There are over 12.9 million women-owned businesses in the United States, and 9 of them were gracious enough to contribute to this collection of the best business advice for women.
And that number is drastically rising each year. In fact, between 2014 and 2019, American Express’ State of Women-owned Business report states that “the number of women-owned businesses climbed 21%” while all business, over the same period, increased by only 9%.
Clearly, women are joining the small business industry in record numbers. In 1972, women-owned businesses only accounted for 4.6% of all business. Now? It’s around 42%.
But if you’re looking to start your own small business, you may be wondering where to start and how to avoid the mistakes other women made along the way.
We’ve talked with many successful female entrepreneurs and business owners over the years and have asked them to share their best business advice for women looking to start their own ventures. Below, you’ll find their stories of overcoming challenges, breaking down walls, and what they wish someone would have told them when they were getting started.
Whether you’re thinking about starting a business of your own, or you just need a little extra inspiration in your professional life, this roundup of the best business advice for women should do the trick!
Here’s some advice for women in business, directly from successful female entrepreneurs:
1. “No one is going to believe in you like you do.”
Latasha McRae, owner of Peeks Cosmetics, shared a vital piece of advice with us: you need to be your own biggest cheerleader.
After being inspired by watching her mother struggle to raise her and her brother, all the while battling Lupus, Latasha was motivated to work hard and be successful.
Latasha says one of her biggest challenges in getting started was knowing who to work with and who was a good fit for her brand. “Use discernment when dealing with anything in life. Take your time, do your research.”
Remember, you are your biggest advocate.
2. “I hope to see more and more women in small business and big business, whatever area or arena they’re looking to get into, just step up as they are.”
As a woman in business, it can be hard to find your voice. When we recently chatted with Julianna Curtis, owner of The Energy Barre, she told us that she struggled to find a balance between assertiveness and being authentic to herself when meeting with potential partners or clients.
“There are times where I remember shrinking myself and getting really small or playing the ‘female role’ and never feeling good about that and also not becoming empowered by it. Then there are other times where I can recall stepping up and being too tough, trying to prove myself too much, and that didn’t feel right either.
Only more recently have I found that in-between — like Goldilocks — that balance of being like — you know what? I am who I am. And coming to this table exactly as myself. Confident to stand next to any male or female counterpart because I am talented, I am aware, I am informed, and I know what I’m coming here for. I’m just as worthy to be at any table, at any conversation, seeking any opportunity. That is so much more comfortable.”
When you’re just getting started and exploring your new role as CEO, Owner, Founder, or whatever title fits you, take the time to learn how you want to lead and what style of leadership works best for you. Come as you are and don’t try to fit a mold.
Want to learn more about The Energy Barre? Julianna shared her experience battling the COVID pandemic back in May 2020 and how she stayed positive and #SmallBusinessStrong through it all.
3. “Figure out what your brand values and messaging are, and stay true to them in everything you do.”
Nicole, Jennifer, and Colette are the sister-owner trio at boutique swimwear brand Lime Ricki. They shared that knowing their brand values and staying true to them has allowed them to avoid being reactive when things pop up.
“This allows us to respond rather than react to issues and challenges that arise and gives us a foundation for making decisions and directing our course of action.”
This same mindset has also helped Lime Ricki market their business. Nicole shared that “consistent, relevant messaging and email marketing that maintains our brand and core values” has been the most effective marketing tactic they’ve learned over time to drive sales.
Overall, always stay true to yourself. Even in a competitive market where you have to constantly innovate and adapt to stay competitive, don’t lose sight of your brand and core values as a business owner.
Women, and helping them feel comfortable in their own skin, are at the core of Lime Ricki. Founders Nicole, Jennifer, and Colette believe that every body is a swimsuit body and they strive to convey authenticity in their marketing, never airbrushing or using Photoshop on their models. An example of their marketing imagery is shown above. You can learn more about their mission here.
4. “As a small business owner, I can’t afford to drop the ball anywhere.”
Running a business is no small feat. For Chelsey Greene, the key to running her jewelry business, IVY, is to make sure she has the right tools in her toolbox. After all, sourcing, marketing, selling, and delivering products from the 30+ women-owned brands that IVY Boutique carries is an epic task.
“Shopify’s multiple different commerce channels have me going at full capacity without missing a beat.” Chelsey also prioritizes her email list in order to directly notify her customers when there is a new item or important announcement to make.
But while the tools help make the work easier, Chelsey wants other female entrepreneurs to remember that they are the most invaluable aspect of their business.
When we asked her what the most invaluable aspect of her business is, she said, “ME! Your business is inevitably an extension of yourself. In any instance, when looking for guidance or inspiration the only relevant question and person to ask it of is… “is this authentic for me?” This product; this branding color pallet; the voice you’re writing a newsletter in, is it authentic?”
In short, making sure that you stay true to yourself and are using the right marketing tools will ensure that you stay on top of your business.
Want to keep up with Chelsey and IVY? Follow IVY on Instagram.
5. “After a solid day of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to instead be grateful.”
2020 was… challenging, to say the least. So when we asked many female small business owners about the biggest challenges they’ve faced in running their business, many of them told stories about the pandemic and having to close their business temporarily.
But Dawn Noble, owner of French goods shop La Provence, had a unique take on the experience.
“I think most business owners would agree that the impact of the pandemic has rocked most of us. When we were first shut down last March, I felt completely helpless. I think the initial totality of the situation took a few days to comprehend. There was definitely a feeling of, ‘This is it… I can’t survive this… poor me.’ After a solid day of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to instead be grateful. Grateful for my family, my health, my fellow business owners, my customers and a business I was willing to fight for.”
Facing a challenge with your small business is never going to be easy. There will be days that will truly test you and moments where you’ll want to quit. During these times, it’s important to remember why you started to begin with. Focus on prioritizing what matters the most and
6. “Don’t be apologetic for charging premium rates.”
Nicole Feliciano, founder and owner of momtrepreneur trend blog and influencer network MomTrends, is no stranger to business. Before she started her own network of moms and entrepreneurs — two things that are not mutually exclusive — Nicole worked at Ralph Lauren.
Working in corporate at the time, Nicole found that there were very few women who were mothers in the senior levels of management. Personally, she wanted to continue working but also wanted to be an involved mother. She looked for resources to help but when she couldn’t find any, she decided to start her own.
“I want the women I work with to know their value and their worth… really knowing their value and what they bring to the workplace is what I’d like to share with all of them. I’d love for them to just be bold and go for it. Set a goal. You might miss it, but make it bold, make it big. I want them to just be the best version of themselves they can be.”
7. “Remind yourself there is always room in the market for you in whichever industry you pursue”
When Marissa Tilley first started her formalwear business Lady Black Tie in 2018, there were already plenty of established stores, both in her area and online. It would have been easy for her to look at the industry, feel like she was already late to the game, and quit before she even started.
Instead, she focused on the value she could bring to the formalwear business.
“Don’t let the brands that have been around longer than you intimidate you and keep you from starting. If anything, use this competition as motivation, and recognize that you can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to your industry.”
Marissa also recognized that, because we spend so much of our time working, it’s important to “love what you do every day.” Now, she has a job that is fun and rewarding.
When you’re just getting started, focus on where you can bring the most value to the industry and, on a greater level, your community. What can you do to differentiate yourself and your business from others like it? And, Marissa says, “Leave some room to change and adapt in the first few months so that you can quickly follow trends and respond to what your first few months of buyers are doing!”
8. “Join women’s entrepreneur groups.”
Karen Leonard runs a marketing agency called Innovative Global Vision. When she was getting started, she was hesitant to join women’s entrepreneur groups online, saying that she questioned what she would get out of it. Now, she recognizes the power of peer groups.
“These groups have given me friendship, mentors, peers, and provided the sometimes not-so-easy-to-take reality checks and the understanding that sometimes an outside perspective can remove the blinders that come from being too close to a situation or issue.”
Remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Seek out companionship from others who are going through similar situations and can provide advice when you need it most. Entrepreneurship can feel lonely at times. Surround yourself with people who are cheering you on. Plus, your experience may help someone else!
9. “I wanted to solve challenges for women who look like me.”
Shelly Bell’s foundation, Black Girl Ventures, started as many others do — in identifying a problem and wanting to solve it. Black Girl Ventures’ mission is “to provide Black/Brown woman-identifying founders with access to community, capital, and capacity building in order to meet business milestones that lead to economic advancement through entrepreneurship.”
When we asked Shelly what motivated her to get started, here’s what she shared:
“One of the biggest influences and motivations to build Black Girl Ventures came from my own entrepreneurial journey. Prior to starting Black Girl Ventures, I had started other companies, including a T-shirt line and a successful print shop. During that time, I realized how lonely a journey it was and I felt the effects of lack of access to capital.
Despite that, I was able to level up my company by doing business with corporations and building my networking. When the news came out that Black women were not receiving enough access to capital, I felt compelled to do something about it. Having the personal experience of being a Black woman business owner, I know firsthand the struggles in accessing social and financial capital and I wanted to solve that for women who look like me.”
Starting a business is personal, so think about the person at the end of your business goals. What do they want to achieve? What problem(s) can your business or organization help solve for them? How can you craft your marketing efforts in a way that will resonate with your current and future customers?
Being a woman in business can be challenging, but you’ve got this!
Whether you’re trying to find your voice, struggling from the do-it-all mindset, or looking for fellow women to bounce ideas off of, I hope that you take a minute to step back and appreciate all that you’ve already accomplished.
There are going to be hard days. There are going to be challenges. But you are full of grit, passion, and perseverance. You can do this.
Ready to start your business or take it to the next level?
While these women have hopefully motivated you to dream big, our online marketing and ecommerce advice will help you take the necessary steps to get there.