This article by Cindy Gallop is part of our Blogtober event, which features blog posts written by industry influencers in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Several years ago I was in New Zealand on a business trip for my startup, IfWeRanTheWorld. This startup connects people who want to positively impact the world and helps them take steps to realize their world-changing goals. I was asked to participate in a community event designed to help women who had started small businesses.
It took place at a community center. Thirty or so women attended, with the opportunity to set up displays for each of their businesses on tables around the room. I gave a short talk about the importance of entrepreneurship, and then each woman had the opportunity to spend a few minutes presenting her business to the rest of us. After each presentation I spoke about what I’d just seen, and then everyone had the opportunity to mingle, check out each other’s ventures, make purchases, or offer help.
Two things struck me about this event.
The first was how inspiring, interesting, and creative every one of these small businesses was. For example, one woman came from a seafaring family and had been captain of a fishing trawler until it became too difficult to spend so much time at sea away from her husband and children. She decided instead to start a business teaching the native Maori art of plant weaving—not for the products you could make, but for the weaving process itself. She spoke about how calming, soothing, and de-stressing she found the weaving, and she was passionate about wanting to share the benefits with others.
The other thing that struck me was how quickly every one of these businesses—Maori plant weaving, jewelry making, natural fragrances and skin care, garments, baking—would have been dismissed by a male audience as “women’s stuff,” and would not have been taken seriously in the male-dominated business world at large.
As Natalie MacNeil writes for Forbes, “Women just do things differently in the world of business and different should be welcomed.” This is why I’m passionate about democratizing entrepreneurship.
I would like to see many more entrepreneurs. When I say that, I don’t only mean the Silicon Valley, venture-capital funded startups that often come to mind when “entrepreneur” is uttered. I mean what I call “entrepreneurs by default”: people who don’t have a burning desire to start their own business, but who have lost their jobs, can’t find employment, and have no other way to support their families, put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads.
I particularly want to see many more women become entrepreneurs for two reasons.
Women are not generally encouraged to start businesses in the same way that women are not generally brought up to think about money and the importance of making, saving, and investing it. So the world of business can seem daunting, and make many women can feel they’re not very good at it, or that it’s not something they can flourish in—even more so when it comes to doing their own thing.
People make the mistake of thinking that a job is the “safe” option. But in a job you’re at the mercy of market downturns, management changes, and industry dynamics beyond your control. Whose hands would you rather place your future in? Those of someone else or yourself?
And here’s the benefit of starting your own business: You can create it in your own vision. Love the idea of working from home? Do that. Not a big fan of interacting with people? Design your business around minimizing human contact. Only want to work certain hours? You can do that. You’re the boss.
We largely live and work in a world where expectations are male-dominated. The world of work has grown up for centuries around male-centric values and approaches (because for centuries we weren’t allowed to do it). In so many ways the corporate structure is predicated on the concept of the stay-at-home mom and designed on the assumption that it will always be men going to work, and there will always be women at home taking care of everything else. Today everything’s changed, but the corporate structure has been stubborn to that change, which is why it can be so unfriendly to women.
Start your own business, and you can redesign business and the way you do it to be whatever you would like it to be. We need many more people—both women and men—redesigning the world of work. You can help.
The second reason I want to see many more women entrepreneurs is because there is a huge amount of money to be made out of taking women seriously.
Successful entrepreneurs start businesses that flow out of a need they see or experience themselves, and that many other people respond to. Women start businesses that other women respond to. This doesn’t happen enough when industries don’t have a gender balance, and this can mean leaving a huge amount of money on the table.
Women buy. We are the primary purchasers and the primary influencers of purchase decisions across almost every product category—including categories traditionally thought to be “male”. For example, in the U.S., more women hold drivers’ licenses than men (and have done so for several years); in the important millennial car-buying market, where brand loyalty is set early on, 53% of millennial new car buyers are female. Yet who are the automotive brands targeting their product design, dealerships, marketing and customer relationship management at? Big mistake.
Women also share: Social media is simply a whole new methodology for us to do what we’ve been doing since the dawn of time, which is sharing the [heck] out of everything in a way that men don’t. We are the sharers, the advocates, the gossipers, the chatters, the recommenders. So much so that I advise brands that think they’re targeting men, to talk to women—because women will often influence men more than men will influence other men. When a company takes women and their opinions seriously, their profit margin will be better for it.
So women: the rest of us want you to start businesses so that you can create products and services that we are desperate for, so we can give you lots of money in return.
You need just two things to start your own business: You need values, and you need microactions.
What are your values?
What do you believe in? What do you value? What do you stand for? What are you all about?
Inherent within your values, lies what it is that you can and should be doing. Something you want to share with the world. Something you feel the world is missing, that you can contribute. Something you feel very strongly about that you want to address. Something that shouldn’t be happening that you want to change.
Because when what you do flows out of your values, it will connect with other people who share those same values. Potentially many other people.
If you believe in eating and feeding people healthily, turn what you make for yourself and your family into a business. If you believe that everyone should have access to beauty, redesign something low budget so it no longer looks cheap. If you believe the world would be a better place with ______ in it, whatever it is, make it and sell it.
And then to do that, you need microactions.
Everything in life and business starts with a microaction—a tiny bite-sized chunk of action that is so easy to do, why wouldn’t you do it?
I’m all about microactions because it’s very easy to be daunted by the size of any task. Change happens from the bottom up, not the top down. All of us, undertaking lots of little microactions every day, cumulatively add up to big impact and change. The same applies when you start your business. Entrepreneurship is a series of microactions. As you start with and complete the little things you need to do to gradually build a business, just getting microactions done makes you feel differently about yourself and what you’re capable of. Whatever you need to do, however daunting it looks, break it down into the smallest microactions you need to do to get started, and you’ll be amazed how manageable it all feels.
Everything I say to you here, I’m doing myself.
I believe the business model of the future is Shared Values + Shared Action = Shared Profit (financial profit, and social profit).
When you start a business based on values that you and your customers share, that’s the most powerful relationship-building mechanism you can possibly have. It’s a truth in life as much as business: You will never truly bond with someone if you don’t share the same values. Those values create emotional appeal and customer connection for your brand.
When your business then enables both you and your customers to collaboratively and collectively co-act on those values—to walk the talk together, you by making and selling, they by buying and using—that’s when you all make things happen for your customers, for society, and for your brand and business.
I designed my startup IfWeRanTheWorld to deliver co-action software that can help businesses implement this business model through using microactions. My other startup is also built around this model, and both of my startups are founded on the fact that we bond with our community through values we all share. These communities micro-act with us and work to pioneer the change they wish to see. Values plus microactions: We hope to change the world.
Look into yourself. Identify what you value. Find from that what you could be doing as your own business. And then start microacting to make it happen.
We’re all rooting for you.
Cindy Gallop is a former advertising executive turned entrepreneur, TED speaker, and consultant. Follow her on Twitter at @cindygallop
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