The number of self-employed women has been on a steady increase over the past three decades. Women are starting new firms at twice the rate of all other businesses. Female-owned firms number 9.1 million, or nearly 40 percent of all U.S. businesses. Together they employ 27.5 million people and generate more than $3.6 trillion in sales, according to the National Foundation of Women Business Owners.
Two female business owners offered some insight into their successes and challenges: Billie Redmond, CEO of Coldwell Banker Commercial TradeMark Properties in Raleigh, N.C. and Jen Butson, Ottawa-based founder of the start-up Suprpod, a portfolio and collaboration site for marketers.
At first glance, an experienced businesswoman and a Generation Y entrepreneur may not seem to have much in common. Redmond’s company is the largest female-owned real estate company in North Carolina and the largest commercial real estate firm in the Raleigh-Durham area. Butson’s latest venture is scheduled for launch later this year. But both women are successfully navigating the challenges of the business world and reaping the benefits of business ownership.
For women in business today, the focus is on results, not competing with men. “I think what I do really speaks for itself… it doesn’t matter if I’m a woman or not," Butson says. "Don’t focus on the fact that you’re a female doing a startup because when you focus on that and try to make yourself equal to male entrepreneurs you end up selling yourself short.”
Redmond agrees. “We think we need to compete with men. That’s just not true anymore. We need to be authentic; we need to be who we are. We should be willing to stake our careers on the great talent and gifts that we bring.”
After 30 years in the real estate business and being a leader in her local community, Billie Redmond is used to being asked to speak on various topics. “One of the things I hate as a woman business owner… people ask, 'Will you come and talk about balance?'"…and I always laugh and say ‘Some man made that term up,' because who has balance in their life really?”
“I think that you can have it all, you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice," Butson says. "In 2012 you don’t have to sacrifice business and your dreams for a family. If you’re a woman you can have it all. The family, the business, just follow your dreams and don’t worry about what’s going to happen.”
Don't Fear Failure
Starting a business is a tricky endeavor. Some people are so scared of the risks they can’t imagine being a business owner. Butson has some advice for women who may be considering taking the entrepreneurial plunge. “Don’t be scared: Just dive in head first. That’s the only way you’re going to learn. Don’t be scared of falling flat because it will happen. In some details, you will fall but that’s how you learn the best. Just don’t be scared of failing.”
Billie Redmond learned through experience that there is help for those who are committed to running a successful business. Here are some of her words of wisdom:
- Be as prepared as you can be
- Find a mentor or two
- There’s abundant help for those who ask for it
- Be realistic about the amount of time it takes to build long-term success
Anthony Sills is a South Jersey-based freelance writer who has contributed to publications and sites such as The New England Job Show, The Historic Westside, and Green City Times. He is currently working on his first book. Anthony blogs via Contently.com.