Starting a business can be a daunting experience, from filing taxes to finding the perfect shop front location.
For more and more women, though, it's becoming a reality. And better yet, women are proving to be more successful at start-ups than men. A recent YouGov survey revealed that 'women are more likely to successfully set up a business, despite encountering more obstacles'. Out of 500 business leaders questioned, just 11% of female respondents said they had failed to set up a successful business, compared to 17% of men.
Based on this research, we spoke to three women who are rocking their fields to get their tips on the nitty gritty of what it's like to set up your own company and watch it succeed.
Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies (the critically-adored, New York-based footwear line selling handcrafted shoes from South Africa, Kenya and Morocco)
photo credit: Jason Hardwick
Be a risk-taker
Not formally studying design helps me take more risks. I always get a lot of push back from people who are very practical. Designers are always like ‘ you can’t put anything warm and fuzzy on something for spring’. And then it’s like why not?! I like to break the conventional rules.
Each job offers a learning opportunity
Before starting my own company I worked in a modelling agency and I would see these girls that were scouted from tiny communities. Maybe they didn’t come from a lot and suddenly they were escorted into a situation where they were making enough money, not only to support themselves but also support their families, send back to their siblings and be able to afford to educate themselves in an institution that would’ve never been possible to them prior to that. So, I really learned through that job about the transformative power of fashion.
Having a company that works internationally is both challenging and rewarding…
I’m still getting to know people, understand them and respect their cultures, I want to be part of the cause to raise up the culture in a way that they can maintain their own identity with what they’re doing. There’s a lot of logistical issues too, travel and the language barrier for example.
Make a product that inspires you…
I personally get excited when people email to tell me they've bought a product. They will say: ‘I have been wearing Clarks or whatever brand of boots for years and then I read about your company, your story and I went on your website and I wanted to give them a try’. This means so much because these are people with years of brand loyalty and they’ve taken the leap to make that switch.
It’s about more than the shop front…
I hope that Brother Vellies inspires people to realise the power of their dollars and that every time they spend their money that spend is an exchange of power. And that if people are really thoughtful, they can really change the world through their spending choices.
Eve Lee, founder of The Digital Fairy (a London-based, digital youth communications agency with clients including Topshop and Asos)
My old boss Emma Elliott @ Chalk PR is mine. In my opinion she’s the best at her job, nobody messes with her because she's the nicest lady ever, it makes everyone respect her for the right reasons.
Recently Topshop approached us to create something fun on their website as part of their Playland campaign the brief was, 'it just needs to be disruptive and FUN’. We ended up having three weeks to design and develop an arcade game on their website, it felt like a game having to complete it in time.
Put your own stamp on the word entrepreneur.
Originally I associated entrepreneurs with Apprentice contestants from the TV show. But when I moved to London lots of my friends were freelancers or had their own businesses and it made me feel more comfortable about the idea, I saw it more as a way to do something enjoyable and fulfilling.
Advice to young, female entrepreneurs
You can teach yourself anything. Just Google it :)
Be interested in your field
I think going to university (to study fashion communications) definitely enhanced skills I had, but they were not as significant as the skills and ways of thinking I have picked up outside of education. I have always been really interested in how brands communicate to younger generations; I think that’s been a big factor in what I do.
Yassira Zaandam, founder of Sable Beauty (the London-based, ecommmerce beauty shop)
The first step to the finished product is definitely a process
I started with writing the idea in my journal and then mapping out a plan, before the next steps: just research, research, research. It helps to tackle one thing at a time so you aren’t overwhelmed. My process was 'ok I need a website', so the first step was researching prices for a domain name. I was also creating my start-up while I had a full time job so I had to be methodical.
Think like a consumer first
I always felt this fascination with beauty products, fascinated by the power of beauty, how it can help you feel empowered. But then as I grew older I was often quite disappointed with my own beauty experience as a consumer, and I wanted to create an experience that was modern, intelligent and very inclusive to women of all colours.
Digital can help you go global
The digital age works perfectly for the type of business I envisioned. The women who engage with my site, they operate from so many different locations and the Internet opens that massive door so I can interact with potential consumers all over the world.
Just do it
When it comes to starting a business, just do it and be willing to work for it. I think there’s too many of those stories about really successful women, but the stories sometimes gloss over how incredibly hard they must have worked. Because in the beginning there’s no glamour to it, it is very tedious stuff. It just has to be done. But that immense pride you feel at the end is totally worth it.