Lessons from Top Women Entrepreneurs

women entrepreneurs
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At a recent event in Silicon Valley, four remarkable women came together to talk about their extraordinary careers as entrepreneurs. This gathering at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, California, included Joan Barnes, the founder of Gymboree, Karen Behnke, the founder of Juice Beauty, Sheryl O’Loughlin, the former CEO of Clif Bar and founder of Plum Organics, and Helen Russell, the co-founder of Equator Coffees & Teas, Inc.

The gathering was very representative of the impact-heavy entrepreneurial movement currently being driven by some of the most powerful female entrepreneurs in the country.

“I’m the kind of entrepreneur that’s like an artist,” said Barnes of her idea that now spans more than 1,000 retail stores and more than 600 play and music centers nationwide. “I don’t know how to not sacrifice for my business.”

“There has never been a greater need or time for women to start businesses. We need their abilities, experiences and skills more than ever in the very competitive world of commerce.” - Alan Hall

It’s this entrepreneurial movement that is being more and more recognized, not only by fellow female entrepreneurs, but also the investors that back them. In a recent tribute in Forbes Magazine, angel investor and venture capitalist Alan Hall writes, “There has never been a greater need or time for women to start businesses.  We need their abilities, experiences and skills more than ever in the very competitive world of commerce.”

The stories of female entrepreneurs are even creeping into popular media. The new Netflix series Girlboss is based on the memoir of Sophia Amoruso, who started a women’s fashion retailer, Nasty Gal, at the young age of 23. The company went on to be named one of the fastest growing companies by Inc. Magazine in 2012, while Amoruso herself was named one of the richest self-made women in the world by Forbes in 2016.

There’s a lot to unpack in Amoruso’s book, and lots of lessons to be learned from all sorts of women entrepreneurs.

“No matter where you are in life, you’ll save a lot of time by not worrying too much about what other people think about you,” writes Amoruso in #Girlboss. “The earlier in your life that you can learn that, the easier the rest of it will be. It’s cool to be kind. It’s cool to be weird. It’s cool to be honest and to be secure with yourself.”

The sheer breadth of the woman-powered entrepreneurial women can be staggering. Women-founded businesses are changing the world, whether it’s in entertainment, fashion and beauty, real estate, technology, or health care. Even a casual reading of lists of the most powerful female entrepreneurs covers everyone from virtual unknowns to Oprah Winfrey with her media empire to multi-billionaires driving the tech industry.

Women-founded businesses are changing the world, whether it’s in entertainment, fashion and beauty, real estate, technology, or health care.

Some of the most successful women entrepreneurs have even met success simply by helping other women to succeed. Phoebe Mroczek teaches other women how to build their own businesses and redefine success based on their personal goals.

“To be honest, I’ve been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember,” she recently told CreativeLiveBlog. “From the stationery stand in my driveway and my fifth-grade scrunchie business, to the dual-level marketing company I joined in college, it’s really not just a passion. It’s a way of life.”

She adds, “While I dipped my toe into the corporate world in Asia, behind the scenes I’d started an events company and shortly afterwards, a travel blog to document a 15-country motorcycle trip,” she recalled. “Within twelve months, I’d made six figures and more importantly, built a business that helped female entrepreneurs all around the world. So, I guess you could say I got my start as an entrepreneur a couple years ago once I made the decision to go for it. With a little coaching and a LOT of fear, I went for it and the rest is history!”

There are also plenty of great books out there to inspire women entrepreneurs to action. Some of the best include:

  • Facebook COO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which is based on her 2010 TEDtalk about how women experience elements of working life differently from men.
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear finds Elizabeth Gilbert, the wildly successful author of Eat, Pray, Love, tackling the difficult questions around the less sensational realities of living a creative life.
  • Girl Code: Unlocking Secrets to Success, Sanity and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur finds professional life coach Cara Alwill Leyba arguing that women entrepreneurs earn more success when they connect with and support each other.
  • Finally, there’s Radical Self Love: A Guide to Loving Yourself and Living Your Dreams by Gala Darling, which teaches women entrepreneurs how to give their own pep talks, and offers actionable steps to revive your passion and confidence.

Perhaps the best bit of advice for women entrepreneurs so far this year comes from distinguished author Gloria Steinem, who suggested at this year’s Create & Cultivate conference in New York City that the ends do not always justify the means, whether in business or daily life.

“In the end, the who you are is much more important than the what you are,” Steinem says. “And as beings who need social interaction to survive, the value in who you are while getting to where you’re going is everything. The means will always become the ends.”

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