The Women in Business Series: Insights from Diverse Entrepreneurs on Overcoming Challenges and Seizing Opportunities

Jerome Knyszewski
FoundersMag
Published in
30 min readFeb 18, 2023

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When it comes to entrepreneurship, there are unique challenges and opportunities for people of all genders. In this article, we spoke with a variety of successful entrepreneurs to get their perspectives on what it takes to succeed in business. From building supportive networks to navigating systemic barriers, these entrepreneurs share their insights and experiences to help others overcome obstacles and seize opportunities in the world of business.

Mélissa Deschênes

Title: Co-Owner and Creative Director

Company: Design de Plume Inc.

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-deschenes-rgd

Design de Plume is a women-led, Indigenously-owned design circle that creates inclusive and accessible designs for social good. We’ve been in business since 2009, employing a team of 15 both locally in Sudbury, Ontario and remotely. Our design work which includes branding, layout, and web design encompasses clients all over Canada and the US.

Society expects women to be the primary caretakers in families including children and aging parents. At our studio, my two business partners and I each had children relatively around the same time. I personally had two children back to back while only taking a short 3 month break before going back to work full time. Navigating entrepreneurship and motherhood is difficult, but having a strong team that supports you has made the journey much easier. Finding accessible daycare has also been a struggle. But when we’ve got a company to run we need to manage, delegate, and ensure our work/life balance doesn’t suffer.

At the start of our journey, as a women-run studio, we struggled with finding a local client base in a trades-run town due to our gender and age at the time. Now, this has shifted into an opportunity. Our ethics, and vision as women who believe in supporting diversity and creating accessible designs has allowed us to work with exceptional clients in the non-profits industry. We’ve made a name for ourselves with a focus on who we are and how we apply our IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility) lenses to everything that we do. Being supportive women is part of that diversity and inclusion.

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Rosie Harris

Title: Owner

Company: Joie Designs

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosie-harris-1bb7827/

Honestly, after previously working in the male-dominatedle dominated engineering industry, I find being an entrepreneur so much easier than being the odd (wo)man out in a boys club. Now I’m not limited by my gender, nor am I demoralized by some clueless archaic patriarch who thinks he can run a company like he is still in the dark ages. The sky’s the limit and now I am the only one responsible for my success and failures

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Lauren Barker

Title: CEO

Company: Uresta

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-barker/

Many entrepreneurs start their businesses trying to solve a problem that they personally face. Women represent half the population, yet a small percentage of entrepreneurs. This means there is a huge opportunity for women to identify gender-specific problems that need to be solved or require significant innovation.

At Uresta, we are solving an issue that impacts 1 in 3 women and is a huge quality of life issue. Our product addresses stress incontinence, described as bladder leakage when sneezing, coughing, jumping, or laughing. Today, most women use disposable pads or leak-proof underwear to manage their leaks (which seems archaic for 2023). This does nothing to improve the quality of life of women. Women message me and say that their leaks impact their confidence at work (think the return to work post-baby!) and in social settings, deter them from being physically active, and often creates uncomfortable and embarrassing rashes in their intimate areas. Uresta stops the leaks from happening entirely versus absorbing them like a pad. Women leave reviews saying Uresta is a game-changer or that it gave them their life back.

I want to encourage women to look around in their daily life and think of the pain points they experience. There is a good chance you’re not the only one experiencing that issue, and by solving it, you could be creating a lucrative business. I also know from having a business that helps women, that women WANT to help other women, and they want to be HEARD. Our customers are our biggest supporters, recommending Uresta to their friends and spreading the word. If you solve a problem for women, especially one that has been overlooked for years, I think you’ll find you have a community of women who thank you and want to support you in your growth.

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Kseniia Ivanova

Title: VFX Supervisor

Company: InSoul Effects

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kseniia-ivanova-29592396/

Advantages of women in business

Men and women will inevitably have different experiences and backgrounds, which shape their approach to business. Males compete with one another whereas women collaborate.

Women value relationships. Running a business with greater consideration for the people we interact with makes for better leaders and more willing counterparts. Women are better at nurturing the employees that report to them, which can only enhance the state and success of the business by inspiring and motivating people in the company.

It’s important to be creative in every aspect of running a business. Women entrepreneurs are more in touch with their creative side and open-minded to expand new horizons and gain a fresh perspective on their business. Soft skills and emotional intelligence may prove a key competitive advantage for women in business.

Challenges for women in business

Running a business successfully is very challenging for both genders. Most industries are very closed-minded and live by conservative precepts, and VFX is no exception. Women in such industries, trying to rise up into entrepreneurship, face cultural and systemic hurdles that make it harder for them to advance, such as unconscious bias. For example, many people still believe that women are historically unsuited to running their own businesses, and can only perform the tasks assigned to them.As for us, finding ourselves in a male-dominated industry that does not want to acknowledge our leadership role, earning respect has been a struggle. Recognizing business communication styles of each gender helped us better understand our colleagues and get the most out of our working relationships, creating a win-win for all. Sometimes we have to act more aggressive and unyielding — and often just for show rather than for the cause. In some places, people wouldn’t expect to see me as a CEO — thinking that I’m simply a secretary or coordinator of the project. Also, the constant growth of harassment limits women opportunities in some industries.

Here is the common view that if a man does business it’s fine, if a woman does business — there is something missing in her life. The absence of proper support by their own family members and the outside world forces them to drop the idea of excelling in the enterprise field. And too much talent may be wasted.

Opportunities for women in business

It’s no secret that having the support of others can make a major difference to a person’s entrepreneurial success — and the support of the government is a great way to boost that growth even further. Governments can provide support through coaching schemes and dedicated accelerator programmes or provide more targeted financial support to women entrepreneurs using competitive mechanisms. For example, the Government of Canada helps ensure that more women entrepreneurs have the tools and financing they need to succeed. And they selected several delivery organizations to provide grants only to women entrepreneurs. This focused attention makes and increased awareness boosts women-owned businesses and helps women run better businesses.

Another benefit of having a woman-owned business is access to informal organizational and industry networks that empowers the female entrepreneur community. When you create connections with other women, who can share experiences based on shared interests and goals, you’ll be more successful at your job. Raising each other up and channeling the power of collaboration is truly how we’ll change entrepreneurship.

As a woman business owner you may experience stressful situations and face tougher barriers. Most of us feel that we learned something from those experiences. So, what have I learned from my own experiences as an entrepreneur? Well, simply put, everything is possible. Having to overcome this kind of underestimation makes women stronger in the long run and more ready to face the challenges that come with running a business. The nature of female entrepreneurship, to expand our notion of possibility, to grow in unimagined ways, and in the process remove one more thing from the ranks of the impossible.

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Aimee Speight

Title: Founder

Company: Speakeasy Communications

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/91514073/admin/

We’ll start with the positives. There are huge opportunities for women entrepreneurs that simply didn’t exist even ten years ago; there are so many inspirational people out in the financial services paving the way and creating new networks or spaces for women in business. There is a great deal more awareness and acknowledgement of female-run initiatives, not to mention the possibilities that come from social media networking that level out the playing field.
There is an opportunity to leverage emotional intelligence and communication skills, as working environments change, moving away from the ‘one size fits all’ view of leadership and welcoming instead more diverse perspectives.
Financial services is still male-dominated, but this presents a daily opportunity to continue to up-end stereotypes and challenge one’s own cowardice, in a way. Even when you feel outnumbered, you have to keep showing up.
The advantage of self-employment or entrepreneurship also gives working mothers better opportunities to own their own time and still have the flexibility to raise a family. While of course, the hours are often longer than a 9–5 job, the autonomy over your time is a huge advantage.

The challenges? I’ve been told the colour of my hair could mean people don’t take me seriously. I’ve had ideas shot down, then celebrated when they’ve been taken and repeated by a man. There is still a way to go for women entrepreneurs to go before the playing field is truly equal; but there are also a growing number of resources and initiatives being developed to support and empower women in business. By continuing to raise awareness of the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and actively working to address them, we can help create a more inclusive and equitable business environment for all

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Jurga Rubinovaite

Title: Founder and owner at FullSuitcase.com

Company: Full Suitcase

Linkedin: n/a

One of the biggest challenges that women entrepreneurs still face today is being taken seriously. This is especially the case if women run a business that most people don’t understand much about, and even more so if they try to combine career with family and children.

In the meantime, men in the exact same position are often treated very differently. Quite the opposite actually. Men often get extra appreciation if they try to combine family with career.

I experienced this first-hand quite a few times in my journey as an entrepreneur running a family travel blog FullSuitcase.com. First, is, of course, the nature of business — travel blogging. People have all kinds of prejudices about what it looks like, most of which usually have nothing to do with reality. And second, indeed, the fact that I am a woman. Put the two together and everyone thinks it’s just a hobby for bored stay-at-home moms.

It’s been quite a challenge to find partners and get people to understand what I do and the value I can provide to our partners. In the meantime, I have witnessed plenty of cases where men in the same position were treated very differently. I guess it has to do with the fact that everyone thinks that men wouldn’t do this as a hobby, so they are immediately seen as professionals. Whereas women — especially those with kids — are seen as hobbyists.

I think that many women entrepreneurs will relate to this, especially if they are just starting out and still have to prove themselves.

How often have I heard people refer to women in my industry as ‘mommy-bloggers’, usually with contempt. A few times, I even got emails full of indignation of who do you think you are (daring to ask money for your work)…

In addition to this, I also faced many other challenges. One of the biggest challenges was deciding to start a (writing-based) business in English, which is not my native language. Furthermore, I am originally from Lithuania and live in Belgium, whereas my audience is mostly in the USA and in the UK. All this made it even tougher to get established or find partners.

In a way, all these challenges and the struggle to get recognition turned out to be a blessing for my business. Instead of focusing on working with tourism boards and travel brands, I shifted my focus towards serving our readers the best way I could and looking for passive income streams. Instead of wasting my energy trying to prove myself, I built a successful business that doesn’t even require my continuous presence.

I’m one of those people who turned their hobby into a career; and that despite all the challenges and odds that were never in my favor. I feel truly fortunate to be able combine my two passions — family and travel — and make a living of it at the same time. I hope that my story can inspire other women to believe in themselves and their worth. With passion and hard work, you can overcome most challenges and even turn them into opportunities. Looking back, you may realize that struggles and challenges ultimately make you stronger and lead to your success.

About: Jurga Rubinovaite is a mom of three and the founder of FullSuitcase.com, one of the world’s biggest family travel blogs. Established in 2015, Full Suitcase is now read by millions of people worldwide, providing trip inspiration and tips for planning your own dream trips and creating unforgettable memories with your family.

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Lucy Mowatt

Title: Founder

Company: Method Marketing

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/lucymowatt

Personally, I often feel underestimated — and I’m sure I’m not alone! As a woman under 40, it sometimes feels as though the people I’m speaking to think I won’t have staying power or deliver on a contract. I even had a client say to me that they thought I was just running the business until I got married and had a child. I was furious to say the least!

It’s demoralising and tiring. And, occasionally, being underestimated plays into my Imposter Syndrome and reinforces it. I start to believe that those people are right to underestimate me and that maybe I’m not as a good as I think I am.

However, it can also be an opportunity to exceed expectations and deliver where other businesses and consultants haven’t. We have some amazing client testimonials and longstanding clients. Remembering those achievements often helps me overcome the feeling of being underestimated!

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Isabel Gómez

Title: CEO

Company: Isabel Gomez Studio

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/isabel-g%C3%B3mez-tinoco-a2701447/

Do you know how an airline receptionist became the CEO of a successful interior design company?

At 40, getting fired, losing your husband, losing your car… Do you think this is the end?

Not for me, these events acted as a rebirth of my life. After a whole year of trying to figure out what to do, I re-enrolled in evening classes in interior design and decided to start my own business in parallel. 10 years later, I now run a team of 20 people in my interior design agency.

From Brussels to Paris, The Hague to Ankara, I partner with my most discerning clients to design private residences that reflect their unique personalities and properties.

As a female entrepreneur, I believe my greatest strengths are my curiosity and my ability to learn. This allows me to adapt to each of my clients and truly understand their needs in order to create interiors that truly suit them.

When I started out, one of my biggest challenges was to be really taken seriously by the different stakeholders in my industry.

But I think now, after a decade of experience and knowledge, people trust me more easily with my taste and design style.

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Viktoria Kanar

Title: CEO and Co-Founder

Company: Re-Fresh.Global

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/viktoria-kanar/

Viktoria Kanar is the CEO and co-founder of Re-Fresh.Global — an eco-business that recently developed a groundbreaking technology to turn textile waste into new materials and products, some of which are as surprising as a real perfume fragrance made from textile waste.
Kanar is a trailblazing fashion producer and entrepreneur with a wealth of international experience in business development, marketing and communication.
Following a decade of working in PR and branding in the fashion industry, she realized how devastating this industry’s impact on our planet is and together with her co-founder, fashion designer Revital Nadiv, founded Re-Fresh.Global.

When asked about the opportunities and challenges of being a woman entrepreneur, especially as the CEO of her company, a position that’s unfortunately mostly filled by men, Kanar shares that there are always pros and cons and that she always tries to use the positive aspects of her situation into business advantages. The challenges Kanar and Nadiv met, were not only the challenges that every new business owner faces because being a woman entrepreneur can add another layer of challenge to this experience. Their background in areas that are considered “fluff” such as PR and design made some people look down on them. However, this duo decided to take this as a stepstone and motivation instead of discouragement.

Viktoria describes the process of building their business firstly as a rewarding experience. Their ability to face unique barriers and challenges that men sometimes don’t meet really strengthens them as businesswomen and they are trustful that it will surely lead to extraordinary achievements.
Though things seem to be going great, and as Re-Fresh gains more clients and interest from investors, the gender issue is still sometimes an issue. 100% Women-owned businesses, and especially start-ups, are still a different breed, and you will usually see a man in the CEO seat, statistically speaking. Kanar believes that having more females in executive positions will create a wider perspective and understanding of the need for accountability in every aspect of a company, including the need to develop more sustainable methods of production.

This CEO’s goal for 2023 is to expand the company’s work for sustainability and impact the entire textile industry — a multi-billion industry that influences virtually every person on earth.

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Vienda Maria

Title: Founder & Creative Director

Company: viendamaria

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vienda-maria/

Advantages are: women love to buy from other women, my nature women are community-centred and quickly become very loyal to brands that we feeling to and trust.

Challenges: Men are taught from a young age to celebrate and announce their successes while women tend to downplay them, alongside that, we have a very different energy output system which is affected by our hormones and cycles s sometimes there may be an entire week in a month where productivity and social proclivity is down. Plus, we often have many more demands in our homes and communities that run alongside our businesses.

Opportunities: to redefine the workplace and the way that we run our businesses by doing s in a way that embraces our feminine qualities. we can run our businesses like women instead of like men and set ourselves a very different set of demands and standards that are based in quality and results rather than continuous graft and consistency.

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Paola Farina

Title: Personal stylist

Company: Paola Farina Styling

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paolafarina/

Challanges: Unfortunately too often women are not taken seriously when they talk about work, whether they are entrepreneurs, managers, public figures or employees. We are often treated fairly and our word has less value than that of a man. We struggle to establish ourselves and reach important positions. The challenge is not only to have to struggle to affirm our value, but also find who is willing to pay a fair compensation for our value. Another important aspect is not getting help from the family or partner. This limits us because we must always make renunciations, men are not asked to give up.

Advantages: There is no shortage of satisfactions, the positive word of mouth of customers and companies, the earnings, the fact of being able to decide who to work without having to suffer rude or arrogant people. And in my case also the joy of having been mentioned by several Italian publications such as Grazia, Amica, Corriere della Sera and foreign ones such as MassAppeal Magazine, Bustle, Stylecraze and Authority Magazine. The fact of having created something by yourself is priceless.

Opportunities: To seize all the opportunities, we have to team up. We must avoid making unfair competition and being more collaborative. Learn to support us, create bonds, think laterally and create solid networks.If we start working together we can do many things and get very far away. The opportunities must be sought and created, if I glimpse the possibility of doing business with a company different from mine, I introduce myself, I expose my ideas. Sometimes it’s okay, sometimes it goes wrong, but don’t try it is already a failure.

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Hannah Parvaz

Title: Founder

Company: Aperture

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hnpvz/

Today I joined my first ever female founders’ networking event. After which I wanted to write a post on LinkedIn and to tag some female founders. Despite having 500+ founder connections, there were fewer than 20 women. That’s 4% — and it says a lot.

The founders that I know, as well as myself, have faced countless obstacles related to systemic structures. For example, although I’ve never raised, I know of many women who have been told by male investors that their female-focused solution had no market as it didn’t apply to them.

But it’s getting better. It’s an awesome time to be a female founder right now, because more companies and investors are recognising the value of women-led businesses. I, myself, am actively working to support female-founded businesses.

There are so many opportunities for mentorship and coaching, and spaces like the Female Founders Rise community and the SpeakHer summit have been crucial safe spaces for women to network, have their voices heard, and uplift one another.

I’m very optimistic about what the future brings.

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Xenia Muether

Title: CEO & Founder

Company: Pink Orange Media

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/xenia-muether-education-marketing-agency-consulting-advertising-edtech/

Female entrepreneurs are a force to be reckoned with! They bring unique perspectives, strengths, and skills to the table that can lead to the success of their businesses.

Advantages:
We are often great multitaskers and can juggle multiple responsibilities effectively.
We have strong networks and are often able to draw on the support of other women in business.
We are inherently highly motivated and driven to succeed.

Challenges:
We still face discrimination and bias in the business world.
We often struggle to access the same resources and opportunities as our male counterparts.
We face the added social pressure of balancing our business and personal responsibilities.

Opportunities:
We are in high demand and are increasingly being recognized for our contributions to the global digital economy.
The rise of technology and digital platforms has made it easier for women to start and grow businesses.
Organizations and governments around the world are recognizing the importance of supporting women in business and are investing in initiatives to help them succeed.

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Anna Morrish

Title: Founder & Managing Director

Company: Quibble Content Ltd

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annamorrish/

Women in business can face a number of situations their male counterparts wouldn’t. For example, I would say one advantage of being a woman is that others sometimes underestimate you. This can also have it’s downside as people can not take you as seriously too. Also, some find powerful, confident women as intimidating rather than simply intelligent and forthright. However, I would also go as far to say that most women are more empathetic, which can mean they can read situation more, and be more personable, so they can get buy in and build trust quicker than men.

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Leslie Kenny

Title: CEO

Company: Oxford Healthspan

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/leslie-k-28435a/

Our secret weapon is of course our ability to multitask many projects all at once, but it’s a double edged sword because we are often so orientated towards taking responsibility for others that we can end up taking too much on and not leaving any time to replenish our energy and resources.

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Nada Ali Redha

Title: CEO

Company: Plim

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nada-ali-redha-65a67011/

As a leading Fintech expert, pioneering entrepreneur and CEO and founder of PLIM, my journey to success began with nothing more than the simple intention of solving problems.
I started really building up my business portfolio over the decade following my years in academia where I achieved a BA in International Finance from Franklin College in Switzerland and a certification in the Professional Education Program at Harvard.
I was lucky enough to apply my international education to setting up several well-established, global businesses in a wide range of sectors, including the Fintech industry, while supporting other businesswomen and trying to make it myself as an entrepreneur in a male dominated industry.
Despite my academic achievements and experience in business, making it on my own wasn’t without its obstacles. In my first business venture, it was made very apparent that trying to acquire funds alone as a business woman was almost impossible, highlighting a fundamental flaw in the system.
However, after several failed attempts, a lot of perseverance and my learned ability to innovate and adapt, I have earned the title of global business woman with a promising new project. I’m extremely proud to be able to celebrate the successful Beta launch of my buy now, pay later service, PLIM, that services the medical aesthetics industry specifically, allowing more patients access to treatments at the hands of professionals.
Having fought my way to the top, I can confidently say that my personal philosophy regarding business is to embrace rejection. The more you fail, the more you learn to adapt, innovate and become resilient enough to acquire success.
My relationship with the business world has been full of lessons, inspiration and fulfilling experiences that I am extremely grateful for. As an entrepreneur, I quickly realised that this passion and drive to build a business isn’t something that can be taught or learnt, it’s who you are, and it’s your responsibility to honour that no matter what.

Being a female business owner, I was acutely aware of the facts and figures that suggested the odds would be stacked against me when it came to securing funds and investments. 48% of all investment teams are without a single woman with less than 1% of all UK venture funding being awarded to all-female teams. I knew in order to become successful alone, I’d have to first build myself a reputation so strong that it broke through all the existing prejudices that currently run amok in the business world.
Acquiring capital for any new business can always be a challenge but coupled with the task of having to prove yourself constantly in a male dominated industry was particularly hard. In order to overcome this, I had to really take advantage of networking opportunities, making sure to raise my voice enough for my presence and mission to be known.
I also made sure to introduce myself to as many relevant people as possible — from private investors to other female business owners. Making business connections and expanding your network was a sure-fire way to eventually get myself in front of the right people.
I also found that specifically targeting investors and funding from those who already support female founders was a necessary avenue I needed to go down. They had already demonstrated that they were capable of doing exactly what I needed them to do so it was a chance to show them that they had made the right decision, allowing them another opportunity to empower female business owners.
Ultimately, it was partnering up with the right people that allowed me to secure funding and build a reputation strong enough to endure the tests of the business world alone. Following the initial trust that both me and my partner were given, I was able to showcase my value and my potential, making it easier to secure funding alone as a female business woman moving forward.

I have learnt that it’s absolutely vital to have some sort of support system that allows you to fully immerse yourself in your business goals whilst being given the luxury of a safety net. Starting your own business isn’t for the faint of heart so a great support system provides you with that little bit of extra confidence and boost for you to tackle the obstacles, face the rejections and allow you to redirect when necessary.
Thinking about how to secure capital is also key before starting your own business. Do you already have some connections that could be beneficial for your cause or will you have to put the work into building a network of people before you begin? The right network of people will help you build the connections you need to bring your business into the spotlight — from introducing you to potential investors to bringing about key collaborations and sponsorships.
Once you’re in front of the right people, however, it’s then important to consider having a pitch and business plan with a mission strong enough to get others believing in your vision. In order to get people to join your cause and help you bring your business to life, your ideas and methods of execution must be solid and ready to be challenged.
It’s also important to consider how much of a gruelling and mentally taxing the process of starting a business can be. Do you have the drive, resolve and determination to keep going in the face of rejection and redirection? You have to be prepared to welcome criticism, feedback and advice from those that are willing to help but most importantly, you have to be prepared to fail and not be disheartened by any setbacks. If you aren’t ready and willing to learn from your mistakes and grow from your experiences, your business will suffer.

The most important lesson I have learnt is to always embrace rejection and failure. It’s so easy to be disheartened, to wallow and to give up, however, seeing the opportunities in everything will ultimately lead to your success. In every rejection, there is an opportunity for redirection and in every failure, there is an opportunity to learn and grow from your mistakes.

Bruce Lee’s advice, “be like water” is something that has stuck with me through trying times. Remembering to flow along your journey is crucial to avoid frustration and to keep yourself from knocking on the same closed doors that might never open. Allow yourself and your business to adapt in the ways that are necessary for you to move forward.

Always welcome feedback and criticism from those who have already done what you’re trying to do. Those who have already succeeded will have the most valuable advice. Use it to innovate and improve your next moves instead of taking the criticism as an insult. It might not be what you want to hear but it’ll be what you need to hear.

Networking is another important lesson and aspect of becoming an entrepreneur that I have learnt to prioritise. Filling your circle with the right people can truly elevate your business and reputation to the next level. From finding supporters, to investors to other budding entrepreneurs, you never know when their experiences and connections might be exactly what you’re looking for at a particular time.

For all the women in business, my advice would be to stay driven, resilient and determined through it all. Raise your voice and make your value known. Have a mission and resolve so strong that it becomes undeniable who you are and what you stand for. The odds might be stacked against us but the more we support each other and the more we fight for equality within various industries the more change we are likely to see.

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Elisa Bisello

Title: Co-founder and director

Company: SB Relocations limited

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/elisa-bisello-3aa38536

Being a woman in business can be very rewarding but it has its challenges. Having started my entrepreneurial journey while expecting my baby, I faced certain physical, emotional and mental challenges known to and understood by women — mother in specific — only. Another challenge that I believe is still playing a big role in the female entrepreneurs’ life is earning their respect and reputation, in particular on those sectors who tend to be male dominated. I have a property investment business and I experienced this recently, during a call with a landlord. He thought I was the company secretary and asked for the owner of the company, without realising that he was already talking to the owner.
On a positive note, certainly there are advantages and opportunities. More and more women are following their entrepreneurial path and there are more and more support groups, networking groups and mentoring programs for female entrepreneurs, which are very beneficial both for those starting out and those more experienced for the support that they provide and for being managed by women.
Additionally, being a woman in business means working for yourself, owning your own agenda and scheduling your own working week, as opposed to being an employee stuck in the 9–5 working week and working for someone else. This offers more flexibility around family and the opportunity to choose your own direction towards your own version of success.

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Eynat Guez

Title: CEO

Company: Papaya Global

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eynatguez/

The question of balancing work and raising a family is often posed to women, despite the fact that men also have to make this balancing act. With the advent of paternity leave and more women in leadership roles, this question should no longer be seen as only a women’s issue. It should be reframed as a challenge that all workers face and can be addressed by creating more inclusive and flexible work environments that prioritize the employee experience.

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Oksana Pogodaeva

Title: Managing partner

Company: HR&ED-tech

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/oksana-pogodaeva-74238551/

There are no big differences between men and women in business. Entrepreneurship is the interaction of skills related to inner control, planning and goal setting, risk taking and being stress-resistant. I am convinced that managerial and entrepreneurial skills are accessed by everyone regardless of their gender.

Advantages of women in business

The most important and fundamental skill for an entrepreneur is hiring the right people to build effective teams. In my opinion, women are more successful when it comes to hiring. I believe the reason is that women are more empathic. We are naturally more in tune with others’ feelings, which benefits in building strong connections, and gaining trust and respect. When assessing candidates, it’s easier for us to feel people and assess his or her soft skills, which demonstrate the ability to work with others and grow within the company. Women often tend to pay more attention to what’s actually going on when an employee is upset or ineffective. As for me, I’ve been in those situations. My employee had a personal problem that was affecting her performance. We discussed what was bothering her and I assisted her in solving the problem. Another time I noticed the early signs of burnout before it became problematic.

Challenges for women in business

Women are still underrepresented in key fields: IT, venture capital, STEM, tech tend to be strongly male-dominated, based on my personal experience. My partner Anna and I had the idea of creating a logistics startup in 2016. It was troubling because of the distrustful environment associated with gender bias. We had to work our way up in the masculine world while facing stigma and discrimination. But you can work with that using the PR tools. In 2 years, our profits increased by 750%, we attracted over 7,000 clients and raised more than $2 million. In 2019 we sold our company to a strategic investor.

Opportunities for women in business

One of the biggest areas of opportunities is helping women entrepreneurs with various support and incentive programs. It aims to change the gender ratio and empower women across the globe by fostering networking opportunities, building mentorship programs, and nurturing women in the entrepreneurship community. For example, Web Summit offers special ticket prices for all who joined their Women In Tech community. This helped me to get to Web Summit for the first time 7 years ago.

Also, it’s easier for women to stand out at networking and business events because there are often fewer of us. Therefore, you can draw attention to your project to gain additional support and knowledge.

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Jodie Baker

Title: CEO & Founder

Company: Xakia Technologies

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodiebakerxakia/

Challenges:

Regularly perceived as a “lifestyle business” rather than a serious entrepreneurial venture. This has an impact on customer acquisition, business support and industry respect.

Can be drowned out in a (metaphorical) room full of much louder men. See for example, social media, conferences etc. Women are visible and included, but often profiled into particular topics.

Difficult to get funding.

Opportunities:

To stand out in a crowded market of male founders (especially in tech!). It gives our business a point of difference and provides an opportunity to open the market to a different type of business offering.

To bring other women and other diverse groups along the journey.

To be a role model for other women so that they believe in (and action) their own ideas.

Advantages:

The community around women in #LegalTech and in the entrepreneurial community is exceptional. Perhaps not an overall advantage when measured against the “bro” culture in tech, but it is has its own distinct advantages as women support each other and offer encouragement, resources and introductions where they can.

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Hanna Naima McCloskey

Title: Founder & CEO

Company: Fearless Futures

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannamccloskey/

Women entrepreneurs face a multitude of well documented challenges, many of which aren’t unique to entrepreneurship and in fact relate to wider societal sexism, such as unaffordable and inaccessible childcare. The lack of funding that Women receive from venture capital, which is even more pronounced for Women who experience additional marginalisations, for example, is of course a disadvantage that holds many Women-led businesses back. In the early years of Fearless Futures, I was consistently told that my business had no ‘market’ and would fail. It meant funding wasn’t available to me. However, this proved to be a huge advantage in the end. It compelled me to focus incessantly on our service, iterating to make our training consistently excellent, and building strong trusting client partnerships. Our service is our deep anti-oppression expertise, whether through education or consultancy, and this lack of ‘easy money’ some founders attract created the strong container that has been instrumental to Fearless Futures’ impact to this day.

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Jenifer Segalowitz

Title: Restaurant Owner

Company: Mukbang Shows Restaurant

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenifer-segalowitz-19104b10b/

Advantages:

Women entrepreneurs often have strong networking skills. Which can help them to build relationships and secure funding for their businesses.

Research has shown that women-owned businesses. Tend to be more profitable and efficient than those owned by men.

Women entrepreneurs may also be more attuned to the needs of their customers. Which can help them to develop successful products and services.

Challenges:

Women entrepreneurs often face discrimination and bias in the business world. Which can make it more difficult for them to secure funding or get their businesses off the ground.

Women also tend to be underrepresented in leadership positions. Which can make it harder for them to gain visibility and credibility in the business world.

They may also have to balance the demands of work and family, which can be challenging.

Opportunities:

With the increasing awareness of the need for diversity and inclusion in the business world. There are more opportunities for women entrepreneurs to succeed.

Government and private sector initiatives to support women-owned businesses. Can provide resources and support to help them grow and thrive.

The rise of digital technologies has also opened up new opportunities. For women entrepreneurs to reach customers and grow their businesses. In ways that were not previously possible.

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Rebecca Hey

Title: Founder

Company: Strategically

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebecca-hey/

As a mum with two kids and a partner that often travels for work, the most challenging part of running my own business is time. A regular workday is crammed into school hours, and if anything out of the ordinary happens (hello, sick days, teacher training days, snow days, you get the picture!), an already limited schedule can be dramatically curtailed — without any notice.

That said, my biggest challenge is also my superpower. To meet my family responsibilities while running a company, I knew that my business needed to be able to adapt to last-minute changes. I created processes and systems to enable my business to run like clockwork in the highly likely event I would need to take time off.

The result? A successful content writing agency with 22 team members, 300 clients, and hundreds of thousands of words delivered each month. And two happy, healthy kids. A win-win in my books.

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