Four women entrepreneurs share their best advice

Libby-Jane Charleston

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There has never been a better time to shine the light on women entrepreneurs.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit women entrepreneurs particularly hard; a study by the Female Founders Alliance found before the pandemic, 87 percent of respondents were “highly likely to start a company.” However, just six months later, 51 percent admitted they had “delayed or scrapped their plans”.

While there have been major advances worldwide, women entrepreneurs still face challenges when it comes to funding, venture capital and seeing their business dreams become a reality.

Nicole O'Brien, CEO of co-working and digital startup community, Fishburners, says she is proud of the work the startup community does to empower women entrepreneurs.

“We’re especially proud of our Fempowered accelerator program; for female founders to help launch and grow their business. We have found that bringing a community of female peers together in a supported learning environment where they can connect with each other and share knowledge, builds the confidence and skills needed to create a new business,” Nicole says.

“But, when it comes to women entrepreneurship, we still have a long way to go. Sadly, women are still significantly under-represented in the startup sector. But there are great businesses being built by women and that’s what we’d like to celebrate.”

Susan Graham, CEO of Dendra Systems, says celebrating the success of every entrepreneur builds strength in the community.

“Being able to specifically showcase different groups within entrepreneurship means we are able to celebrate diversity, as well as celebrate what makes us all the same; we are all entrepreneurs,” Susan says.

Michelle Forster, CEO of myWhanau says it's crucial to join a startup community like Fishburners because, in the early years, you will need all the support you can get.

"When you’re working on your own you really have no idea! But at Fishburners you have so much education and support, I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be on my own as a solo founder.”

Annie Slattery, CEO of ConX, says women should always believe in themselves.

“If you are passionate about starting a business, go for it! Resilience and patience are critical. I’ve been building ConX for more than five years and on one hand, feel I’ve come so far, but on the other, it’s just getting started,” Annie says.

“Surrounding yourself with a group of like-minded women is critical to keeping focused as you ride the startup rollercoaster. Being part of a community like Fishburners provides access to female entrepreneurs with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to building businesses, growing families and overcoming hurdles that might otherwise knock you over.”

Charlotte Connell, CEO of the Sustainability Collective, believes women should remind themselves that it’s through adversity that we innovate.

“2020 presented some interesting challenges and, as I see it, entrepreneurship is all about coming up with unique ways to solve problems, and there’s a lot of problems that need solving right now,” Charlotte says.

“These are exciting times for startups; the world needs disruption and startups will be playing a huge role in reshaping what our future looks like.”

Women entrepreneur top tips

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Susan Graham, CEO Dendra Systems

“It’s important for women entrepreneurs to surround themselves with great advisors who will challenge you to make you better at what you do, and who have your back for when you need that extra energy.”

"You've chosen the right path, so back yourself to go fast and go far. You get to choose who you take on your journey with you, so enjoy!"

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Annie Slattery, CEO ConX

"ConX operates in the male-dominated construction industry and, whilst the culture of the industry embodies masculinity, I've learned to be comfortable in my abilities as a founder and leader. So the issue of gender never gets in the way of building our business.

Having confidence and believing in yourself is critical to succeeding in business and in life. If you don't believe in yourself, it's really hard to convince others to."

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Michelle Forster, CEO myWhanau

“You must back yourself, especially if you’re marketing a product designed for other women. There’s a huge opportunity to develop products that are designed well for people that have been under represented in products for too long, simply because many of the entrepreneurs have, historically, been male. So they might not get the pain that a lot of mothers go through!"

"Also, listen to your customers. I remember when I first put one of my pilot customers onboard and I called her to see how she was, she said, “You’ve changed my life.” So when you get that kind of feedback you know you’re onto something! You might not get it right all the time, but if you have your core customer satisfied, you just have to keep pushing through."

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Charlotte Connell, CEO The Sustainability Collective

"Successful businesses are not created in vacuums, so seek feedback and advice from a variety of people who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

The best piece of advice I’ve heard is…. ‘Perfect is the enemy of good’. So just get out there and start. You learn best by doing, not waiting. And it’s okay that what you started out trying to do will evolve and change, just like you."

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I'm a journalist and author writing across a wide range of topics, including tech, travel, history, business/startups, relationships, beauty & fashion, British royal history, & local stories concerning Charleston, S.C (where I have a long family history on my father's side: hence my surname! ) Former HuffPost Assoc Ed, ABC TV, ATV Beijing correspondent and many more. Author of "Fatal Females." Mother of three boys: I will love them until the Statue of Liberty sits down.

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