If your goal is to become an entrepreneur, it is probably the best decision you are taking. You can be your own boss, create something new, create jobs for others, contribute to the economic growth of the country, follow a path different from the crowd and so on. While things are better now than ever before — there are more women founders now than just a few years back – the entrepreneurial journey is easier said than done. Don’t expect it to be a walk in the park, but full of challenges. And if you love negotiating challenges, that’s another big reason why entrepreneurship is cut out for you.
The best way forward is to be prepared. Many experts suggest that starting point can be
entrepreneurship events. Though be cautioned, despite great improvements in numbers of women founders, they still are a minority and you’ll see very few of your `tribe’ in such gatherings. While attending conferences is good for networking there’s lots more you need to do to give wings to your idea.
Here’s a checklist to make your entrepreneurial journey successful:
> Self-belief: While entrepreneurship is fashionable, it’s not easy. Don’t do it because your
friend did it but because you believe in it. You know best who you are and what can you do.
While money is obviously a big goal don’t be in it just for that final outcome of a pot of gold in
your account. First and foremost, believe in what you are setting out to do.
Try and sell the idea to yourself first —convince yourself before taking it to the world. Check
with family and close friends what they think about your plan. Also, if you have a family
(husband, kids, parents to look after) figure out upfront the time you can give and make
everyone aware of your idea and the commitment it needs. You can’t anticipate everything,
but ticking the obvious boxes is a good starting point.
> Think through the Idea: What is the problem you are trying to solve? Is it a crowded area,
like another e-commerce or a fintech startup you are planning or is the idea unique? If the
latter it’s great, but the next step is to have it vetted by an expert in the area or a successful
entrepreneur — what will it do, can it scale? Don’t get carried away by `flavour of the season’
but work to your strengths. So, fintech is a hot new space but do you really understand
financial services, products etc. If it’s up your alley, sure go ahead but, be careful of venturing
into areas that you aren’t familiar with.
> Capital: The idea might start on your smartphone at your study (or garage, as they prefer!)
but once it grows you need more people, investments in experts, products, office space,
computers. You might have started with your spare money but to scale you will have to look
out for angels and venture investors.
This is the stage where literally, the rubber hits the road. You will have something to show
that it works. You will be competing with many others for angel money.
And they (not all but most of them) come with their own pre-conceived notions. The moment
it’s a woman-founded venture expect gender issues to go ahead of the idea or funding. How
will you manage family & company? What if your husband gets shifted out of the city? If you
are single, will you continue running the startup after marriage and so forth.
Instead of trying to convince all and sundry, reach out to investors who are more interested in
the business and not gender of the person who’s starting it. Reach out to investors who are
willing to back women founded ventures.
> People Matters: As the startup grows you will need a formal structure. You’ll need to fill key
positions like finance, HR, business development, technology, operations and so on. At thing
stage you will be getting out of your comfort zone of family and friends and hiring external
Check out whether they need just another job or are willing to risk working with a startup,
willing to toil hard, work long and unsocial hours to see it grow. Hiring is critical to success. You may not get the right hire for each role and here your own role as a founder and guide
comes to play. Look for commitment and passion to work for a startup in your hires.
> Network, Engage & Keep Learning: Building a successful company is not a ‘one-woman
show’ but requires efforts, teams, stakeholders, the ecosystem. Here networking is important.
Look out for startup events. Meeting the right kind of people, staying in touch with fellow
entrepreneurs, investors and even CXOs of large companies. You will need partnerships to
grow, strengthen old bridges while building new ones. Networking will help know the pulse of
the market and bring you closer to market and business trends. This will add to your
knowledge which can help navigate the startup as it scales.
> Mentor & Feedback: The role of mentor can hardly be overemphasised. You need someone
you can trust. To guide you on the right path, to consult if things are not going right. To
provide you feedback on the steps you are taking and analyse results.
> Failure is Part of the Journey: Most startup statistics are not very encouraging. Almost 80%
of the startups fail and less than 5% of startups become a Google, Facebook or Uber. So, failure is very much part of the journey. This means you need to work very hard and stay focussed. Look at how market is responding to your product or service. There will be mistakes and mishaps. Learn to cope with challenges and make changes if need be.
In an unfortunate event of encountering failure take a hard look and evaluate what went
wrong. Instead of giving up see failure as a learning. You can quit one venture to start another
armed with better knowledge and know-how. The stronger you become—due to failure or
success—the better it will be. Best of luck on your journey ahead!