Over the past two decades, we have seen women make tremendous strides in business, particularly as entrepreneurs. According to American Express, women-owned businesses only accounted for 4.6% of all businesses in 1972; however, they accounted for 42% in 2019.
So, can you imagine the number of women-owned businesses in 1963 when my grandmother opened her own beauty shop?
As a little girl I occasionally visited my grandmother’s shop, but never considered the challenges and obstacles that she faced, as a woman of color with six children and a husband, trying to write her own story.
I also never considered how much easier or difficult the task might have been for my mother, a single mother who started her own business in the 1990s with limited resources, or my sister who opened her own business in the hair care industry in the early 2000s.
But each had seen a woman entrepreneur as she was growing up.
I interact with entrepreneurs daily at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) and watch women start and close businesses at an enormously high rate. How much of the success of the business is because the owner had the courage to write her own story, even if it meant defying traditional norms?
I’ve learned that most of us are not born thinking like entrepreneurs. To overcome patterns that sabotage the entrepreneur mindset, practice these six steps.
When starting a business or tackling a business goal, begin with the end in mind. It’s one of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People."
Clearly picturing the outcome makes it easier to confidently make decisions to achieve your desired goal. Visualizing and writing down your ideas gives you a plan and a record to help you stay on track and pivot along the journey.
2. Promotion & Lead Generation
Don’t be afraid to promote yourself and ask for business. Many new business owners run their businesses as side hustles or as sole proprietors and wear many hats. Seize the opportunity to network and promote your business.
3. Time Management
The hours you work equate directly to dollars, whether you are working for someone else or on your business. Plan daily or weekly activities to help you focus on the things you need to do to grow your business. Scheduling leaves space to fulfill your other duties (mother, wife, sister, volunteer, etc.) and creates accountability.
4. Money Management
Your money and your time are resources that help you generate cash, so spend them on things that produce a return on your investment. The long-term goal is to have cash reserves that enable you to pay debt regularly, keep debt and income at a balanced ratio and improve your bankability when ready to scale your business.
Effective entrepreneurs are always looking for the next big thing. Trade magazines, blogs and subscriptions to industry podcasts are good ways to stay on top of trends. To ensure customers continue to find value in your product or service, implement new systems or products based on trends and customer expectations. Continually look for industry gaps to develop new products or services.
Identify someone who has already done what you are trying to do and ask for guidance. According to SCORE, women-owned businesses that seek out and work with mentors, regardless of gender, improve their chances of starting a business and sustaining it long-term.
When my grandmother opened her business in 1963, she might not have known she was starting a new narrative for the women in our family, but I will forever be grateful.
For women who don’t have generational entrepreneurship in your family, you can learn to think like an entrepreneur. Organizations such as ASBTDC can help you achieve your goals at no cost so women can continue to write their own stories and a new narrative about the small business landscape.
Pamela Reed is the inclusion and diversity specialist at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) at UA Little Rock, the state’s leading ASDTDC. She provides entrepreneurship training and helps women-owned and minority-owned small business clients accomplish goals. Reed holds a master of business administration and a master’s degree in professional and technical writing from UA Little Rock, where she also teaches business communications.