Women starting out in building a startup in the tech world face different challenges from men. What are they and how should young women best prepare for them?
For those answers we asked some of the top women in the Brooklyn startup scene for their advice on the problems they’ve faced as entrepreneurs, and the guidance they’d offer young women starting out on the journey.
Isis Shiffer, founder of Spitfire Industry and creator of the EcoHelmet
Raise your rates.
Also, you’ve likely been conditioned to devalue your work to some extent, just because of how pervasive sexism is in this country. Knock that off right now. If you don’t take yourself seriously no one will.
And seriously, raise your rates.
Ali Kriegsman, cofounder of Bulletin
For a woman starting her own business, I would say, “know your numbers.” A female investor once said this to me and my cofounder Alana. As evidenced by the recent HBS study, she was right to do so, as male investors walk in with a different set of expectations, questions and concerns for female founders. It sucks to over-prepare due to bias, but the sharper you are in knowing your projections, runway, monthly overhead, budget, CPC, CLV, burn-rate and the like, the more you can help dilute this bias for male investors moving FWD.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. And the sooner, the better. I was egregiously underpaid at a previous job but bringing in half of the company’s revenue. I found out I was making less than a male counterpart and didn’t hesitate. I called a meeting immediately. If you have hard evidence that you’re supporting the company’s bottom line or have a huge impact at the company, don’t be afraid to threaten to leave, get a counter offer, and be aggressive. Know your worth and have faith that any other company would be lucky enough and smart enough to hire you at your deserved salary.
Surround yourself with other female founders or other women in tech. Reach out to founders you admire or women at work you admire for a 30-minute coffee or phone call. Build a gigantic, ballooning network of women who can help you.
Nisha Garigarn, cofounder of Croissant
Creating or joining a peer group with other women that are in your position can be extremely motivating and helpful. Even if you’re just meeting up once a month for coffee, it helps you hold yourself accountable, and you’ll have supportive and relatable people to help bring you up when it gets tough.
Fill your social media feeds with inspiring, uplifting content. Tech Ladies is an incredible Facebook group and resource for those looking to advance in tech. Dreamers // Doers is a supportive community of ambitious female entrepreneurs. My Facebook feed is now full of amazing women doing amazing things.
Aneri Shah, cofounder of Sightworthy
Be brave, and don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t chase your dreams. I’m 29 and I think the reactions I got when I started a business at 27, were often concern about when I would have time to find a mate and make time for family. This can be overwhelming, so I’ve gotten really good at tuning out the noise and listening to my own gut to know what’s best for me. From a young age, women are told how they should be act, think, and feel. When you start your own business, you have to own it, which is an exciting but scary thing. Be brave! You got this. And don’t ever let anyone make you feel otherwise.
Zuley Clarke, cofounder of Sightworthy
Make money as soon as possible. The best proof that you’re on to something is if you get someone to pay for the crudest version of your product or service. It doesn’t have to be pretty and it can be a pretty manual solution, but just having validation that you are offering something of value goes a long way.
Oh, and also your first customers will probably come from your network so hit them up and ask for meetings, recommendations, etc. Don’t shy away from getting your network interested in what your doing. They will root for you to succeed and help you along the way. There are times when I only want to announce the big achievements but small wins are great to share too. Basically, be on the top of people’s minds.
Melanie Lavelle, cofounder of Benefit Kitchen
For women starting or branching out in their own business, my best piece of advice would be to find “your tribe”. Find the networks, collaboration spaces, associations or meetups with people passionate about your subject matter and invest the time in making relationships within them. Sign up for the pitch competition, and don’t be afraid to compete with companies in your field. Putting your ideas into the ring can often lead you to find your own company’s value proposition. All of these relationships are invaluable when you find yourself in the startup valley of despair. Resilience can be a learned trait and with the right people with good judgement around you, you don’t have to do it alone.