Executive coach and luxury skincare entrepreneur Misty Reich on the issues that female entrepreneurs face and why sticking to your vision and sifting out the good advice from the bad can be the making of your brand.
As an executive coach, board member, and having recently launched my luxury skincare brand 35thousand.com, I am constantly in conversation with women about the obstacles preventing them from launching their own businesses. According to The Rose Report commissioned by the UK Government in 2019 ‘Barriers to Female Entrepreneurship’ chaired by Alison Rose who is the Deputy CEO Natwest Holdings and CEO of Commercial and private Banking, only 1 in 3 entrepreneurs are female. According to the report this is a gender gap equivalent to £1.1 million in missing businesses. Female-led businesses are only 44% of the size of male-led businesses on average, in terms of their contribution to the economy. In short, the business world, especially in the UK, is missing out on the full upside of women’s entrepreneurial contributions.
In my experience of working with women in the running of their businesses, this discrepancy is not because women lack in ability or ambition. Far from it, women are overflowing with creativity and have a work ethic to rival any man, however there are fundamental roadblocks in a woman’s career that sometimes are unsurmountable or make the journey much tougher compared to many of their male counterparts. This, sadly makes women more likely to not stay the course and give up before their company is established or scalable.
The big systemic issue I see women come up against is that they have much less access to capital than men. According to the Rose Report, “Female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their journey. Start-up funding is the #1 barrier mentioned by women non-entrepreneurs: women launch businesses with 53% less capital on average than men, are less aware of funding options and less likely to take on debt.”
The other undeniable issue that women encounter is that we still shoulder a large proportion of family responsibility. This can make it tough to take risks and very difficult to juggle work and home commitments in time-consuming, vital early stages of a business. The facts show that women are as successful as men in sustaining a business once it is established, but it is the lack of support in the early stages that can prevent a female-run business becoming fully established or scalable.
After years of coaching women in business I can also see other, more internal issues at play that prevent women stepping into, or sticking with, an entrepreneurial path. The first, I believe, is linked to our core wiring. Women are naturally more risk aware than men, which perhaps we can put down to that trusty mother’s instinct (you know the one that puts a hand out to stop a child falling before they’ve even taken a step). And whilst we can’t change that natural instinct (and neither would we want to for many reasons), I believe we can change our reaction to it when it comes to business. We can question the protective voice that stops us taking the next step, and we can ask it if it is actually hindering or helping us.
Another obstacle I see that tends to stunt women’s entrepreneurial spirit is self-doubt. Women are less likely than men to believe that they are capable of starting and succeeding in entrepreneurship. This is potentially due to carrying the majority of family life discussed above or perhaps it’s a lack of self-belief that’s been long ingrained in us that deep down we still haven’t managed to shake.
Thirdly, I find that there is a lack of great professional advice and counsel for women. Women are less likely to have access to qualified, relevant mentors. That’s not to say that we don’t receive lots and lots of advice from the unqualified ‘experts’, but unless you are incredibly clear in your head about the ‘true north’ for your business idea, it can be very easy to trust those unqualified opinions which can impact a small business hugely and potentially lead you to give up altogether.
Personally, I have found that entrepreneurship can breed entrepreneurship. I’ve never been frightened of taking risks, which may be the result of being the daughter of self-employed and entrepreneurial parents. Whilst we are still in the early days of the brand, I think my best piece of advice from all I’ve learnt so far however, is to create your own playbook, rather than following others or what you think you should do. I have learnt that it’s incredibly important to keep my counsel first, to be really clear on my point of view on topics before I take advise from others, no matter how credentialled they are.
There have been many points in my journey so far where I have needed to really anchor myself to my beliefs in order to stay the course. Probably the biggest was walking away from a successful, lucrative career without a plan 4.5 years ago and starting 35 Thousand. Many people offered me unsolicited advice that I should “max out” on my corporate career and earning potential before pursuing a ‘passion project’. Then there was my decision to start a brand in a sector I hadn’t worked in before. I was often told that being an ‘outsider’ would be a barrier to success. However this has led me to surround myself with experts and I can now see that my business acumen and brand building know-how have definitely been enough to get me this far.
Other matters I have had to remain steadfast on are my choice to self-fund and not take investment (people assume that this is therefore just a hobby and not serious), as well as my decision to stay on course despite the pandemic. Regarding the latter, many people have suggested we pivot or broaden the focus of the brand, but for me, a smaller audience of loyal fans is more important to me than scaling for scaling’s sake.
So what key pieces of advice would I suggest to help someone find, and clarify their way to cut through all the noise and stick to their own path?
Get quiet and think every single day
Shut out the noise for a dedicated amount of time daily where you can observe your thoughts. Allow enough time to really double click into each thought or idea and ponder why you believe that. Ensure it is, in fact, your truth and not someone else’s.
For me journaling is absolutely critical to solidifying my thinking. However you do it is up to you but there is something about writing down your ideas that untwists and clarifies them (note: it must be done by pen not typed on a computer). I do my best with the Julia Cameron’s Morning pages approach, but I find it’s like choosing a sunscreen, the journaling practice you will stick to is the best one for you.
Get your ideas clear first before taking other peoples’
Create the internal discipline to not take on opinions of others on important topics where you have not yet gotten your own point of view clear first.
If you can’t hear yourself think above the cacophony of opinion then remember this:
“If you fuel your journey on the opinions of others, you are going to run out of gas.” -Dr Steve Maraboli
Head to 35thousand.com for luxury skincare and inspiration for women-on-the-go