She Made It, The Toolkit for Female Founders in the Digital Age by Angelica Malin
Starting your own business can be daunting – especially if you’re a woman looking to enter this predominantly male arena. Women often struggle with low self-confidence and impostor syndrome, which prevent them from realizing their dreams. Angelica Malin, award-winning entrepreneur and founder of About Time Magazine, focuses on the practical steps to take and the mind-set you’ll require to launch and build your own business. She provides useful workbook sections and inspiring interviews with female business founders.
- Before starting your own business, make sure you understand your motivation and purpose.
- Entrepreneurs need resilience and positivity.
- Success looks different for everyone. Don’t compare yourself to others.
- Your productivity depends on understanding your unique skill set and planning each week rigorously.
- You can learn to be a leader.
- A service-based business requires minimal start-up capital, but brings in less revenue than a product-based business.
- Understand your target market.
- Create a personal brand to stand out, grow your business and nurture customer loyalty.
- Developing an effective PR strategy requires thorough research and personal engagement.
She Made It Book Summary
Before starting your own business, make sure you understand your motivation and purpose.
To build a career you love, know what matters to you. Consider what your ideal workday might look like – do you want flexible working hours and a home office? Or do you want to run a large global company? Identify your passions. They will get you through difficult times and guide your decision-making.
“Purpose is the single most important part of any business. You need to know your why: why you’re doing what you’re doing, what you’re trying to achieve, why you care.”
Knowing the purpose of your business is the first step to a successful career you love. Many female founders start businesses because of their experiences with a particular problem or situation. For example, Tania Boler, founder and CEO of Elvie, realized when she had children how much strain the body undergoes during pregnancy and childbirth. She got a team together to develop a product to train the pelvic muscles.
Entrepreneurs need resilience and positivity.
Cultivating the right mind-set is an essential aspect of building a successful business. As an entrepreneur, you need to believe in yourself and your idea. You can learn to be positive. Remind yourself regularly why you are starting your business and what you want to get out of it. Set small, achievable goals rather than large, abstract ones. Write down your achievements and celebrate your successes.
“Women…find it hard to own their success, and will attribute it to chance.”
Practice resilience, one of the most helpful skills you can develop to sustain your entrepreneurial journey. Resilience comes from being confident in who you are and what your business can provide. Spend time with positive, practical people who support you and offer sound advice. For Camilla Barnard, co-founder of Rude Health, this meant finding a business partner with whom she could share responsibilities, successes and frustrations.
Play through worst-case scenarios, and think about how you might respond to them. Consider competition as a sign you’re doing things right, and let it inspire you to revisit your business offering. While keeping an eye on developments in your field is important, limit the time and money you spend on social media, and be selective about the feeds and people you follow.
Success looks different for everyone. Don’t compare yourself to others.
People often think of success as reaching a certain position, earning a certain amount of money or owning certain status symbols. Yet success is not necessarily about material achievements – it’s about your emotions around your achievements. Feeling successful can come from achieving a sense of security, or simply enjoying what you do. No single definition of success fits everyone, and your definition is likely to change depending on what stage of your life and your career you are in now. When you’re in your 20s, for example, you might prioritize the flexibility to travel – whereas at a later stage, success might mean not having to work overtime and being financially secure. Understanding what your success might look like helps you remember not to compare yourself to other people and not to compare your achievements to theirs.
“By comparing ourselves with others and their successes, we can lose sight of ourselves, our goals and our business.”
Women in particular tend to struggle with impostor syndrome and self-doubt, so stay clear about what matters to you. This will help you focus. Regard obstacles or failures as lessons to learn from, and never take them personally. When self-doubt hits, remind yourself of your accomplishments. Write down your goals so that you track your progress. Keep a record of positive things that happen, and invest in yourself so you can be at your best.
Your productivity depends on understanding your unique skill set and planning each week rigorously.
Identifying your unique set of skills helps you build a career that suits you, gives you the energy to deal with the challenges that come with running your own business and informs your hiring decisions. To define your individual skill set, think back on what you enjoyed doing as a child. Ask a friend or colleague to assess your strengths. (You’re likely to have blind spots when it comes to evaluating your own abilities.) Having a candid take on your strengths and weaknesses will help you focus on the jobs you do best so you can plan your work effectively, thereby boosting your productivity.
“The most important thing I’ve learned about productivity is that it’s best friends with planning.”
When planning your days and your weeks, identify the most important tasks and batch them together, so you don’t have to switch often among your tasks and projects. Schedule time for administrative chores and for relaxation.
Use automation where possible, for example, for sorting emails, getting alerts, following up on invoices, and so on. However, be aware that technology can distract you and drain your productivity. Clinical psychologist Kirren Schnack recommends a regular detox from technology – for example, scheduling time with your phone switched off, setting a timer for phone use, turning off notifications, and deciding before your day starts when and for how long you want to use your phone.
You can learn to be a leader.
Leading well is an important part of building a successful business. Many female managers and executives find leadership challenging because women often care more about being liked than being respected.
Good leadership requires listening and showing your team members that you appreciate them and their work. It demands self-confidence and commitment to your business and your team. Taking steps to boost your confidence is a worthwhile investment – whether you’re finding a mentor or coach, attending training courses, or spending a little extra on work clothes or gym classes.
“Investing in your personal development and growth is one of the best things you can do for the long-term health of your company.”
Being a founder and a leader can be lonely and stressful, so put activities and assets in place to help you with these challenges. Take the time to learn the skills you might need, rather than trying to pick them up on the fly. Structure your days and weeks so you don’t end up working around the clock. Schedule downtime during which you never think about work – pursuing a hobby can help. Put a support framework in place, whether it’s an informal network of friends and family or a group of like-minded professionals. Consider taking on a co-founder, someone whose skills complement yours and whose vision and values align with yours.
A service-based business requires minimal start-up capital, but brings in less revenue than a product-based business.
Businesses are generally either service-based or product-based, though you can devise a combination of the two. Each type has advantages and disadvantages, both during the start-up phase and when you try to scale and grow. Service-based businesses generally have lower start-up costs, and are relatively straightforward and less risky to set up. They allow for greater flexibility – so you could, for example, start a service-based business while still doing another job.
“The brilliant thing about being a founder is it gives you the freedom to create a business that suits you perfectly.”
However, service-based businesses are more difficult to scale – taking on more work and increasing revenue will sooner or later require additional staff. Setting the right price for your services might pose a challenge, since hourly fees must take administrative tasks into account.
Product-based businesses are easier to scale: once you have your product, producing more units doesn’t necessarily require more staff. However, products carry risk: You must invest money up front for research, prototypes and production. You’re also unlikely to know the scope of your customer demand until you launch, no matter how much market research you do.
Understand your target market.
Once you solidify your business idea, identify your target market. Whatever type of business you start, make sure it solves a problem for that audience. Engage with and listen to potential customers to find out what they really want. It might be different from what you have in mind.
“Our consumer is always the one in control – without them, there is no business.”
Formalize your business ideas and findings into a business plan – even if you’re a one-person firm – to develop structure and gain clarity about what you want to achieve. If you use your business plan to raise money, include details about market analysis and finance. This means working out how much money you need and how you’re going to raise it. You have options, ranging from getting friends and family to buy into your business, crowdfunding, approaching angel or venture capital investors, applying for government entrepreneurial support, or taking out a bank loan.
Create a personal brand to stand out, grow your business and nurture customer loyalty.
Invest money and time in creating your brand. Getting this right from the onset is important, since changing your brand identity once you’re up and running can be difficult and can impede your progress. Make sure you have licenses and trademark protection, and consider any additional support you might require – for example, an accountant or bookkeeper.
Business success today depends more and more on your personal brand. Your offering doesn’t have to be completely new or different to sell. If you link it to your personal brand – your passion, heritage, experience and skills – it immediately becomes unique and sets you apart from your competition. This enables you to determine your own price and to protect the future of your business.
“Uniqueness doesn’t always come from having a never-been-seen-before product or service, but from the way in which you package it.”
Using social media effectively is a crucial component of building a personal brand. Be truthful and consistent to develop a following and to establish a relationship with your audience. Tell your story, and create a growing community by listening to your followers. You don’t need to be on every social media platform – focus on the platforms your target audience enjoys. Include calls to action in your posts, and keep your branding and tone of voice consistent across all your posts and platforms. Creating opportunities for your audience, for example, by posting or reposting job advertisements provides value to your followers and encourages others to join.
Developing an effective PR strategy requires thorough research and personal engagement.
Getting your business or product noticed in the media can be challenging. Many businesses are competing for the attention of journalists, broadcasters and top bloggers. To stand out from the crowd, identify the media outlets that are the most relevant to your business, your likely customers and the story you’re trying to sell.
“PR is personal, and the more personalized you can make your pitch, the better.”
Keep your pitch short and relevant, and have the information a media outlet might ask for at the ready – for example, high-resolution images, quotes, a list of shops that stock your product, and so on. Engage with journalists, podcasters and broadcasters on their social media channels, and establish yourself as an expert in your field by undertaking some public activities, such as applying for awards, seeking speaking opportunities or starting a podcast. As author and award-winning PR coach Natalie Trice explains, good PR is about becoming a leader in your particular area and showcasing yourself as a knowledgeable, entertaining media guest.
About the Author
Award-winning entrepreneur Angelica Malin is founder and editor-in-chief of About Time Magazine and a regular media contributor on business and entrepreneurship.