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FEATURES Jun 13 2012 9:09AM

Lessons for Women Seeking to Start Their Own Businesses

There are aspects of business ownership that women are perfectly suited for just based on our natural inclinations and the way in which we do things. A woman is typically an excellent multitasker, and being an entrepreneur, you have to wear many hats. You no longer work nine to five; your new hours are 24/7 because your business becomes your life—and I think women can do this well. Where we fail is when we put others ahead of our needs and our business needs. We tend to adjust our schedules around our loved ones and those who need our time—and in business, you cannot do that and be successful. There will be times when you have to choose your business over your family, and we have to be okay with that and find a way to strike a balance.

Now, I am not saying you walk out the house and leave the baby crying in the crib so that you can go to a business meeting. But know going in that you will be your biggest critic and you will be harder on yourself than anyone else will be in your life. Our children are more resilient than we think. When we forgive ourselves, accepting that we will only be leaving them for a few hours or a day, we then open our minds and our hearts to finding an alternate option for childcare—and all of sudden, we think of Grandma Essie, Cousin Karen and yes, Daddy. But as long as we are closed off and placing the full responsibility only on our shoulders, those alternate solutions do not present themselves to us. This stifles our business growth and our personal growth because we are in that denying process, hence, denying our spirits and ourselves.  

Other areas that prove to be more challenging for women are dealing with people and finances. With people, we want to work as teams and as friends and avoid conflict. When you are running a business, you have to be a boss, and that means you have to ruffle feathers from time to time and lay down the law. You have to be an example for others to follow. You set the tone, which can be hard for most women. When it comes to money, we are more fearful than men of borrowing it. If we do ask for a loan, we tend to ask for less than we actually need—one, because the entire prospect is terrifying, and two, because we may be accustomed to doing more with less and think we can do that in business as well. And, when you are in front of bankers, that “safe” attitude can make you look as if you are not truly knowledgeable about your business’ needs.

This is an area that requires a lot of self-examination and self-help to improve. And if you recognize that you may not be able to be objective in this area, it is important to get another set of eyes looking at the situation with you to ensure that you are making the right decision.  

If you are thinking of starting a business and you don’t have a lot of money, do not be discouraged. Go and read about Madame C.J. Walker, who started a business and became the first African-American female millionaire—and she started out picking cotton. Think of J.K. Rowling of Harry Potterfame. She was living on public assistance, created a world in her head and put that world on paper. Think of me: My first flea market took an investment of $100. There are countless stories of men and women who did what was not possible. That is faith. Those are blessings. That is bringing your passion to meet your prayers and never giving up. 

But it also means that you are researching, networking and figuring out how to do it. I did not sit in the lotus position on my bedroom floor and visualize my company to more than $30 million in annual sales. I worked hard and put myself in situations that were not comfortable, and I tried things—some worked and some didn’t. I have always been a glass-is-half-full kind of girl; I learned that from my mother. No matter what, I know that I am blessed. I believe when you focus on the positive, you attract positive and as long as you don’t ignore the negative but actively work to balance the two, you will be fine.  I still work hard every day and push to be better and stronger, and I am still afraid. But because of my faith, my history and my lessons learned, I am much more courageous than I was 19 years ago.  

I got here one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other and always being authentic. I am and always will be me.  I am Lisa.  I am from Brooklyn.  I am Gordon's wife. I am Forrest, Ennis and Becca's mom. I am Vanessa's friend. I am Karen's cousin. I am Janice's boss. I am Robert's daughter and Marguerite's grandchild, and yes, I am Carol's Daughter. 


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