West Lafayette, Indiana - Purdue University women innovators and entrepreneurs are making a strong statement about their role as faculty members, students, administrators and entrepreneurs. From biomedical engineering to speech sciences to clothing designs, Purdue's entrepreneurially minded leaders are making life better across the globe.
It isn't an easy road to traverse, but these nearly 100 Purdue women have founded multiple companies, raised venture capital in the millions or assisted in the development of other people's startups.
They are not alone. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Entrepreneurship reports that the trend of women entrepreneurship is growing at the national level. The 2014 study shows that "women entrepreneurs are starting 1,288 new businesses each day, double the rate of only three years ago." The U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 29 percent of privately held firms in the United States are women-owned, and another 12 percent are equally owned by women and men.
While all entrepreneurs have innumerable challenges and aspirations in common, here is a top 10 list of things that women entrepreneurs should know as shared by Purdue women entrepreneurs:
1) Network in person. It is recommended that professionals and entrepreneurs commit between five and nine hours a week networking. Attend local and state chamber and venture programs, join entrepreneurial groups and women's mentoring groups. Remember you are representing your company 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Carry your business cards with you at all times. You never know when you will meet someone who can help your company. Do soft sales at conferences by presenting yourself as an expert in your field, follow up with contacts as soon as you get home.
2) Network online. Your website and social media outlets can be your most important selling tools. If you can't create it, hire an expert. Make sure the text is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strong and that you have a responsive web design to serve multiple mobile devices. Stay active on social media – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, blogs, etc.
3) Optimize your time. There aren't enough hours in the day – we all know that. But remember everyone has the same number to work with: 24. Use your time wisely and focus your energies in the right places at the right times by setting priorities and tactics to attain your entrepreneurial goals.
4) Secure funding. Area entrepreneurial groups often sponsor business competitions where entrepreneurs compete for funding. Startup loans and federally funded grants like SBIR or STTR through the U.S. Small Business Administration can help. Make sure you have a good prototype, a solid business plan and a strong elevator pitch before approaching potential investors or competing in startup events.
5) Know your audience. Who is going to buy what you are selling? Everything you say, write, present and advertise should be geared to convincing your targeted audiences that they need or want what you are selling.
6) Family matters. Women work hard to balance children and family with their professional goals. Ask your partner to help with childcare and household duties and/or hire outside help. Don't berate yourself if something slips. No one can do it all. Men will often say they are working hard for success so they can provide for their families. Likewise, your family benefits from your personal and professional successes.
7) Negotiate. Women are recognized as strong arbitrators between two opposing forces, but not so much when negotiating on their own behalf. Come prepared with quantitative evidence to support your goals at the negotiating table. It is really important to try to fully understand the other party’s needs and it puts you in a better/stronger position.
8) Stay relevant. Keep yourself and your brand current. Regardless of your entrepreneurial choice, the field will grow and change. Stay true to your value proposition but adapt to new technologies, research methods/findings and market changes.
9) Listen to your instincts. Women are recognized as having strong intuition and abilities to read people. Use this skill to bring out the best in your team and to reach your targeted audience. Seasoned public speakers know when they are losing a crowd's attention. Shift gears quickly if you sense that your audience is drifting away and keep them interested in what you are saying.
10) Recognize life as an entrepreneur. Even with appropriate delegation, entrepreneurs work long hours, face incredible challenges, and must make difficult decisions, but they also have fun, feel a great sense of empowerment and accomplishment, and can make a real difference for their families and community.
Looking for additional help? Visit your local entrepreneurial organizations and websites devoted to helping entrepreneurs and startups succeed. Also visit innovation-entrepreneurship-purdue.com for other entrepreneurial tips.