Monday, November 10, 2014

Women Entrepreneurs Advancing their Companies

Three star entrepreneurs - Shunee Yee [CSOFT International], Susan Coelius Keplinger [Triggit], and Debbie Sterling [GoldieBlox] - on the challenges, lessons, and rewards in taking their businesses to the next level.
Shunee Yee

Yee takes a broader, more philosophical view of growth, but when asked, admits to pragmatic challenges of expanding her company globally (e.g. server going down at crucial times).
It's sort of like, once you pass the adolescent stage in life, growth is not all about just growing taller or bigger.  It's more about redefining your space, shaping out the view and strategy, and developing a community to be ready for making a bigger impact in the market.
Yee also emphasizes the all in or nothing tact, which, to me, is about committing fully and unwaveringly.  I once advised a friend about this very thing: He had a job, but was working diligently on a business concept on the side.  Going forward, I said, He had to define himself as either an employee or an entrepreneur.  It didn't need to be a cut-and-dry proposition, but he couldn't sit on the fence either.

Susan Coelius Keplinger

Keplinger relates the reality challenges of diversity.  Despite her vision of, and commitment to, gender balance, she found a reality of (a) few women candidates applying for jobs and (b) business exigencies of growth preoccupying her.
I'm going to create a company that is very diverse, that has just as many women as there are men, and that did not happen.
Keplinger met a woman who had very similar interests as she did and to whom she came to feel close.  This woman (Joy) told her mentoring was about friendship, not so much about business advice per se.  That makes sense to me: A mentor is someone with whom you can let your hair down and talk candidly about things, which may be business or may be personal.

Debbie Sterling

Sterling thought her toy concept for girls was so elementary, that she wondered why no one else had thought about it.  Then, as she brought it to industry people, she found responses that pointed to sexism among them. 
They all kind of crinkled their nose, and looked at me, and whispered "This won't sell" and "There's no market for it."  "Look at the pink aisle, this is what's popular, this is what girls like."  "You can't fight nature."
Sterling also speaks to an important move early on her entrepreneurial efforts with GoldieBlox: create a circle of advisers and mentors.  To her credit, she understood that doing something new meant getting diverse views from others, because clearly people weren't so warm to her toy concept at first and, I imagine, she needed ideas on a way through or past this. 

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