When I became an entrepreneur in 2009, I said goodbye to the corporate world and hello to being my own boss. This was equal parts amazing and terrifying. All of the comfortable trappings I had in my corporate role, like a great salary, were gone. I had new responsibilities and much more to learn because the success of the company depended on me.
Over the years, I’ve spoken to many female entrepreneurs about challenges they have overcome in business. The truth is nobody knows everything about entrepreneurship when they decide to pursue it as a career. The only way to understand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur is to actually become one. Let these five female entrepreneurs spill what the realities of being an entrepreneur really look like. For those of you who are already an entrepreneur, this should be quite cathartic.
1. Your business won't become an overnight success.
Sorry to burst any bubbles, but there’s a better likelihood you’ll win the lottery than wake up the day after your startup launched and find out it’s world famous. Jaclyn DiGregorio, Founder of Cusp It, has a theory that most entrepreneurs think they’ll be an instant success due to the influence of TV series like Shark Tank and media stories about startups that seem to grow overnight.
Don’t despair if it does take years for your business to succeed. DiGregorio’s advice is to develop patience as an entrepreneur. Be prepared to fail, too. It doesn’t sound like a good strategy, but taking risks is ultimately the key to success. “If you want to have any chance of success as an entrepreneur, you have to keep trying, failing, and learning. Successful entrepreneurs did not become successful in spite of their failures. They become successful because of them."
2. Your passion can't always pay the bills.
Let’s say, for example, I have a passion for horror movies. In my spare time, I love watching and analyzing scary films. I want to start a blog where I review these movies, and eventually have it branch off to become a small business. Already, I’m facing a lot of hurdles. If I were to draft a business plan, it would be filled with more questions than answers. Who is my target market? What makes my horror movie blog stand out in a saturated, competitive pop culture landscape? How does cash flow work? Does my idea have a long-term future?
Maybe you have the answers and maybe you don’t. Nancy Shenker, CEO of theONswitch, started her business 15 years ago. Over the years, she has noticed many people get into entrepreneurship to pursue their passions. This is fine, of course, but what you love has to generate a greater return on investment. Shenker advises looking at what you’re passionate about and its ROI, instead of focusing solely on passions. My hypothetical horror blog might be better suited as a side hustle than a full-time gig.
3. Employee (and general business) finances come first.
If you’re an entrepreneur that plans to hire employees, their paychecks are going to be your first priority. Oh, and so will the finances of your business. Karina Martinez is the co-founder of Salud Creative, a boutique PR, branding, and events agency. On top of working long hours and wearing tons of hats, Martinez has learned that one of her biggest responsibilities is focusing on the finances of the business and its team members. “You’re not just responsible for your own finances,” Martinez remarks. “You’re also responsible for the finances of the employees. Everyone counts on you to lead a business that is profitable, so that they have a paycheck.”
4. Being an entrepreneur requires discipline, even if you work poolside.
Veronica Cintron, CEO of V+R Digital Branding Agency, wants aspiring entrepreneurs to know that it’s harder than it looks to work out of a coffee shop. Cintron, who does much of her work poolside, says that her success depends on strict discipline and impeccable time management.
“When I first started my business, I loved the scheduling flexibility. That is, until it started cutting too close to client deadlines.” Cintron explains, “I quickly realized that it’s important to stay disciplined and on schedule. It’s easy to get distracted when you don’t have a boss, so you need to make sure you stay focused on keeping company goals tight.”
5. You will learn who your true friends are.
Five years ago, Rebecca Miller left her six-figure career as an attorney to open up a pie shop with her mom. It sounds like the premise to a Nora Ephron movie, right? Peggy Jean’s Pies even sounds like it was made for the silver screen: a peachy keen tale about a mother and daughter duo baking pies in a cute shop.
The reality was that everything went south six weeks into the shop’s opening. At the time, Miller was still working as a lawyer. In addition to her legal workload, she had the business to think about, along with her personal life as a wife and parent. Miller even confesses that there were moments where she felt like the family dog was let down with her. This spurred Miller on to quit being an attorney and embrace entrepreneurship full-time.
Once she made this decision, Miller quickly found out that running a business changed her entire life. In a not-Nora Ephron scripted turn of events, she learned which people were her true friends.
“Some people won’t be patient with your business or understand why you would mess up your whole life to pursue some crazy idea.” Miller says.
The determining factor for who is a true friend versus who isn’t is when you start to experience success. Miller notes that when you succeed, a lot of people won’t be happy about it. Through her experience, this is due to not ‘getting’ that you have become an entrepreneur and are working to build a business.
It’s difficult to do and may produce hurt feelings, but ultimately entrepreneurs must figure out the difference between true and fair-weather friends. Miller says most entrepreneurs probably already know which ones are in their camp: “The people who support you, cheer you on, and listen to you work ideas out in your mind, they are the friends to keep.”