Editor’s Note: This post is part of a project in which we are exploring why many women lack confidence when discussing money. You can read the first installment of this series here.
During our recent examination of the relationship between women and money, we spoke with several knowledgeable finance experts. Each of them relayed stories of personal interactions with women business owners who expressed trepidation — even anxiety — regarding handling the financial aspects of their businesses.
Their tales ultimately painted a picture of female entrepreneurs that labeled the majority as insecure on matters of finance.
But then we thought — shouldn’t we give said female entrepreneurs a chance to speak? With that in mind, we decided to put out a call for personal stories and professional insights about the fiscal aspect of starting a business.
The response was fantastic – we were inundated with replies. And we found that these entrepreneurs not only talked about money-related anxieties and stress over pricing goods and services, but also, the power of knowledge in combating a lack of confidence and the value of a reliable support network.
A sense of community proved especially beneficial for some business owners who wrote in. For example, Kristy McCarley, the CEO of Shazzy Fitness, a specialty gym in Atlanta, Ga., told us that connecting with those who had previously traveled her path was integral to her own success.
“One of my biggest challenges was trying to figure out how to finance a business serving a niche market that almost no one believed existed,” she said. “Fortunately for me, I had a strong team of mentors.”
She advises other business owners to seek out those who can help. “There is always someone out there who has done what you’re trying to do, and can offer suggestions on what to do or what not to do.”
Artist Julie Rustad of Julie Originals in Tuscon, Ariz. agreed, though her own experiences also played a crucial role in the development of her business.
“Estimating my design work for new clients was hard when I began my business,” she said. “I would talk to more experienced designers, but it wasn’t until completing projects and keeping track of the actual time each took, that I had a real gauge to work from.”
Sandra Fathi, president of Affect Public Relations & Social Media in New York City, was another female entrepreneur who found solace in mentors — especially other women.
“I found that female business owners were very generous with their time, advice and counsel — wanting to help others succeed and not face unnecessary challenges,” she noted. “I have also had male business owners help me over the years but I didn’t find [them] as open to sharing resources or best practices. ”
Support networks come in other forms, too — for example, incubators — as Outleads founder Dorin Rosenshine, also in New York City, discovered.
As a solo female founder, “I experienced first-hand how stereotypical Silicone Alley is,” she said.
Not only was she rejected from multiple accelerators, but she was also told she needed a technical co-founder, even though her product was already built and running.
“At one point I began to panic and almost decided to completely abandon my idea,” she recalled. “After much hesitation, I eventually applied and was accepted to JFE Accelerator Program, which happens to be led by two females. This gave me the push I needed.”
In other cases – such as with Ponchitta Lilly, founder of online cosmetics purveyor Ponch Cosmetics in Longview, Texas – it wasn’t a matter of consulting with others for advice as it was about making herself into a worthy competitor in a crowded market.
“I’ve always worried about pricing my products too high,” she told us, adding that she attributes much of that concern to her own lack of confidence. “As an unknown cosmetics brand, it is always scary to appear too high for fear that women will not buy an unknown brand that costs too much.”
Ultimately, comparing herself to her contemporaries was the key to how Lilly set her prices.
“Now, I price my products somewhere in the middle to keep up with the competition,” she said. “I don’t want my products too high, but I certainly cannot afford for them to be too low.”
Lilly is not alone — pricing products and services is tricky for many entrepreneurs who are just starting out. Catherine Alford, the founder of finance blog Budget Blonde in Louisiana, also grappled with it.
In the beginning, “I was offering $10 a post, which I thought was great at the time,” she remembered. “It’s taken me a long time to build my name and get published on quality sites, but there are still many people who try to lowball my services or want to pay me the same rates that they are used to paying writers who are not as experienced.”
Today, she “never settle[s] for less than what [she] deserve[s]” thanks to encouragement from her virtual Freelancers Club.
Next time, we will focus on the female entrepreneurs who had to summon strength from within in order to overcome fiscal insecurity and ignorance.
For all posts from this project, please click here.