24 May 2021|Purpose, Resilience, Success, women leaders
The drive to create something new and build something bigger than yourself is innate. It can’t be taught. And it’s a drive shared by millions of people across the world. Globally, women own 36% of small businesses and more than 9 million people are employed by female-owned companies. 14% of India’s entrepreneurs are female, accounting for 2.6% of the entire female population in the country.
India ranks ninth on a scale of 43 countries with active female entrepreneurial activity. Despite the domestic and cultural expectations women live up to, female entrepreneurship is on the rise. Interestingly, one of the key reasons women decide to begin their own businesses is for greater flexibility of work hours related to family care.
Aanya is one such entrepreneur. Inspired by her sister-in-law in Bangalore, Aanya began her sustainable clothing business in Pondicherry shortly after getting married. Keen to make a positive difference to the environment and other women’s lives, Aanya began recycling plastics that had washed up on the shore into fabrics and creating clothing from them with other female seamstresses in the area.
Women’s unique challenges in getting a business off the ground
In the early days of her entrepreneurial journey, Aanya was juggling multiple roles – she worked four days a week as a secretary, managed her own house chores, and kept the house of both of their parents running. Work on her business idea was relegated to late evenings and weekends. As with many other women across the country, around one-fifth of her time, each day was spent in unpaid work.
Aanya was blessed to have a husband (Pradeep) who fully supported her entrepreneurial drive. He never once complained about the hours she spent talking, planning, and putting things in place to launch her small business. Pradeep always encouraged her and brainstormed ideas when she faced challenges.
After months of determined work, persistence, and perseverance, Aanya managed to turn her dream of a small sustainable clothing business into a reality.
When her factory opened its doors on the first day, Aanya was elated and exhausted. However, she was consumed with self-doubt and fear. The endless hours had led her to burnout.
1. Greater support leads to greater success
Aanya was unafraid of hard work. However, she knew that if she carried on at the same pace, her relationships, health, and eventually her business would suffer. Rather than allow this to happen, Aanya looked for strategies to achieve work-life balance.
Her first step was to talk with her sister-in-law, Seema, in Bangalore, who was also an entrepreneur. Ananya invited Seems to be her business mentor and the latter advised Aanya to build up her support base both, at work and at home.
Seema gave Aanya the details for the head of the Pondicherry Women’s Business Association and encouraged her to call them up to create a support system. She also suggested that Ananya write a list of all the friends and family who may be able to support her at the home front.
By building a support group around her domestic life and joining a local group of businesswomen, Aanya was able to create more time in her day, space in her head, and build lasting connections that supported her success.
2. Keep showing up
Entrepreneurs wear many different hats each day. Female entrepreneurs often add additional roles such as that of a caregiver, a chef, a teacher, and a companion, along with the multiple roles they need to play as a Founder. This requires even more focus and attention on purpose.
According to research, women entrepreneurs frequently start their businesses with less capital than their male counterparts. With all that needs doing, committing to networking with a clear intention and clarity about how much time you have to spend with online communities or real-world events will help you make the most of them.
Remembering your why as you persistently and consistently spread the word about your venture helps you to keep showing up. Clarity of purpose enables us to do our best work in whatever role we are currently filling. Ananya realized that it’s just as important to remember her purpose when in the role of a secretary as it is when filling the shoes of a company figurehead or a caregiver. When we remember our purpose, we also get in touch with our joy.
For women entrepreneurs to succeed, persistence and focus are key. Equally, happiness in whatever role we are playing is important too. It helps us access a flow state where new connections are made easily, and evens out the bumps of birthing a new venture.
3. Boundaries for better business
Aanya found there were times when her mind was with her parents while her body was at her desk. This experience is true for all of us – irrespective of the roles we play.
Although it’s absolutely natural for our mind to wander, it can adversely impact the quality of our work. To get our best work done, we must be fully present and focused upon our task.
One way to cope with the many challenges of running a business alongside domestic responsibilities is to become better at setting boundaries and closing the door – both mentally and physically – between our responsibilities. In psychology, this technique is called compartmentalization. By allowing ourselves space between tasks, we are better able to focus our energy and time on the tasks at hand.
Aanya formed the habit of taking three deep and slow breaths when leaving her parent’s home. While doing this, she reminded herself that her parents were well looked after by a loving family. The short pause helped her to close the door on her familial responsibilities and open her mind to the next task fully and without distraction. Acknowledging the various roles you play and taking a cognitive break between tasks/ roles can lead to increased productivity and performance.
Persistence is the key to success
Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey is exciting, stressful, and hard work. It is also immensely satisfying and rewarding. Learning to gain perspective as you turn your business dreams into reality will help you find balance with your multiple roles.
Business mentors can provide invaluable advice and steer you away from the common pitfalls many new business owners fall for. A professional community of like-minded women can provide enormous help on your entrepreneurial journey – from testing ideas with trusted professionals to encouragement through difficult times. The networks we build around our aspirations can help us to keep our dreams alive when we face challenges or feel our energy draining
The boundaries we set – both physical and mental – provide the space we need to give each aspect of your life the attention it deserves. These boundaries allow us to create more time for the things that matter by being clear about the demands we will not admit.
Finally, persistence and focus will enable you to keep showing up and make the right connections for your venture. Some of the most satisfying achievements in life are the ones that take grit and determination to reach.
Tenacity, persistence, focus, and clarity of purpose are the fuel that launches successful businesses and helps us reach our goals as entrepreneurs.