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Very few women are the top in the business world. Culprit? Societal failure.

Categories: Career Talk, Entrepreneurship

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As someone who has been in the business world for most of my career, I am always interested in the topic of why there are so few women running companies or starting high-growth companies. So this article in Business Week, about the dearth of women entrepreneurs, caught my attention.

The author cites a few non-surprising statistics:

No woman has ever been CEO of a Wall Street firm.

Women were primary owners of only 19% of the 237,843 firms founded in 2004.

I say non-surprising because I am well aware of how few women hold top positions in business and finance. During my five years in venture capital, I ran across very few women who held senior positions in other firms and got used to scanning networking events for one or two women in the sea of make suits.

When people talk or write about why more women aren’t don’t hold top positions in business, there are common themes that emerge:
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Guest post: My Journey to the nuthouse and back

Categories: Balancing Act, Entrepreneurship, Guest Blog

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Today’s guest post is written by Ally Loprete, an active Work It, Mom! member and founder of Ourmilkmoney.com, a directory of self-employed parents who offer products and services in your community. When I read about Ally’s experience I knew I wanted to provide a way for her to share it with you. I think every busy working mom I know can learn something from what Ally learned, whether you run your own business or not, work full-time or part time, in an office or at home. I invite you to share your reactions in the comments.

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Yes, I was there. I was horribly embarrassed at first, but I’ve now come to appreciate the experience as one of my most favorite journeys.

What brought me to the nuthouse was a breakdown resulting from extreme exhaustion. I’d simply forgotten to take care of myself. I had not slept since 2007. I had lost a pregnancy, I wasn’t eating, my son and my husband were being neglected, and there was no end in sight.
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The upside of being a working mom

Categories: Balancing Act, Entrepreneurship, Parenting & Family, Working Women Issues, Your life

26 Comments

For the past month or so we’ve been raising capital for Work It, Mom!. As a young company we need investment capital so that we can grow to a scale where we can be a real business. And having been on the other side of investing for many years, let me tell you, it is SOOOO much easier there than here.

On an average day of dealing with potential investors I feel mostly like a punching bag after a really brutal workout. Being questioned endlessly about everything from our mission (”Are there really enough working moms out there who would care to connect with each other?) to our product (”Your site doesn’t show that you have a good sense of what women want — where is all the celebrity content and diet tips?”) is difficult, but it’s also very personal. (When I said that business is personal I really meant it.) Sometimes I truly feel beaten down.

But here’s the upside:
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Why I think everyone should be an entrepreneur at least once in life

Categories: Career Talk, Entrepreneurship, Your life

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I am writing this while sitting on the bus, on my way back home from a day business trip to NYC. My feet are blistered despite the half-a-box of Band-Aids that I used up during the day of walking/running from one meeting to another. My right eye is bloodshot because I have completely failed to get any sleep this week (OK, last week and the week before that also.) My voice is coarse from all the talking and my right hand is cramping from all the typing. I have a fugly-looking red welt in my right shoulder from carrying my enormous laptop around all day. And I am too scared to look in my inbox because I’ve not yet gone on one business trip when either (1) there wasn’t some crisis on the site or (2) something going on at home.

And this was one of the better days.
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Guest Blog: Five marketing baby steps for your business or “almost” business

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Guest Blog

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annajake.jpgToday’s guest blog is by Anna Barcelos, a full-time marketer, mom and owner of ALB MarCom that helps small businesses with limited budgets leverage marketing efforts to get the exposure of larger organizations. Anna blogs at lifeinmarketing.blogspot.com.

Having been in the business to business (B2B) world all my career and now starting to slowly enter the consumer market in my current responsibilities, I’m finding that marketing of any size or in any market has similarities. I believe everyone (Yes, you!) has something they are good at and should always take it as far as they can. Whether or not you want to get paid (at least initially) for being good at something there are some small steps you can take to help you get there, and they may not happen in this order, but make them happen!

1. Start a blog right now!
It’s free and a perfect forum for you to talk about what you love to do and get the word out. Despite working full time as I currently do, one of my goals was to make time to start a blog, and I did it! Of course, I would love to have daily posts, but know that’s not realistic so I try for once or twice a month. I get to talk about things that may help people with their businesses, other marketers, or people who are on the edge of the pool but are not quite ready to dive in and start something new, whether business or personal. One thing I’ve learned is dive in that pool now! A blog is a nice jump to get you started.
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Business IS personal and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying

Categories: Entrepreneurship

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woman-with-megaphone.jpgOne expression that I hear frequently now that I am an entrepreneur is: Don’t take it personally.

I’ve heard this from several entrepreneurs, investors, coaches, friends, family, you name it. Usually it comes up in a conversation where I talk about a difficult issue or challenge I am facing, or something that is not going as well as I’d like.”Don’t take it personally,” they say, and I nod to move the conversation along.

But I feel like I need to go on some kind of a public record here and say that I don’t buy that argument, not for a minute. To me, business is all about being personal. It’s both the most exciting and the most excruciatingly difficult part of being an entrepreneur. When I see a member being helped by other members on the site, when I get a note from someone saying they love Work It, Mom!, when I read a great member article, note, or blog post, I feel an unbelievable kind of pride and satisfaction. When we’re not growing as quickly as I’d like, when we release a new feature or design element that’s not working well, when a competitor does something better than we do, I feel responsible, stressed, and upset. I take it personally and I could not imagine not doing that.

Frankly, I didn’t think anyone could not take their business personally, but apparently I am wrong.
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Is it Fear of Failure Or Fear of Success That Is Holding You Back?

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Guest Blog

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Today’s guest blog post is by Wendy, the rockin’ founder of emomsathome.com. Following up on my post yesterday about overcoming fears of failure as an entrepreneur, this is Wendy’s perspective on the topic. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of hers–read this, it will give you a fresh perspective whether or not you’re an entrepreneur.

Is it Fear of Failure or Fear of Success That Is Holding You Back?

My second home based business was a great freelance graphic design business. I ran it for 4 years from home, never took on any debt, and made money every year (until the end… but that’s another story). There were several times in which I tried to figure out how to grow the company without taking on more clients - and the obvious solution was to subcontract some of my work out to other freelancers.

This worked for a while, but I found that I was a little lot outside of my comfort zone to delegate work - especially work that had “my name on it”. I wanted to run the show - wanted to maintain control. At the time, I knew I was dealing with an internal struggle - and deducted that I was just afraid of failing :: that if I didn’t control all of the pieces of the puzzle, something would go terribly wrong.

So I eventually stopped trying.

It wasn’t until few years later that I realized that perhaps it wasn’t fear of failure at all. In fact, I was damn good at failing :: I failed to follow up on a ton of leads, failed to grow my business to the level I wanted, failed to manage my time efficiently, and in the end the burnout got to me and I ended up closing my doors (which may or may not be considered a failure - for me, it truly was the right time to move on).

It was a dear friend who helped me to see that failing was indeed comfortable for me. What I was actually afraid of was becoming a success. Megan over at eBay Selling for eParents wrote a heartfelt post about this yesterday. And instead of buttoning up her article, she left it open ended and asked for some input from others.

So here’s what I have found. Becoming successful has a whole slew of perceived baggage that comes with it: I feared that if I became hugely successful…

  • Friendships and relationships would change because I would become more successful than the people I loved
  • That success would go to my head and I would become a raving bi*ch (hahaha)
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Having your own business means being scared…every single day

Categories: Entrepreneurship

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woman-with-arms-up-in-the-air.jpgSince we just moved I’ve been meeting new people all the time. Inevitably the “What do you do?” question comes up to which I answer that I started my own company recently. The responses usually take the form of “Wow, that’s exciting!” and I nod and smile politely in agreement.

But let me be honest here. What I’ve learned from my six-month stint as a full-time, no security blanket entrepreneur is that mostly, it’s freakin’ scary. Yes, I said scary. It IS exciting, and wonderful, and amazing, and gutsy, and interesting, and fulfilling, and many other adjectives, but every single day, it’s scary. And it’s the kind of scary that I’ve not experienced before–a deeply ingrained, constant state of scary vs. something that just comes and goes. To be perfectly clear–or too honest, as a friend who has been reading this blog recently said to me–here are some things I am scared of:

  • I am scared of failure. I am really really scared of failure. Work It, Mom! is something I’ve created and I’ve gone out into the world saying “Hey, world! We need a community for working moms called Work It, Mom! and I am going to create it and make it into a real business.” The odds of success are tiny, the fear of failure is huge.
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Want to work from home? Think about starting an online business

Categories: Balancing Act, Entrepreneurship

3 Comments

Yes, I am writing this right on the heels of my post about how working on a flexible schedule can put tons of stress on your marriage. But while it does take some organization to succeed when working from home it is something that so many working moms say they’d love to find a way to do. Since we’ve launched Work It, Mom! I get several emails weekly from moms asking for advice about starting an online business, which is, by the way, a great type of business to work on from home.

But I am not an expert on online businesses you can start and run from home. So I asked someone who is to share some practical advice with you. Her name is Wendy Piersall and she is the founder of eMOMSATHOME.COM, a great site for parents who run internet-based businesses and work from home. I recently met Wendy at Blogher and she is one smart lady. She is also a mom. Here is a great post from her about starting a home-based online business:

Can anyone make money online? I do believe so. But not everyone WILL make money online, because as I have said before, making money on the internet takes a long time to learn, and most people give up because it can be extremely frustrating.

My one piece of advice for starting an internet home business is this :: Don’t expect to make any real money for 365 days (or so!) . Although I will add that service-based businesses tend to bring in revenue faster, I would still allow for a full year to replace your outside-the-home salary.

The good news about this industry is that as long as you are willing to put in the hours (days… weeks…. months….. ) to learn the ropes, you can bootstrap your business with extremely little money, generally speaking. Some businesses take more to start than others. I’ve probably directly invested less than $3000 getting this blog up and running, and now revenue is increasing at about a 125-140% pace every month after being in business for 16 months.

So, where do you start from here? Some general rules of thumb:

  1. Pre-packaged programs only work as much as you can customize it and make it unique and your own. Even then, techniques that work for one niche won’t work in all niches.
  2. Be wary of any “system” that promises instant results (especially anything that sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme!)
  3. Knowing the basics of html, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), social media, and traditional marketing and sales are a must.
  4. Every business is made stronger by specializing in a tight niche. Know your audience and stick to it.

Unless you have a brilliant tech idea that makes venture capitalists drool, you need to determine where your strengths are and which business model you plan on following (and you don’t need this list). I have run three home-based businesses in my life, all of which leveraged my current skill set as the foundation for building the business.

Look over the following list and single out the ones in which you have at least some experience. You probably won’t have all of the skills necessary, so don’t let that stop you! All you have to do is work hard and be willing to learn.

Click here for Wendy’s list of 10 Internet Businesses You Can Start In Your Underwear.

Are you a mom who runs a business from your home? Tell us about it and how you got started in the comments section.

5 dark secrets about running your own business

Categories: Entrepreneurship

8 Comments

We have many moms on this site who are running their own businesses or are considering making the leap and doing it. Maybe you call yourself an entrepreneur, or a business owner, or a freelancer. Either way, you’re out there, creating your own work and doing it despite the many risks and challenges. This post is for you. I’ve recently published it over at the Huffington Post and it’s been fun reading through other entrepreneur reactions and comments. I hope that you will shares yours!

5 Dark Secrets of Entrepreneurship: What (Almost) No One Tells You About Starting Your Own Company

Before becoming an entrepreneur I worked with many of them closely for five years. I watched them start, grow, exit, ruin, and shut down their companies. You’d think there would be few things about starting a company that would surprise me. You would be wrong.

During my still-very-short tenure as an entrepreneur I’ve discovered many things that have surprised me. Here is my list of 5 Dark Secrets of Entrepreneurship. I’m sure it’s not exhaustive.

1. An entrepreneur, you feel stupid much more often than you feel smart.

Most entrepreneurs I’ve met in my time as a VC were really smart. Not all had good business ideas or solid management skills, but they were sharp. At the risk of sounding self-indulgent, I think of myself as a generally smart person. And yet, as I’ve been working on launching my company, I’ve felt dumb and stupid more often than I care to share. I’ve made bad decisions, wrong choices that in retrospect seem so easy to have been avoided, and I’ve learned a great deal about things I thought I already knew a lot about. Entrepreneurship is all about trying and building new things. Regardless of how smart you might be, doing something completely new and making endless mistakes can be stupefying.

(Now, I’m no Marc Andreessen and perhaps after a few billion dollar companies under my belt I’d feel less stupid starting my next one, but I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll email Marc to weigh in on this.)

2. Everyone is your greatest fan when you start, but support wears off quickly.

When I told friends and business contacts that I was starting my own company, the enthusiasm was overwhelming. It was like going from one cheer-on session to another, with tons of encouraging emails and calls sprinkled in between. It felt great and gave me a lot of confidence about what I was doing.

But this overwhelming support began to wear off as time went on. The big news about my new gig wasn’t news anymore and support quickly turned into feedback. Feedback is great — it’s useful and necessary. But it came in heavy non-stop doses. EVERYONE I knew wanted to give me tips on everything from what our website should look like to how I should word our email newsletters. Emails that began with: “Hi, I was just checking out your site and wanted to give you some advice,” became very frequent. I found myself with a strong urge for those great support-filled emails that flooded my inbox earlier on. As maybe too few entrepreneurs will tell you, we need as much cheerleading as we can get.

3. Regardless of your confidence level, you will often experience crises of confidence.

Most entrepreneurs I know are generally confident people. I don’t think it’s possible to take on the enormous amount of risk starting a company requires without being confident in your ability to overcome it. Apparently experts agree, which makes me even more confident in this assumption.

But being an entrepreneur involves consistently overcoming crises of confidence. You feel hopeless about making progress, you think your business is doomed, you think you’ve made the worst decisions ever. This is a crisis of confidence and you have to work very hard to overcome it. It’s a horrible feeling.

4. Nothing is ever right on the first try.

Your website design needs to be re-done. You hired the wrong sales guy. You strategy is wrong. Your name is spelled wrong on your newly ordered business cards.

Nothing works on the first try and regardless of how much you expect this, you feel crushed when it happens and you think you’ll get it right the second time around. Sometimes you do, but often you don’t. Our company is four months old and we’ve redesigned the homepage twice, modified our focus, changed many of our tactical feature implementations. Intellectually, I knew this is part of the process — everything is iterative and you learn only by doing. Emotionally this is rough because it often leads to #3.

5. You will take everything personally.

This morning an email came into the info box. It was from a woman who is married but chose not to have children. She spent three paragraphs writing about how prejudicial, judgmental, demeaning, biased, and damaging it was to create a site for professional moms (vs one for professional women). I read the email quickly and moved on to the next one. But it kept nagging me as I worked. I wanted to reply, to tell her the many reasons why I disagreed with her. I took it personally.

Now, some of you might want to dismiss this as a woman-thing, but don’t. I’ve now met enough entrepreneurs who say this is true — and they never admitted it to me until I became one of them.

What am I missing? Share your favorite dark secret of entrepreneurship in the comments.

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