Four Tips on Starting a Business
According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, over half of all businesses are now started by women. Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears are two such women who know firsthand what it means to work from the ground up. The founders of Raised Eyebrow Web Studios, Inc., these two wrote the book on how to break out and go it alone. Literally. The Boss of You (Seal Press), details how women can start, run and maintain their own businesses in the modern world. We caught up with Bacon to get a few tips of our own.
How does a woman know that she’s ready and able to run her own business?
There are two things that are common to nearly every business owner: The first is finding passion that’s strong enough to fuel you through the early years of establishing a new business, and the second is analyzing the financial scenarios to make sure your business can sustain itself. A lot of business books dive right into No. 2, but we feel No. 1 is just as important—after all, you’re likely to be spending a whole lot of time and energy on your new enterprise, so it helps a lot if you’ve got enthusiasm to burn. When your business is a natural outgrowth of a personal passion—whether it’s photography, the perfect shoulder bag or alternative menstrual products—your work life won’t just pay your rent, it will energize and feed you on other levels.
What is the most common mistake women make when starting out?
Over and over again, we’ve heard women entrepreneurs say they wish they had set their prices higher. Many women undersell themselves when they’re starting out, and often they do so while telling themselves they’ll bring their prices up when they reach some indefinable level of expertise, popularity or success. Well, guess what? You still have to eat while you’re becoming an expert, and the fact is that if you’re going into business for yourself, you probably have a lot more experience than you’re giving yourself credit for. Factor in all your expenses, including a generous salary and benefits package for your lovely self, when you’re setting your prices, and stick to your guns—clients will value your products and services more if you price them at what they’re worth.
What is the biggest challenge women face as business owners?
Most new entrepreneurs have a terrible time knowing when it’s time to close their doors for the day and just go home. Women in particular tend to get a lot of cultural reinforcement for self-sacrifice. It can feel impossible sometimes to walk away from a pile of unfinished work, especially when you have that passion we referred to earlier. But it’s important as an entrepreneur to look at the long view and recognize that if you can break unhealthy work habits earlier, it will help you recognize down the road when it’s time to hire help, scale up or down, or make other decisions that are important to the long-term health of your business.
How can you make money and still live by feminist values?
One of the things we emphasize in The Boss of You is that it is possible for profit and values to coexist, so long as you get clear on what your values are and stay true to them as you build your business. For us, one of the most galvanizing realizations we had along our own path to entrepreneurship was when we woke up to the fact that until we claimed decent incomes for ourselves, we were operating, at least to some extent, in fear of the power of money. We chose to entertain the notion, “What if, instead of living at a subsistence level, we worked toward creating an ethical business that could provide generously for everyone in its employ?” We wanted to see whether we could create a business model that wouldn’t require us to sacrifice our values...and so far we’re pretty happy with the results. The key is to set up clear measures of success when you’re starting out, and to re-evaluate those goals on a regular basis.
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