Posted on February 25 in Entrepreneurship

Late-in-Life Entrepreneurship

Rosier—and Thornier—Than I Thought

Recently I read a blog recommended by a woman who is a career coach. But the blog felt like something from a women’s magazine—the kind of soft, wispy “surround yourself with positive people, have a plan” article for young entrepreneurs armed with an idea, guts and a can-do attitude – because that’s what you have when you’re 22. You usually don’t have a lot of significant risk right out of college.

There are many, many young women who’ve made it on an idea, guts and a can-do attitude alone: Cassandra Connors of Bellabag.com, right here in Atlanta, started her luxury handbag e-commerce site out of her dorm room and is absolutely a hard-working, gorgeous, rock star success.

Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso overcame adversity to build one of the most successful online retailers in the world, netting more than $100 million each year fulfilling women’s need for edgy style.

I, however, am a second- or third-career female entrepreneur. I’m … um … mature. I have a family, a mortgage, an aging parent and college tuition looming over my head. I also have 10 employees who rely on me for a paycheck.

So here are just a few tips for budding entrepreneurs to consider based on my own thorny experiences, hard-fought battles and moments of glory. Sure, these can certainly apply for young women just starting out, but I think they’re even more relevant for professionals who decide to take the plunge and launch their own business later in life:

  1. Once the excitement and “busy-ness” of setting up your business wears off, you will have moments of absolute doubt and terror. Even so, you will pull yourself together and move forward anyway, because there’s no way out but through. While your head says “NO,” your legs will climb out of bed into their big girl panties, and you’ll find yourself at the office or the networking event or the umpteenth coffee meeting doing the work. And you’ll surprise yourself that you know just what to do and how to make that experience turn into something valuable, even if it’s just a blog post.
  2. When you can’t do all of the work yourself, hire the best you can—not the cheapest. You get what you pay for.
  3. As soon as you have enough money in the bank, get a line of credit. Don’t USE the line of credit, but have it for a rainy day.
  4. When you begin making money, pay yourself. Working for free, even for yourself, sucks after a while. I’m not saying you shouldn’t plow your money back into the business, that’s a must. But you’re not sacrificing for nothing—even a small paycheck makes you feel more successful.
  5. You may be a one-woman powerhouse, but it’s important to recharge and save time for creativity, inspiration, and plain ol’ client engagement. Insist on help from others around you—whether it’s dishes, laundry or accounting. From personal experience, I’m sure you believe you can do everything. Well, you can’t. At least, not well. Trust me (or any other female entrepreneur) on this.
  6. You may have to go back to successes from your past to shore up occasional crumbling self-doubt. Kids and family and working for someone else’s company may have slowed down the dream for some of us, but we gained skills and experience that are strong foundations for our entrepreneurial dreams.
  7. Lastly, you can’t make your dreams come true if you always have one foot out the door. You can’t be thinking, “If a good job comes along, I’ll do that because it’s less risky.” It’s not less risky, and the rewards are often fewer. Commit. Sometimes you’ll have to commit several times a day. But then tomorrow comes, and it’s usually a better day.

Being a second- or third-act entrepreneur, as with so many things we do, has its good sides and bad. There’s a lot more risk starting a business at 40 or so. But there’s also more reward—using your skills well; having the experience to know when to say no (or yes); and the gravitas to help sell your idea are all upsides. So keep a support system of frank friends, accept help, and commit to your vision. Your business will grow and mature, just as you’ve done.

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Some fun facts about women entrepreneurs from the Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship study (links below):

  • 40: The average age of women starting their own business.
  • 60: Percent of women who had at least one child when they launched their business.
  • 44: Percent of women with at least two children (I am exhausted just reading that.).
  • 33: Percent of U.S. businesses owned by women.

Those entrepreneurs also drove more than $1.3 trillion in U.S. economy revenues in 2012. This could be you!

Want to drill deeper? Check out these stats from More Magazine’s recent poll of entrepreneurs and its readers:

  • 84 percent of women surveyed said they’d tweaked their careers recently, mostly by returning to school or creating/buying a new business.
  • 71 percent changed their health routines. Let’s face it. We just don’t have the stamina we had in our 20s. Maintaining a healthy body leads to a healthier mind.

Thinking about becoming your own boss as your next act? Check out these links and let us know what you’re doing. We want to share your stories!

 

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