More and more women are starting their own businesses, with the number of female-owned small enterprises growing twice as fast as other start-ups. It’s not just about the make-up or cupcakes, in fact, there’s no real “type” of woman-owned business. You’re as likely to find a woman running anything from a sole-trader consultancy business, a construction company or a trading enterprise.
Here’s a few pointers for women (and men) who are about to take the plunge.
Your business should follow your rules
If you’re running your own show, you can personalise how you do it. There are many shapes and sizes of business – you could do four hours an evening after the kids are in bed, draft older children in during the holidays, or follow a 9-5 routine and take weekends off.
Don’t let bureaucracy scare you
Lots of would-be entrepreneurs dream of their own businesses but worry about the rules and regulations around setting it up. It’s actually surprisingly easy to register as a sole trader or small enterprise. It’s also surprising just how helpful HMRC is when you ask for advice.
Make sure you have enough working capital
Very few businesses turn a profit in the first year so you’ll need enough money to see you through. If it’s just you working from home as a service provider – a writer, for example – your overheads will be tiny. If your business is bigger and you need office space, employees and raw materials, you’ll need more.
No-one’s saying you need megabucks in the bank, and it’s even better if you can find creative ways to save money on overheads rather than simply throwing money at your venture. If you can save money here and there, on supplies like ink cartridges and paper, you make your working capital go further.
Look for investment in different places
Don’t head straight for your bank. Many women complain of difficulty obtaining start-up capital from traditional lenders. Click here to find out more about start-up lending. Look instead at credit unions, community banks and peer-to-peer lending organisations. There may be small business lenders that have a particular slant towards female entrepreneurs and enterprise owners, so visit your local business advice centre.
Don’t worry about schmoozing
Selling and negotiating can be intimidating, especially to women, but there’s no need to be hard-edged. Similarly, if someone’s unpleasant when you’re negotiating, you wouldn’t want to do business with them anyway. Good salespeople are great communicators and when you start working and dealing with them, you’ll feel very much at ease in no time.
Everyone will develop their own selling style, but the core of successful selling is to know when to ease off and let people think.
Network, network, network
Networking is another word new entrepreneurs wince at, but there’s no reason to. It’s not about being smarmy and trying to charm people, it’s about talking to them – and not just about yourself. Everyone you meet in the course of business is a potential contact, so talk to them. Ask them about themselves, build up trust and have a laugh. They’ll remember you and what you do.