By Tom Cleveland
In the world of entrepreneurs, if a “glass ceiling” ever existed for women, it was shattered long ago, together with any other demeaning cliches that suggested that other activities were more worthy of your focus. Despite the many challenges that women face, studies continue to show that women are better at multitasking and getting things done at a quality level that most men would consider unnecessary or unattainable.
Learn from Mentors that Have Gone Before You
It is no wonder then that many women, given half a chance, are excelling in the business world right and left. Fortune Magazine is not surprised by this trend in women entrepreneurship and has chosen to acknowledge it annually by publishing their list of the “Top Ten” standouts for the year. In 2012, their “winners” were selected from over 133 contestants, chosen not only for their individual performances, but also because these female entrepreneurs were “outstanding game changers, ground breakers, and innovators.”
Did these top performers agonize over fear and doubt in the early going? Were they conflicted by the demands from family and by the desire to please everyone? Were they afraid that they would never be taken seriously? Of course they were, but in each of their stories, there are “pearls of wisdom” that every female “business warrior wannabe” should take to heart from these worthy examples of success in today’s marketplace. There are no shortcuts for experience, but accepting the guidance from “mentors” is the best way to make up for shortcomings in this area.
Lesson One: You Must Have Passion According to Jessica Alba
Although known more for her acting career, Jessica Alba has worked tirelessly on the side co-founding her own eco-friendly products company, The Honest Co. Her focus has been on selling chemical-free diapers, wipes, cleaning products, and more. She seems to have found her passion in this industry by joining a cause and leveraging her many contacts, including Healthy World author Christopher Gavigan, LegalZoom.com, ShoeDazzle.com founder Brian Lee, and former PriceGrabber.com VP Sean Kane.
Investors have also been impressed, too, contributing $27 million to fund her “passion”. “It was important to me to that The Honest Company have a cause component as part of its DNA, engage in environmentally sound practices, and actively communicate with our customer base to deliver the eco-friendly products they most desire all under one roof,” adds Ms. Alba. Choose a mission statement that moves you and stirs your emotions.
Lesson Two: Learn to be Flexible from Christiane Lemieux’s Example
One key factor for success in the business world is flexibility. One must be forever willing to accept what the market gives and be willing to adapt to take advantage of new circumstances. Changing your direction or product definition is to be expected and embraced. Christiane Lemieux graduated from Parson's School of Design and spent the last twelve years building trend-setting surface designs for home goods in the fashion of a modern Pottery Barn. She recently opened her own store in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood. “I made the mistake very early on of saying yes to everything and I lost some good years of growth." Lemieux advises, "Say yes to the opportunities that grow the business and no to the ones that are clearly a distraction."
Lesson Three: Learn Persistence from Rashimi Sinha’s Example
While adapting to market forces is one worthy trait, persistence is required to see the process all the way to conclusion. In the case of Rashimi Sinha, she actually migrated from her degree in psychology to work in the software development industry. After many other attempts, her newest venture, SlideShare, allows users to share presentations on the Internet. "Being an entrepreneur is hard. So many nights you go to sleep thinking about a problem that seems intractable, but you get up the next day, refreshed, and attack the problem with renewed vigor," says Ms. Sinha. Her persistence was rewarded when her firm was recently acquired for a reputed $119 million.
No one ever said that becoming an entrepreneur is easy, but learn from the examples of those that have gone before you. It’s now time to get started! Good Luck!