As Britons anticipate the future of Britain’s post-Brexit economy, the importance of entrepreneurship is increasingly being thrown into the spotlight. Millennial women, in particular, have a huge role to play and hold untapped potential. Research recently carried out by Facebook shows that only a fifth of the UK’s 5.4 million small businesses are founded by women.
There is huge room for growth in this area, particularly given that behind this figure, many women actually have a strong desire to start their own business. Although lack of confidence, lack of business or digital skills, and fears around financial security still hold many millennial women back, many trends also play in their favour. These include:
- The rise of online businesses: Online businesses are not limited by physical boundaries, which allows for significant reach and impact worldwide. For example, the online learning and course industry was valued at over $107 billion last year and is one of the fastest growing sectors after tech, yet the digitisation means there is no physical anchoring. Millennials can leverage these trends, and share their skills broadly across geographies, whilst still being assets to their own country and economy.
- Flexibility: Many women feel they must make constant trade-offs, choosing between a successful career and having a family. Entrepreneurship allows these decisions to be eradicated, with the opportunity to create a lifestyle that allows for both thriving business and flexibility. This means women who previously would have eliminated the option to work can now contribute to the economy, create jobs, and embrace sharing their message and purpose whilst also being available for their family. Jessica Dillulo Herrin, CEO and founder of Stella & Dot believes women can have what matters most to them. To her that means balancing her role of CEO and mum – the latter being her most important role.
- Rise of ‘job-hopping’: Millennials no longer spend 20-30 years in the same job. With the rise of freelancing and the gig economy, there are new career paths being uncovered constantly. There is no traditional, straight, linear path to success, and the economy will be shaped by these new trajectories. With loyalty towards employers decreasing and increased dissatisfaction in the workplace, many women feel empowered to take the leap and go off on their own. There are many options that can help ease the transition from full-time employee to full-time entrepreneur, from freelancing to contracting.
How can female entrepreneurs overcome the hurdles?
The potential for impact on entrepreneurial women’s lives, families, local communities, and even the overall economy is huge. Removing barriers to female entrepreneurship, Facebook estimates a potential economic boost of £10 billion in the next three years alone. So what can female millennials do to begin overcoming the hurdles?
- Start small. Hearing the sky-high failure rates across the startup industry can be discouraging. There is a perception that entrepreneurship requires an all or nothing approach, and that the risk involved is monumental. Yet it does not have to be that way. Many successful start-ups start small, without significant funds or any external investment. Furthermore, it is entirely possible to start a business alongside a full-time job, as a “side-hustle”, meaning the financial security is still there until the business has gained momentum.
- Network with like-minded women. Lack of confidence and of female role-models deter many women from taking the leap and getting started. It’s not always easy to find entrepreneurial role models in the workplace. This is why networking outside of the corporate world can be invaluable. There are a plethora of entrepreneurial events, formal such as conferences or workshops, as well as informal such as Meetup groups, that allow women to connect and exchange ideas in a safe space.
- Leverage free social media. The sheer number of social media platforms available can be overwhelming to a brand new business owner who may not have the time to master them all or the resources to outsource this area at first. But many businesses are extremely successful by marketing themselves on a single platform. An example of this is Caitlyn Pyle, who started her business Proofread Anywhere, which turns beginner proofreaders into professionals who earn income from their work, and grew it to $1m+ in 15 months. She attributes most of her success to Pinterest, which drives most of her traffic and boasts 150 million monthly users.
- Find a mentor or coach. Women tend to put pressure on themselves to figure it out all alone. Yet building and growing a business is only possible with solid support – through a mentor and coach, as well as at later stages by delegating and outsourcing areas that do not match our natural talents and skillsets. Working with someone who has been where you are and has gotten to where you want to be is the best way to compress your timeline to success and remove the guesswork. A mentor or coach is invaluable not only to help map out a clear strategic plan and action steps that will lead to order and success, but also as a sounding board to overcome any mindset blocks and fears that will no doubt be a part of the journey.
>Marie Lexa is a business strategist and coach.