, and a loss to organizations that could benefit from more diverse approaches to business.
With that in mind, here are some tips from my own experience to help my fellow entrepreneurs get to that light at the end of the tunnel, and feel empowered to bring your own brand of something special into this world:
- Be tenacious. I had to bootstrap my business and, over the course of hearing “no” many times, I learned that sometimes it just means “not yet.” Holding on to the heart of your idea is key to moving forward. If you truly believe in what you’re pursuing, you should never take “no” for an answer.
- Grow a thick skin. In most instances it’s not personal, it’s business. Shrug it off and keep pursuing opportunities for change. One bright side to being underestimated: when you’re not viewed as a threat, it’s much easier to stay under the radar as you’re developing, say, a disruptive technology or business model.
- Do your homework. Understand the environment you’re entering and the people you’re interacting with. Keep your eyes and ears open, because pairing the knowledge you’ve gained with the market gaps you uncover are the first steps toward creating something great.
- Make time to really listen. Hearing what people say and listening to what they say are two different things. Too many times we miss out on important details or the opportunity to forge connections through new conversations because we’re too eager to get to the next thing.
Although these challenges could be said to affect all entrepreneurs, we know that women are disproportionately affected. So, we need to create more opportunities for female leaders to contribute so they are respected as peers and valued for their unique perspective.
I’m hopeful; I have seen a progression over the course of my career. And I believe an organic approach has the most long-lasting effect. Instead of mandating change to others, we need to embrace the responsibility to help those female business leaders who are coming up behind us. Because when we bring more underrepresented voices into the conversation and give them a seat at the table, we all win.
Ready to get inspired? Hear more stories from women in tech at our IWD x Cheetah hub.