by Trish Cotter
On this year’s International Women’s Day, I’d like to reflect on how we can encourage women to speak up, be heard, and support each other. The #metoo movement has brought to light countless examples of abuse, mistreatment and harassment, but if there is one positive glimmer out of all that is being shared, it’s a sense of solidarity and empowerment.
I believe that entrepreneurship can be a path to channeling that that energy and creating positive outcomes. The time is now to step up and speak out. The time is now to take control of your own destiny. Stop saying “I’m sorry” and start saying “I’m ready to make a difference.”
I believe that sometimes making a difference is being your own boss. In my role as Director of MIT’s educational accelerator program, delta v, I work every day with both female and male student entrepreneurs. Some of these students have ideas that may change the world someday, but even more important is their sense of pride and accomplishment when they can make decisions that shape their own direction and have a positive impact on other people.
Maybe being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. But, if and when you are in a position to define your own path, you have turned the tables and now have control. You can help not only yourself, but others.
Female Entrepreneurs Make a Difference
This infographic from Entrepreneur on female entrepreneurship shows that women are founding companies at historic rates with more than 9 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. today. These businesses will provide over 5 million jobs this year. Interestingly, businesses with a woman on the executive team are also more likely to have significantly higher valuations (64% higher) at Series A. These statistics demonstrate that women are creating new models of leadership, and that is hopefully changing the balance of power.
How to Get Started
Now is the time to be an entrepreneur, yet the hardest thing about entrepreneurship is getting started. Newton’s first law states an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an external force – and this is true for entrepreneurship as well. So, you need to give yourself a push. For inspiration, here are some stories of female entrepreneurs gaining ground at MIT.
Find the focus that is right for you. Entrepreneurship for small and medium enterprises (i.e. opening your own business in an established industry, such as a florist, hair salon, or consultant) is different than innovation-driven entrepreneurship (i.e. the next “big idea”, inventing something new) but they both let you be your own boss.
What are you curious about? What do you dream of doing? How would you get started? Now is the best time. There are many educational resources (online, classes, workshops etc.), and there are a lot of folks who are willing to be mentors. Plus, check out co-working spaces that are great for startups. In the Boston area we have the CIC in Cambridge, Venture Café, WeWork, etc. that also have speakers and educational resources in all areas of building a business.
Resources for Entrepreneurs
On any given day in Boston there are events that budding entrepreneurs can attend – many are free, or some charge a small fee. Find the one that fits you. The City of Boston just held a series of events for women, Linda Henry runs HUBweek, there are Mass Challenge programs around the world. These all help expose those interested in entrepreneurship to various options. Here are a number of resources and organizations in the Boston and Cambridge area. Search online to find others in your area.
· Starting a Business (City of Boston)
· Boston Entrepreneurs’ Network
· Boston Resources for Female Entrepreneurs (via Bond Street)
· Center for Women & Enterprise
· Community Resources for Entrepreneurs (via the CDD, Cambridge)
· GA – General Assembly
· Mass Innovation Nights
· Massachusetts Resources for Immigrant Entrepreneurs
· Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
· Roxbury Innovation Center
The activism among several organizations has opened a lot of eyes, and hopefully recognition. Where women were once dismissed, that there are signs that voices should be heard – from women on boards to women funding enterprises. There is positive momentum, and you can make a difference.
The time is now. Give yourself that push!