4 Things Every Female Entrepreneur Should Know Before Starting Her Own Business

It’s no secret that women in the start-up world face a series of unique challenges.

Not only are they drastically outnumbered, they can find themselves intrinsically disadvantaged — whether by the limited VC funding seemingly allocated to women or a dearth of high-power female role models who have been there, done that.

But when it comes down to what make female entrepreneurs thrive, there’s no secret women-only formula or “borrowing from the guys” tactics at play. Instead, what it takes to make it is, in a lot of ways, gender neutral — a business you’re proud of or a new IPO doesn’t look different whether you’re a man or a woman.

And the steps one needs to get there similarly can’t be confined to gendered lines — in addition to having the idea for a company that fills a niche, a lot of entrepreneurial achievement is the result of the combination of akin activities and attributes: hard work, a helpful team and the desire to see your dream succeed.

The bottom line of any recently-created company boils down to the fact that hard work and good ideas can translate across gender lines.

But to really be sure how female entrepreneurs can successfully start their own businesses, we enlisted the help of Aubrie Pagano, cofounder and CEO of Bow and Drape, which allows its customers to create everyday clothing of their own designs, all made by a manufacturer right in New York City.

Through her experiences bringing her company from its infant stages to appearances in “Glamour” magazine and “USA Today,” Pagano’s advices translates to all types of entrepreneurs, and extends words of wisdom to more than just women.

Be Confident

The science is on women’s side, showing that they are often the most compelling negotiators. The caveat? This only applies when women are not advocating for themselves.

Controversially called the “confidence gap,” female entrepreneurs can’t fall prey to insecurity. Instead, it’s essential to be well-spoken and easily able to convey your conviction and your company’s stated goals.

As Pagano said, it’s “a learned art to know how to confidently embody the brand. The CEO’s job is often to be the ultimate cheerleader and ultimate seller of the company.”

Even if these extroverted tendencies don’t come naturally, it’s important for men and women alike to assert themselves for the betterment of their budding business.

“That sort of entrepreneurial spirit is gender neutral; it’s hair color neutral. You either have it or you don’t. A lot of that has to do with fearlessness — knowing where you want to go, your goals and figuring out how to get there. It’s a certain type of person who just says, "All right, how are we going to get this done?’”

Build the Right Team

Building the right time means building the best team for your brand. You want people who embody your values, make meaningful contributions to the bottom line on a regular basis, and easily integrate into the company culture.

Creating a supportive company culture is certainly a start in attracting the best talent, but entrepreneurs also have to know to hire those who truly share in the mission statement and feel passionately about the opportunities to grow the business.

“If you don’t have millions of dollars to pay people, they’re there for something else.”

But this advice isn’t limited to the team you pay to assist with the day-to-day. According to Pagano, enlisting help from the right investors is also crucial, and less about finding someone of the same sex, but rather someone with the same vision and excitement.

“It’s important to find the right partners, especially on the investor side, to build your brand. The people who got it, got it. And I don’t think it's because I’m a woman, most of [our investors] are men.”

Think Small Before You Get Big

Every big business idea starts with its first customer, and the consumer is someone no entrepreneur can stand to forget or ignore.

Pagano said she wished she had known how imperative it was to start a company “one customer at a time” when Bow and Drape was just starting out.

“What we’ve learned over time is to take care of your customers, every single one. Stake your wins one true customer at a time. Especially in fashion, there’s so much noise and, you could argue, declining loyalty, so to give people a great experience is very critical.”

So while your vision for your company might be larger than life, it’s important to hone who your client is. In understanding them, you can better understand the trajectory your company needs to take to be poised for success and an even bigger audience.

Invest in a Good Watch

This piece of advice is less about the material, and more about what time management means to you.

As an entrepreneur, you have to determine how to best utilize each hour of the day to make the biggest impact on your brand. Pagano reiterated:

“As a young company, your greatest asset is your time. You don’t have a lot of money and you don’t have a lot of brand equity, so you have to use your time wisely.”

Wasted time means wasted efforts in building the brand of your dreams.

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