Written by Au-Co Mai
It’s no secret that in the business world it’s predominately male driven. As women, we face challenges in the workplace that men are less likely to face. Working women who have families often leave work only to clock in at home for the second shift, juggling even more responsibilities and demand of time and energy. Thankfully, this hasn’t slowed down women from navigating the business world and exceeding in the workplace right next to their male counterparts. Times are changing and women from far and wide are rising to excellence in business.
For generations, women have been overlooked in business, but the tides are changing and women have managed to move up into high entrepreneurial statuses. Statistics have shown that women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. Entrepreneurial women are knocking down doors and setting up shop creating successful businesses despite the odds. A perfect example of beating the odds is Valerie, my friend and industry colleague. She has had many people look down on her, with these experiences serving as the fuel she needed to claim her potential. There’s nothing like having someone telling you that you aren’t good enough or will never amount to anything to awaken the tigress in you. She swore to herself that she would become better and brighter than they could ever imagine. And she did. She and her family escaped the communist regime and eventually made it to a refugee camp where she chose to focus on the freedom to learn to design, create, and sell jewelry with literally no modern day tools and little financial means. I wish you could meet her, she’s gorgeous on the inside and radiates beauty and energy. However, many (including myself) have made the mistake of underestimating her because her surface level appearance is simple, frumpy, and unassuming. Under the veil of simplicity sits an entrepreneurial and creative powerhouse who has successfully created several multi-million dollar businesses and completely bestowed them to her family members so that they have the means to support their families. And as though that was not enough, in 2001 she realized her dream of bringing education and jobs for the local village people by building a trade school. Women entrepreneurs are amazing!
The rise of the entrepreneurial woman is not only great for business and the economy, but it also serves as a strong source of support for local communities where job and learning opportunities are far and few in between.
In the beginning it is easy to feel insecure and overwhelmed when starting out, so it’s important to have a clear vision of your business and to celebrate the small achievements that put you closer to realizing your goals. Use your instincts and values to shape the personality and infrastructure of your business. For many women, it’s common to rely on the support of our family members in almost everything we do. My friend Helena understood the need to be supported and connected was a critical ingredient for enterprising women. Based on this premise, she created a very different co-workspace specifically for female solo-entrepreneurs. Imagine having all the professional accoutrements of a full service corporate office, board room, meeting areas, receptionist, etc… but with a softer and supportive side to it. Members of this co-workspace have access to a lovely kitchen with healthy teas, gourmet coffees, snacks, and even wine. The walls feature an array of local artists and in the evenings there are business educational and networking events to keep you learning and in tune with others. If I had this 15 years ago when I started my business I would no doubt have been a member of this entrepreneurial environment. I am so glad that these women focused co-workspaces exist because community is an important part of who we are and this determines how and why we develop certain products and services.
Every entrepreneur’s story is so different that I often wonder how other women entrepreneurs came up with the idea. Luckily, I have collected an assortment of supportive business gal pals where talking business is fun. From these explorative conversations a lot of interesting things can take form and get you pumped up.
If you have an idea and it is something you know really well don’t wait—just go for it. When I started Emitations.com, it was in the bedroom of my college apartment. I didn’t have the financial means at the time to start anywhere else, just the curiosity and drive to get started. The key to this, is not worry about failure or making mistakes. The first edition of anything is always the ugliest but you learn and edit it until it looks and feels right.
If you’re starting a business, and this applies whether male or female, start where you are. Starting from essentially nothing allowed my business to expand over time and organically evolve into what it is today. Being open to input and asking the right questions will create a business that consumers will want to take part in and one that will grow substantially.
Networking is a key component to ensure a flourishing business. One of the things I’ve learned early on in my career is that you don’t become a successful business owner on your own. I wouldn’t have been able to expand Emitations out of my old bedroom without consulting the people around me. Today those people include other business owners, my talented employees, friends and family. You will be surprised how many friendships you can develop simply by being open to talking and networking with other business owners. Join meet ups and attend relevant business conferences to meet like-minded individuals who can offer guidance and help your vision grow. If you feel like you have nothing to offer in return, chances are you will in the future, so just put your best foot forward now. Remember, getting familiar with the who’s who of your industry will get you further than you can ever go on your own.
While there are certainly obstacles that women still face climbing up the corporate ladder, it’s important to not get caught up in the negative hype of it all. Instead focus on the excitement and thrill of doing something new and different. Forget about the possible ways it can all go wrong, throw caution to the wind and just for a few minutes relish in the thought that those possibilities are real and achievable.
Au-Co Mai is the CEO and founder of Emitations.com. Emitations specializes in celebrity inspired jewelry as well as cubic zirconia rings, necklaces, and clip on earrings.