Historically, men have held the power in the business world, but women are changing the game up - especially minority women. Starting your own business and being an entrepreneur is not easy. Most businesses fail within the first few years and some fail within the first few months.
According to a U.S. Census Bureau from 2015, women are starting businesses at one-and-a-half times the national average. More specifically, women are starting nearly 1,300 businesses a day — almost double the average from the prior year.
I recently caught up with three successful female entrepreneurs and they gave me the scoop on how they started their own business plus more much needed advice. Here are their major keys for entrepreneurial success.
Shante Bacon, Founder & CEO, 135th Street Agency
When it's time to move on, you will know. Trust your gut.
In my past life, I worked in the music business at Def Jam for 8 years and resigned to build my current firm. I come from a really long line of entrepreneurs - my mom and grandmother both owned their own businesses. I knew it was in my blood to own my own business. Not to mention while at Def Jam I felt like after a while my genius wasn't being properly used at the label. I started having that Sunday night anxiety when I knew Sunday night was coming up and Monday wasn't too far behind. I knew I didn't want to continue working at a job that I felt that way about so I talked to my mentor about it and my mentor told me that maybe my job had run its course. She told me in life, some things just run their course.
Before I decided to officially leave Def Jam, I started my current business as a side hustle. At that same time, I was working on Kanye's album The College Dropout. I didn't do much work on my business until I left Def Jam.
Years later, my firm is 11 years old as of January 5th. My business, 135th Street Agency, is a strategic communications and experiential firm. We handle everything that is communications and PR driven. From media coaching to custom message and outreach, press releases, engagements, and ambassador recruitment just to name a few are covered under my company. Over the past 11 years, some of my clients have included Disney, Paramount, The Oprah Winfrey Network, WE tv, BET, and VH1.
If I could do it all over again, the one thing I would do differently is approach entrepreneurship more like the general market. I didn't learn this until I started raising venture capital money, taking classes, and taking professional development courses. I would also wait 1-2 yrs to build my resource plan so that I can start my business with the money that I would need to expand it when ready. One thing that I learned is that hiring is very expensive so when starting business you have to think ahead and think about what you will do if your business expands before you are ready.
For a new entrepreneur, I think that once you can, you should have the following on your team: a really organized administrative person, a really quality HR person that has your back, an attorney, a social media person that understands the science behind engagement with other people, a publicist, and a marketing person.
Tracy Nguyen, Founder & Managing Partner at Industry Public Relations
It's never too late to start a business
While studying fashion design in 2000 at the Fashion Institute of Technology I worked at Vivienne Westwood's flagship store at the time in SOHO. Their in-house PR office was downstairs in the same building on Greene Street so it would be frequented by celebrities, press, and stylists. I was one credit shy of completing my associates degree when I was approached with an opportunity for an assistant position at People's Revolution. Not understanding in that moment what a publicist job was, I accepted the job offer thinking that it would only be temporary and a great way for me to learn a different side of the fashion business that I could apply towards launching my own line one day.
I ended up working at People's Revolution for 2 years where I moved up from assistant to account executive. I learned from my boss at that time that no job should ever be too small. I also learned the importance of being incredibly detailed and that clients appreciate when you over communicate with them - and that I also needed thick skin in order to make it in this industry.
Later, after joining 5WPR where I eventually became a Senior Vice President, I was responsible for managing a team within my group, clients, and signing new businesses. A few years after that, my PR firm Industry Public Relations was created.
I have learned the importance of leading by example, always following through and that there is a difference between working hard and working smart.
15 years later still in the business, I look back and think that one of the most valuable lessons learned is the importance of having integrity in your work and being honest when you can't do something.
I also learned it's never too early to start working towards your goal of owning your own business, but make sure that while you're working for others that you are learning and absorbing as much as you can, especially from their mistakes. Last but not least, when I started my own company, I didn't have any funding. When starting a PR agency, really all that you need is a computer and a phone. There is no need to spend money on massive overhead costs such as furnishing and maintaining an expensive office. I worked from home for the first few years and as my business grew and a need for an office space and hiring of employees became necessary, I adjusted accordingly.
Self-love and confidence are the keys to success
I worked under Mona Scott Young as her assistant, and then later worked for an advertising agency under Steven Stout called Translation. I was 27 when I was at that agency and decided I would make the switch and become an entrepreneur. I felt like I was young so I should go and just fail now and fail early. If it doesn't work, I felt like I could always go back to a job. I didn't really have that much fear around it. It was more like I should do this entrepreneur thing now while I don't have life's responsibilities. I didn't have a mortgage, kid, a husband - those type of things.
I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur but I was very loyal to the agency that I was at.
For me it was a situation where I needed to decide who I was going to be loyal to - me or the company.
I started my company in 2011 and I was still working at my agency. I left the agency in the last quarter of 2012 to start Gild Creative Group (GCG). In addition to GCG, I have She Knows Now which is my women's interest organization, and my upcoming tech startup called Social ARMM ( Social Asset Research and Media Management).
With Social ARMM, it's an idea that's been in my head since 2006. I was in college at that time and really it wasn't the best timing for Social ARMM. I think that's what a lot of people have to realize - you will have inspired thoughts all the time but it may not be right time to activate those inspired thoughts.
In regards to She Knows Now, I'm really involved and I'm really grateful for my managing editor - she keeps my mind right, keeps me accountable. She also is just as passionate about the work that we are doing. The work that we are doing is so important because I believe that you can be self-conscious but still confident. You can be sort of this bad ass woman, super fly, but still not have confidence. Confidence is something that you have to truly dig deep for and it takes a lot of work to do that. You cannot fake confidence. It is or it isn't there.
I think for a lot of women, we do a good job at faking it. But at the end of the day, we need to continue to work on it. For example in work when I get anxiety, it's because I'm not confident. It means I wasn't prepared. Even when we as women go into conversations about work and salary and feel less confident, it's because we are not prepared. So having the confidence to speak about what you do well is about finding inner strength and resting on that because it's the foundation.
Self-love and confidence is the foundation and every other experience that you have is built upon that - whether that is work, love, or just knowing your worth. How can you know your worth without being confident? How? How Sway?
One of the things that I learned is that you have to write the story to your own life. You have to change your perspective. Also you have to manage your time. If your spirit is stuck on this business you want to start, then just do it. If you have a 9-5 then best believe from 6-9 and then 5-9 you should be working on that business. What are you willing to do? What is the time you are willing to give?
If you are a current entrepreneur, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs on starting out? Share your insights below!