Dolly Parton built the ultimate personal brand thanks to her confidence. (Credit: pipilongstockings, Flickr)
Dolly Parton built the ultimate personal brand thanks to her confidence. (Credit: pipilongstockings, Flickr)

It’s a descriptor that’s perhaps thrown around casually, but in Dolly Parton’s case, it applies — the woman is iconic.

She was honored for her decades of achievements as an entertainer during the 2019 Grammy Awards, and led the festivities herself. Parton performed hits like “Jolene” and “9 to 5” while superstars such as Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry served as her backup singers.

But while Parton was celebrated for years of musical and cinematic achievements, but she has done plenty outside of the music realm, too. Her net worth is said to be $500 million, and she has made much of it building a business empire bearing her name. The Dollywood Company owns several theme parks, including Dollywood, a dinner theater, a water park and more. She also runs the Dollywood Foundation, which began as a scholarship program and grew into a literacy nonprofit that sends out 1.3 million books a month to families who can’t afford them.

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Her achievements on- and offstage have turned Parton, age 73, into an idol for people of all ages — and she has no plans to slow down. And why should she? After all, “there’s a whole lot to be said for loving your work and having confidence in yourself,” Parton told People magazine.

That trait — confidence — is a critical one that she shares with plenty of other women business owners. Through our research project, 1,000+ Stories, female entrepreneurs often rated themselves as “very confident” in their abilities (92 percent), skills (90 percent) and knowledge (88 percent).

But it’s an issue for many others. Just look at the research showing that, around the world, women tend to register lower in their perceptions of their capabilities than men, and that they fear failure more And what about the scores women who discuss crises of confidence at entrepreneurial forums?

Well, Susan G. Duffy, executive director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College, has one possible answer. She says the confidence conversation is colored by “overconfidence in the male model,” and that when women don’t display overconfidence, “they’re considered underconfident.”

The fact is that women approach risk differently from men, she adds, tending to take in a lot of information and weigh both the short- and long-term implications of decisions, rather than shooting from the hip. Meanwhile, the culture tells women “you have to be this Wild West, crazy, risk-taking entrepreneur. And that’s not how entrepreneurs do it at all.”

[Related: Read More About the Findings of Our 1,000+ Stories Project]

But what about those who genuinely struggle to channel their inner Dollys?

When we asked an expert panel of entrepreneurs for confidence-boosting tips, they offered us several suggestions, ranging from reading empowering books to filling in knowledge gaps. Businesswoman Jen Groover, meanwhile, recommended finding the source of self-doubt as a crucial step in eradicating it.

“Our fears are usually around fear of failure, rejection or not being good enough. Most doubt for entrepreneurs begins with thinking ‘Why me?’ or ‘Why would I be the one to do … (fill in the blank),’” she told us. “Whenever I feel those moments creep into my life, I embrace the moment to grow and get more powerful, and flip that doubt to ‘Why not me?’”

That mantra sounds like music to our ears.