Women are senseless creatures, that entirely lack entrepreneurial skills
Women are stupid.
*Disclaimer: before you go into reading between the lines or into launching sexist allegations, you should know that I, the author of this article, a woman, reside in an Eastern European country. This is, most of the times, synonymous with a distorted perspective on entrepreneurship.
Okay, so you’re a woman who’s not senseless.
But then you don’t have the sense of orientation. Or you’re not too good at seizing the opportunity. In any case, you certainly lack a significant number of skills essential to your ascension as an entrepreneur.
These were some of the thoughts running through my head as I took the decision to quit academia and start something on my own.
If you were born in the eighties (in Romania or in any other country in Eastern Europe), you know what occupational statistics looked like in a communist environment. Most women were working in factories – as were most men. There was little chance for maternity leave and entrepreneurship was practically inexistent. Those of our parents who eventually dared to start something on their own did it at a very small scale, for fear of not being turned in to the Securitate.
No entrepreneurial blood ever ran through my veins.
Although my father managed a whole factory in communist times, after the revolution he retired on demand and got a job in the private sector, being genuinely convinced that owning a business is a privilege destined to the lucky few who “know people”. Truth be told, he wasn’t entirely misinformed – in post-revolutionary Romania, colossal fortunes were made on dishonest bases.
In today’s Romania, things have changed a tad. It’s not so much about knowing people, as it is about intuition, capital, ambition and luck.
The idea is I started from zero. Two years ago, I was 27, close to finishing a PhD (that was more cause for frustration than it was for satisfaction) and tired of trying to reform the educational university system in Romania. I also had dreams, questions and a lot of time on my hands. Plus a huge academic background and absolutely no money.
My first startup was a packaging business.
My brother-in-law had the machines, I had the marketing skills. “So chic and delicately appropriate for a woman” – I told myself. “I would finally get to apply all the stuff I learned during university, an international master’s degree and a PhD”. Oh, how wrong I was!
Nobody tells you that producing paper bags is nothing compared to fighting competitors, in a market in which everyone’s harboring prices smaller than production costs. For most printing house owners, working with multinational giants such as Carrefour is satisfactory enough without actually earning any money. To me, doing that on an empty stomach was not too big of an achievement. But who was I to judge?!
My story isn’t about my first startup. Or about my capacity to reinvent myself. It’s about how little I felt as I was writing my first invoice and had absolutely no idea how to do it. It’s about some of the civil servants constantly asking the following:
“Miss, are you sure you’ve got what it takes to work in the packaging industry?! I mean…there are so many others out there who’ve been doing it for a lot longer and things don’t seem to be working out too well for them either. Plus, they are powerful and connected, whereas you’re on your own. Do you really think you stand a chance?”
I didn’t. But that’s beside the point. This story is about the numerous phone calls I made to find out when taxes were due. It’s about that half receipt book I had to cancel, before finding out how to invoice properly (I actually had to contact some of my clients and to kindly ask them to allow me to perform “minor modifications” on the paperwork). Funny, huh?
“Don’t worry, it won’t take long” – I used to tell them.
Unfortunately, no school teaches you all there is to know about starting your own business. I had to learn it all on my own, while constantly reassuring myself that things would get better in time. Women seem to be exceptionally good at this. Although they often need loads of chocolate or shoes to cool down.
“Don’t worry, mom, I’ll be fine.”
This is a story about refusal, prejudice and stereotypes. It’s about sensing a constant feeling of pity and forced gratitude (especially on the side of men) and about the questions that everyone was thinking, but never verbalising:
“Why won’t you get a normal job?”
And yet, the hardest part was having to tell my parents how it would all work out in the end.
Packaging was a dead end. But if it hadn’t been, I probably would have never written this article or got down to something I enjoy so much – content marketing.
I probably should have started earlier. Failing at 24 is better than failing at almost 30. Or maybe not, I’ll never know. Like they say, half the fun is in the journey. Which I’ll definitely remember.
*Georgiana is Content marketer and founder at Beaglecat, content marketing for technology startups