Entrepreneurship is a challenging journey for most people. It is even more challenging to women who meet direct and indirect gender-based obstacles when trying to run a business.
These challenges have not stopped them from being part of the global SME industries, contributing to different economies all over the world. However, their gender orientation has still made them face unique challenges that are less common to men. This article goes through all roadblocks women face when trying to start or run businesses and actionable steps to overcome them.
Unique Problems Women in Business Face and How to Overcome Themback to menu ↑
1. Intrinsic and Cultural Barriers
The business world is regarded as a competitive and aggressive environment. These characteristics are normally associated with men and less connected with women. Such beliefs are not only out there in the world but are also subconsciously programmed in female entrepreneurs too. These psychological barriers will normally limit their capabilities as business owners.
Cultural stereotypes have also been extended to business deal making process. In some cases you may find male business owners having a hard time bargaining with female partners as they don’t want to come out as “bullies”. Such feminine associated attitudes have also been felt in a corporate world. Corporations will normally overlook female professionals in key negotiating positions in the fears that they will not be aggressive enough.
There is no magic trick to eradicating gender stereotypes in business fields. The only way to overcome this is by either improving your portfolio as a business woman or working extra hard. Working harder and partnering up with other business people will be pivotal in making you a better business professional. Consequentially, people will begin to see you for your expertise and dissociate you from your gender.back to menu ↑
2. Access to Start up Funds
Many women entrepreneurs struggle to find investors who will take them seriously. Banks are less likely to deny women startup funds just because of their gender. However, other indirect factors may repel lenders from lending them. Lenders are looking for less risk borrowers who have entrepreneurship experience before handing them funds. This is less likely in the modern society where women are relatively behind in terms of business experience in comparison to men. Other cases, they may be awarded the funding on the condition they guarantee their loans with collateral assets. All these have hindered aspiring women business owners from financing their entrepreneurial dreams.
There are different ways to overcome the funding obstacles. The following tips will improve your chances of securing the money you need to start or boost your business
- Search for loans and grants that you are eligible for- There are multiple grants for women entrepreneur for profit and non-profit loaning organizations looking to fund female entrepreneurs with unique business ideas. Your best bet would be to search for women related grants that fall within your state or business industry.
- Create a viable business plan– Whether you choose banks, grants or micro lenders, you need to have a logical business plan. Make sure you have your numbers right and a clear value proposition that is worth funding. You don’t have to own an extraordinary business idea to get a grant or credit union loan, just make sure the plan is economically viable.
- Have a cosigner/ guarantor- You might be a high risk borrower, but financial lenders love spreading their risks. Find a loan guarantor that acts as security in cases of default. Just make sure the guarantor has a perfect credit score that the banks can work with.
- Devise a credit score building plan- Bad credit can keep pulling your personal life and business behind. It is even more damaging for upcoming female entrepreneurs who want their ideas funded. So, create a credit repair plan and stick to it. You could start by maintaining basic healthy financial habits such as making timely bill payments, paying your debt on time, avoiding hard inquires and maintaining your credit utilization below 30%. Advanced credit repair strategies might include applying for a secured credit card and mixing up your credit a little bit. All these will boost your credit score immensely and present you as a low risk borrower.
- Be prepared to pay premium interest rates- If you have an average credit score and no business experience, your interest payments will obviously be higher. This is to be expected and should not stop you from accepting such funding. However, be careful with the interest rates you sign on as you don’t want to service a loan that may be too expensive for your business.
Recommended Reading for You:Small Business Grants for Women: 15 Opportunities You Need to Know
3. Lack of Networking/ Mentorship Opportunities
Due to the limited number of women in business, upcoming female entrepreneurs have often found themselves alienated without any mentorship support. Unlike men who often have strong informal networks, female entrepreneurs tend to rely on their past business relationships. Although platforms such as LinkedIn have made it possible for people to connect, it is still hard to connect with top and elite business networks. These mentorship and network limitations have left most female business owners behind in terms of industry developments and trends.
It’s not just about joining a network, it’s more about find the right networks of people. Specific ways to overcome networking challenges include;
- Initiate networks from where you are currently. Finding prospect business partners and initiating professional relationship can prove important later on your business journey. One can also initiate conversations on platforms such as LinkedIn and build their way up.
- Look out for networks with mutual causes- There is no better way to find networks that share the same goals than through conferences and seminars. These meetings normally include the best and elite people of different industries and can be useful in building up professional relationships.
- Follow up- Initiating a conversation or sharing a business card is not enough. One should stay in touch with their contacts by making them aware of new opportunities or anything else valuable to their professional lives.
4. Business Work –life Balance
Balancing business work with family life is always challenging for most people. Even though this affects men as well, it is more stressful to women entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is an exhaustive journey that requires time and resource dedication. This always results to an imbalance between professional and family roles. Women with children normally find it harder committing to their business due to their parental nurturing roles to their kids. Such business owners are often pushed to quit and focus on their family duties.
Fortunately there are several actionable strategies successful women entrepreneurs can use maintain balance between the two.
- Delegate minor duties- Upcoming business owners often find themselves overwhelmed by multiple duties. Some make the mistake of handling all the tasks by themselves thus taking a lot of time to finish minor duties. Instead, delegate some of the work or outsource to have ample time for key business activities and save some time for the family. Avoid minor time consuming duties such as website design, bookkeeping, accounting or paying bills. Instead hire assistants on an hourly rate to help you keep those things in order. Luckily today, there multiple platforms that allow business people hire virtual assistants that can act as customer care, process business orders and maintain the business website. This awards you with ample personal time for yourself or family.
- Design a schedule- Before a day commences have a list of key business tasks you intend to achieve and award each activity a time completion deadline. This way, you will find yourself less overwhelmed, more productive and left with enough time for other personal agendas.
- Set Personal and business related rules- Come up with boundaries that you want maintained. No one can break those boundaries, not you, not your customers or anyone else. These boundaries are meant to differentiate between business and personal times, reducing conflicts between the two.
- Incorporate flexibility- There are multiple business related activities that can be integrated in your personal lives. For instance, you could have a home office that you can use to close sales, run adverts and communicate with business prospects. Technological tools and softwares also allow you to complete tasks such as payroll and tax filings from the comfort of your home. During this time you can share some time with the family without worrying about your business.
Recommended Reading for You:Small Business Loans for Women in 2020: Your Options Explained
5. Handling High Competition Markets
You combine the gender stereotypes, funding limitations and work-life balance challenges; it becomes almost impossible for a woman to survive in a highly competitive market. In fact some industries have been described as a “no go” for women. Such include technology and automotive industries that are usually competitive but inherently associated with men. Women entrepreneurs attempting to penetrate in these or other highly aggressive markets often find themselves wiped away.
The following are market penetration and domination tactics successful women entrepreneurs can use to survive in any highly competitive industry.
- Narrow your niche- you are already in a crowded market, the best thing would be to build a sub-niche around the main niche. This allows you to target the avatar customer in need of your service or product.
- Know your customer more than the competition- Getting in the customer shoes has always been effective in identifying their pain points, fears and desires. From there, one can come up with product or service package that solves all their problems and makes their dreams a reality.
- Offer the right pricing- Crowded markets are often characterized with price lowering tactics. While this may be viable for the big players, small business cannot afford to compete on prices. The best strategy would be to make a better offer in relation to price point. Don’t lower your prices, but improve your on the product bundle, solve more pain points and attract more customers.
- Develop better customer relations- Today, customers are likely to buy from people they know and trust. To develop this trust, have better customer service, offer quality products and stay relevant. Use social media platforms to produce more content, provide value and develop customer relationships. If you have relevant information, products and a customer following, your will always have an edge over your competition.
6. Cash & Human Resource Management
As seen above, few women entrepreneurs have enough experience to run and manage complex businesses. They are also limited of funding to hire top professionals to manage key activities such as accounting, finance and human resource management. Consequentially, they are left alone or with unqualified staff to run the business. This opens up loopholes for costly mistakes such as cashflow problems, hiring the wrong people and other human resource problems.
Business cashflow problems can be managed in multiple ways. However, the most practical solution would be utilizing invoice factoring solutions. Instead of using the limited resources applying for a loan and getting denied, contact invoice financing companies and hand them the unpaid invoices in exchange of the funds you need to sustain the business. On the other hand if you are facing human resource related problems, the best option would be to sign up for human resource management software. These resources do not only come with management tools but also come with basic education modules on ways to hire, promote, motivate and manage your workforce. It is also important to integrate affordable employee appraisal and feedback systems.back to menu ↑
The Way Forward For Entrepreneurial Women
The social-culture structures are changing, and this will consequentially affect the business world. Women related barriers and limitations are getting out of the way allowing aspiring female entrepreneurs pursue their business goals. Although current structures give men an upper hand that has not stopped some women from going on and starting their own ventures. All you have to do to become a successful women entrepreneur, is to position yourself at the right place at the right time. Luckily today, technology and social media allows people to come up with a business idea and present it to the world regardless of their gender orientation. All these developments are positive signs that the current women related business challenges will overcome sooner than later.back to menu ↑
FAQback to menu ↑
What are challenges that entrepreneurs face?
- Corporations will normally overlook female professionals in key negotiating positions in the fears that they will not be aggressive enough.
- Many women entrepreneurs struggle to find investors who will take them seriously
- Due to the limited number of women in business, upcoming female entrepreneurs have often found themselves alienated without any mentorship support
- Women with children normally find it harder committing to their business due to their parental nurturing roles to their kids
How do you overcome business challenges?
- Working harder and partnering up with other business people will be pivotal in making you a better business professional.
- Search for loans and grants that you are eligible for
- Initiate networks from where you are currently
- Delegate minor duties