Things I was right not to listen to (as a woman entrepreneur)

In 2015, I increased my company’s revenue by 568%. And I truly had a ball.

As 2015 was coming to its end, I enjoyed taking some time to reflect on how extraordinary this year had been, on so many levels. And before heading towards 2016 and all the new challenges that would come with it, I thought a lot about the entrepreneur’s journey. My entrepreneur’s journey. And I thought about the people that are now where I was a few years back: when I decided to take the plunge. It was in late 2012, and I remember that, come Christmas and New Year’s eve, I was intensely trying to psychologically prepare myself to experience something I had no idea how to prepare for. Some of it I was glad to discover step by step : I love surprises. But mostly, I found it really helpful, inspiring and motivating to read books and articles about being an entrepreneur, and a woman, AND the mix of those two.

There was this one thing I had never read about : what do we do with the things that people find approriate to tell us (but that are SO NOT appropriate), when we decide to become an entrepreneur (AND turn out to be a woman) ?

Today, I still have so much to accomplish so that I can call my project a success. Still, I have enough elements to bring a concrete answer to this question : DNGF ! (also known as : Do Not Give a Fudge)

Here are my arguments :

[Some incredibly great things I also heard. I’ll tell you about them some other time because those great things were really great.]

“You’re a whore”

I figured I would start with the nicest of all: to set the tone.

This is what one of my colleaguish friends told me when I signed my greatest contract so far. The kind of contract that represents most of the things I wanted to build my own company for, to begin with. Funny how easy it is to tell a woman she’s a whore, these days…

Women, do please get this right; you’ve got 2 choices in life:

  • Be smart enough to remain at your right place, i.e.: don’t succeed in anything, thus confirming how far less than your fellow males you’re worth.

OR

  • Succeed professionally, in which case you are unquestionably: a whore. For, undoubtedly, your success can only be explained by your disgusting habit of using your genitals to get what you want.

Well…

whatever the choice, make sure you remember this crucial truth: success is wrong, success is dirty.

And earning money for the work you do, ladies, is the worst: it is prostitution (I guess this is actually why you are usually paid less than men. It is nothing but a sign of respect: so that you won’t get the impression that you are filthy whores).

I wonder if successful men often hear that they are gigolos (or even whores: to hell with boundaries!).

I trade my expertise and talent for money. Money that’s well deserved actually, given the huge amount of work I do for this. And I know that I am a woman, but this does not make me a prostitute: I am a professional and an entrepreneur. Thank god I make money: this actually IS the whole point.

“You write like shit”

I did not believe this one, so I kept writing.

Guess what? In 2015, writing represented 15% of my revenue.

And also, about my writing: I have a personal blog, Marie Grain de Sel, that welcomed 41 000 people who read 80 700 pages full of my shitty writing, this year.

Imagine if my writing was actually good?!

“You won’t make it on your own: you’re not credible enough, you need a team of experienced professionals”

A woman cannot achieve very much if she is alone, as you should know.

In fact, nothing is scarier than a single woman, especially if she is over 30. And nothing is more suspicious than a woman who works alone and is her own boss. There is kind of a void here: she misses a man to make the whole thing look real.

I do not care that much for the fact that society maintains this dubious message. I need to keep going, so I do what I have to do and it works pretty well for me. What I refuse is for women in their 20’s, 30’s or whatever age, to give up on entrepreneurship because they have heard that they were not worthy enough to make it on their own.

Ladies, that is so not true.

Telling you « you will never make it on your own», beyond the wonderful manipulation, is putting aside our incredible talent when it comes to surrounding ourselves with people that are fantastic. Also, it might imply that we, women, don’t have what it takes to be fantastic ourselves. But we do.

Me as well, and this year I increased my revenue by 568%. On my own.

“You are too young; you look too young; people will not trust you”

I was also told, when I first started my company, that the best would be for me to work with people that were younger than me: since people who were older would unquestionably destroy me or be scared by my scandalous lack of grey hair. I was 29, so I figured this would considerably limit my business opportunities. Plus, it was terribly patronizing.

I must admit that in 2015 alone, 5 people mistook me for a student. Not only did I find it funny, but one of them became a client (once she discovered I was actually 27… ok, ok.. 32). A very nice client for a job I really like, actually.

When working, I am just as in this saying from this French historian named François Fénelon “A good historian has no age nor country”. Well, I’m a communication consultant and trainer, not a historian, but still: same thing here.

I do work with students. But I also work with managers, engineers, big bosses, entrepreneurs, assistants, sales people. Men, women. I have trained people who had joined their companies on the year of my birth and some others who were my age. When I am with my clients: I don’t have any age, gender or origin. I’m an expert in my field and I give everything I have to make each experience an adventure. This is all what really matters for my clients and myself. Together we work hard, make progress and learn. Them as well as myself. And that, my friends, will never be too young, nor grow old: I call it professional bliss.

“Don’t you think it’s a pity that you would sacrifice your career for your children?”

I have been dealing with this idea for the past 15 years. Once you have kids, you have 2 choices:

  • Be a MUM. You know : the kind of woman that wants kids who she intends to spend quality time with. In a nutshell : a woman with no ambition whatsoever, except for baking cakes and driving everyone to soccer, gym, or playdates.

Or

  • Be ambitious. You know : the kind that does not give a damn about her children, or family in general, who will do whatever it takes to make it professionally, provided it keeps her AWAY from her children.

Well, I will simply say : enough with the bullshit !

I’ve always considered myself as a very ambitious person. And in everything I built, I put my private life and more specifically my kids first. This past 3 years I have spent more time away from them than I ever did before. I have the kind of job that implies travelling.

Ok, but : I run a business that increased by 568% in 2015 and this past 3 years, I spent more time than ever with my children. During school vacation, when they were sick, when the nanny was sick. I took them with me on business trips, and sometimes I even chose not to work: because I would rather be with them. And because I COULD.

I do not believe in sacrifices; I believe in choices. And if I had to think of one good reason to be and remain an entrepreneur, this would certainly be the one: I get to spend invaluable time with my family. This is what entrepreneurship is about: way more difficulties than I ever had to face, and a huge space for my priorities.

“It looks like you are more interested in making friends and having fun than in working”

Yup. Pretty much it. Except I would add a little something here: I am very much into people and fun, AND I am kind of a work junkie.

So I increased my revenue by 568% in 2015: having a great load of fun and sharing the most precious moments with incredible people. That’s how I get it done, and it’s been working well for me so far.

Bonus: “Your daughter cannot cut straight, she’s gonna get in trouble”

That’s the problem one of my teachers drew my parent’s attention on when I was 11. We had a great laugh, that time (we would seize any chance at a good laugh, in my family). 
Today, I am 32 years old and I must admit: I suck with scissors. Whenever I have to cut a peace of paper, it comes out wrong. That’s my thing. And somehow I managed to do something with my life in spite of this troubling defect. So I guess everything’s possible, as long as we believe in ourselves.

I’m sure we all have great stories of how people told us things we did not need to hear. And I love them all. I guess that most of the time, people meant to do good (not ALL the time, though), and they just had this awkward way of letting all of their fears show.

Except that when we choose to give a try at entrepreneurship, we already have to deal with our own fears (and there might be many of those). So I guess that what matters is for us to keep going without paying too much attention to any more negative thoughts than the ones we already create for ourselves.

Especially because sometimes it can even get very disorienting: I’ve also heard that I should have a business plan (I don’t have a business plan), tye my hair up to look older, look feminine but not too sexy, look fresh but not too young, look serious but not too strict… and to do sports every day. So many ideas for only one person: it was just not possible!

Today I’m glad I heard those things because I’m even happier not to have listened to them.

This is a very enjoyable feeling.

Entrepreneurship is our shot at building something that so deeply matters to us. That is where we need to spend our energy. We won’t content everybody, we won’t be able to explain to everyone that we actually know what we are doing, even though we KNOW it is not yet that obvious.

For the rest of it: let’s build our own path, believe, and keep reminding ourselves how great we can be, no matter what we’ve been told!

[This article was originally published in French on my personal blog Marie Grain de Sel]

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