11 Secrets for Starting a Small Business

What you can learn from successful female entrepreneurs.

Photograph: Photo by: iStockphoto

MORE: What is the biggest financial obstacle people face when starting their own business?

BS: Watch your overhead. That was my father’s mantra. It’s not about fancy offices, not about the nice car. Really watch your expenses and start off small and build slowly. Budgets are the biggest killer. But internally it’s the fear of being uncomfortable. Entrepreneurs have to be willing to spend over half the time outside of their comfort zone, which is why support is key especially to women. And that could be anyone from a business coach to a group of girlfriends.

MORE: Many career coaches talk about confronting your fears. Is it normal to be apprehensive about starting a business?

BS: Initially in my interviews, the women who are most successful seemed the most confident, but as we got deeper into the interviews, I found they all suffered from self-doubt. But the successful entrepreneurs didn’t let the fear or self-doubt stop them. Fear and resistance are indicators of where you need to go next. The key to running a profitable business is the willingness to be uncomfortable—all these women would get to a point where they would say, “I can’t do that!” and did it anyway.

Men walk into the work world feeling entitled. Women walk in and feel like a fraud. Don’t let it stop you, feel the fear, feel the self-doubt and do it anyway.

MORE: What surprised you most about your interviews?

BS: I would always ask the women, why are you doing this? And 95 percent would say I am not doing it for the money, it’s the challenge, but at the same time they all said I damn well want to be well paid because I know I’m worth it! That was what I found separated the more successful from those less successful. It was that feeling that they valued themselves. Women by nature, we devalue ourselves. We give away our time, our knowledge, our skills for free or bargain prices because of that voice inside our head. Every single woman I have talked to had that voice. One woman, who had made millions, said, “I had that little girl inside me telling me ‘I’m not good enough.’” Own your value and what you bring to the table.

MORE: How can being a midlife woman work to your advantage?

BS: I feel that my age has given me an enormous amount of credibility with consumers and professionals alike. My life experience is my strongest asset. I am more willing to take risks and do what scares me—and that pays off. I have a very different perspective of obstacles. I used to get very discouraged, but now I have found that obstacles always come with a lesson and a benefit. If I face a big challenge or problem, I look for what I need to learn and how that can make me stronger.

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