Friday, July 20, 2007

Why Do Women Start Businesses?

I covered many of the reasons why women start a business in my Conference Board article which led me to create this blog but Patricia Greene at Babson College asks the same question again along with another critical one:
1. What should be different about education to encourage women to start their own businesses?

2. And so my continuing question to those of you who are starting a business - why are you doing this?
My answers:

1. a. More women role models teaching courses or guest lecturing. When I completed my MBA, out of 31 classmates, I was one of three women in the program. Out of 16 professors or lecturers, two were women. How dull that we could only hear a man's perspective on the business world. What were we, invisible? And by the way, I was the only entrepreneur in the program at the time. All my fellow classmates were employed at BIG companies ... from Abbott Laboratories to Kraft to Motorola. Every time I showed up for a class, I thought, "How boring is this?!" Seriously. All I had on my mind is that I was going to eventually show the world what I was made of and do great things in life. I could not wait to get my MBA, move on and start making things happen. So, in hindsight, I would have preferred more women professors teaching some of the courses and way more successful women business owners guest lecturing. Further, the MBA offered at the time did not include one course in entrepreneurship (in line with Patricia's comments about "everyone was being developed and educated to work in a large, read that very large, organization.") Can you imagine?

b. Offer entire programs in entrepreneurship! Many universities and colleges currently do now. But bring in the women -- whether Ph.D's or successful women business owners -- to teach and guest-lecture!

2. Why I run a business is because I never could imagine working for someone else. When I did, it tormented me that a person who I had no respect for gave me orders or direction and I thought, "This is not going to last very long!" I knew I could do things much, much better on my own and went off to start my own business with exactly that attitude. So mindset is very important in the process of actually starting a business and after that, I think the "change the world" mentality kicks in to fuel the mindset. Beyond that, there are the thoughts of creating your own destiny, doing your own thing, making things happen but the very last thing on my mind was making a ton of money (and now all you read about is how important it is to do what you love and the money will follow -- but back in 1985 when I established my company -- I didn't know any better!). More important than anything to me was being who I was -- true to myself -- and constantly creating value for others to enjoy.

Read Patricia's commentary here. It's fascinating. She has such a great mind.

But what about for you? What prompted you to start your business? Please weigh in here because I noticed that Babson's site does not allow for comments. Correction: They do allow for comments so feel free to comment wherever you see fit. One more correction: They allow comments but they go straight to the author's email box!

P.S. After reading Patricia's commentary, I'm thinking about starting a reality television series for women entrepreneurs! Anybody interested?

6 comments:

julie said...

Hi Laurel -

All great questions! I teach an entrepreneurship program at UMBC called ACTiVATE (www.umbc.edu/activate) where we are empowering mid-career women to start high-tech companies. In our first two years our participants have started 10 businesses!

One of the things I have seen is that some women really need a single-gender environment where they feel safe(r) to get out of their comfort zone, which is so often required to start a business.

I would love to chat more with you on this topic - I am with you!

Thanks,

Julie
http://blog.JulieLenzerKirk.com

Laurel Delaney said...

Hi, Julie,

Great to hear from you! Congratulations on your tech entrepreneurship program. Is the program available online as well? Looks wonderful.

Interesting comment you make about women needing a single-gender environment to feel safe(r) to get out of their comfort zone in order to start a business. I, personally, don't agree with that but if that is what you experienced and have statistics to back it up, please share. I'm curious as all heck. And, I'm hoping Patricia Greene at Babson weighs in on this too.

I feel it's a little like saying women who have supportive husbands fair better at starting a business than those who don't. It seems like it might be more of a confidence issue than anything else.

Do you think women who need a single-gender environment end up more or less successful than women who learned about entrepreneurship in a duo-gender environment? Is there a way to measure this?

Sara Herald said...

I just read the article, and it's fantastic. I'm looking to start my own business for the same reason you stated under 2.) I'm actually thinking about buying a business instead. Do you have any suggestions as to where I should look? Right now I'm in very early planning stage and just want to browse what's available online.

Chloe said...

@Sara-

There are a bunch of websites on-line that you could search for businesses. I would go with Biztrader.com because it has a diverse selection of businesses to choose from. Some businesses are posted by the owner and others are posted by the brokers, which makes it a good place to find a broker as well. Good luck

Lucy said...

Hey Sara, have you checked out Biztrader.com yet? It's a good site that offers businesses for sale.

Sara Herald said...

Thanks for the help you guys. I really appreciate it. I checked out BizTrader.com, and I really like what I see. It's a good place to find a small business on the Internet. Thanks!