Each week as @Smallbizlady, I conduct interviews with small business experts on my weekly Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. This is excerpted from my #SmallBizChat interview with Adrianna Gardella @AdrianaGardella who is a blogger for the NewYorkTimes on women & entrepreneurship: She Owns It. Adriana is also is a BNET.com editor. She has been a senior editor for Fortune Small Business, a contributing editor for Success magazine, and a columnist covering management and career issues for CBS Interactive. She began her career as a lawyer, and has provided news and legal commentary on CNN and MSNBC. Read more about her column here: http://nyti.ms/d6DS46.
Smallbizlady: What are some of the challenges women face as small business owners?
Adriana Gardella: They face all of the same challenges as men who own businesses, plus some additional ones, including challenges related to getting their businesses funded and finding mentors and role models. As a journalist on women’s entrepreneurship, I have often heard from female business owners, “I didn’t know there were women out there just like me.”
Smallbizlady: What are some myths about women business owners?
Adriana Gardella: I think one of the biggest is that women aren’t interested in growing their businesses. That is definitely not what I’ve found in my conversations with women business owners across industries. They are very interested in building businesses that have an impact on the world, and to do that they know they need to grow. And the belief that women don’t have the educational and professional backgrounds to found and run tech companies, which may have been true back in the 70s, but isn’t the case now in 2010. I think it’s a major myth that women don’t help each other in business.
Smallbizlady: What are some of the ways women sabotage themselves as business owners?
Adriana Gardella: Not sure how to answer this since I don’t know that there are gender-specific ways that women (or men) sabotage themselves. I do know that many entrepreneurs (male and female) have to struggle to overcome the urge to do everything themselves.
Smallbizlady: Why are Venture Capitalists (VCs) less likely to fund women?
Adriana Gardella: I agree with something said by one of my interview subjects, Cindy Padnos of Illuminate Ventures. She said, “It’s not about a bunch of evil-minded men.” Rather, a lot of it has to do the tendency of people who are similar — whether it’s in terms of race, sex, schools attended, etc. — to feel more comfortable with others like them. It also has to do with “pattern recognition,” which essentially relates to the mental shortcuts investors take to determine whether a venture will succeed. If the last 10 successful companies were founded by nerdy white guys who went to Stanford, that’s what investors will be looking for when assessing a company’s chances of success.
Smallbizlady: What challenges face women venture capitals who would like to fund women?
Adriana Gardella: Until women reach critical mass in Venture Capital firms, they are going to be understandably reluctant go out on a limb to continually recommend that their firms fund women. They may (justifiably) fear appearing biased if they do so, which says a lot about what we consider “normal.” After all, no one would ever say, “We can’t fund this guy because we just funded 3 white guys just like him.” And yet, you can envision people protesting that they had just funded a woman, and had therefore somehow met their “quota.”
Smallbizlady: Many women do not support other women in business, what are the ways this can be combated?
Adriana Gardella: This is something you often hear, but I’ve never seen real evidence of it, either in my life or in the lives of the women I write about. I think this is the kind of thinking some people in the media like to promote, which is what prompted me to write my She Owns It post, “Women Don’t Help Each Other?” [http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/women-dont-help-each-other/] [short link: http://nyti.ms/cBv3Wv] In my blog, I have covered woman after woman who has made it a priority to help other women.
Smallbizlady: Is it a good idea to niche a business targeting women customers?
Adriana Gardella: The answer depends on the business. The most crucial thing is to know your customers VERY well. If they’re women, by all means target them.
Smallbizlady: So many women juggle kids, hubby and their business, do you have some tips on doing this well?
Adriana Gardella: I think it’s about doing work you absolutely love. When you love your work, you find time for it no matter what. You don’t typically hear people who are passionate about their work complaining that they have no time. I recommend the book 168 Hours: You have more time than you think (http://www.my168hours.com/blog/). Among the people the author writes about is Teresa Daytner, a mother of six who founded and runs a $3.5 million construction company. She knows what’s important and doesn’t waste time on what isn’t. I also think that women who find themselves bearing a disproportionate share of childcare and household duties need to ask themselves why they continue to do that, and why they don’t expect more of their partner (if they have one).
Smallbizlady: Often women are accused of making emotional decisions and not business decisions? What are your thoughts?
Adriana Gardella: Well, that kind of general accusation seems pretty silly. I guess one’s response would have to depend on who’s making the accusation and what you want or need from them as a business owner. On a related subject, I think that women are increasingly being recognized for their leadership skills. I read a recent study on the qualities of women as leaders. The study found: women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts; When feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an “I’ll show you” attitude; women leaders demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making, and women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks. Link: http://bit.ly/a9NfiV.
Smallbizlady: Can you give any advice for women working with their spouses in business?
Adriana Gardella: That’s a tough one–and also a subject I plan to cover in an upcoming post! So, I’d love to get back to you on this one. I think as with any business partner, having a clear division of labor is important, and a crystal clear agreement as to what happens to the business if you wind up being one of the many couples to divorce. As I start to research this topic, I am learning that VCs don’t like to fund couples partly because of that risk. In fact, they even prefer to fund women!
Smallbizlady: How should women pursue mentors in business?
Adriana Gardella: There are so many wonderful organizations where you can meet like-minded peers and mentors. I’ll list just a few here. But the important thing is to get out there and go to conferences and events held by different groups. If you don’t like the events that one organization holds, keep trying others. I’d also strongly advise every small business owner to form an advisory board to help guide them because running your own business can be very isolating. In addition to alumni organizations and industry specific ones, there are groups like: Count Me In http://www.makemineamillion.org, which helps women grow their businesses; The Business Women’s Circle http://www.thebwc.org, a membership organization for women seeking to grow their businesses to $1 million or more in annual revenue; The Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership Entrepreneurial Development http://www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/onlinewbc/index.html, which establishes and oversees a network of Women’s Business Centers throughout the United States.
Smallbizlady: What kinds of things should women business owners be reading to stay sharp in business?
Adriana Gardella: That answer will be industry-specific. I don’t think there’s anything unique to women that they should read. The important thing is to be up on all trends and developments in your field, subscribing to relevant industry/trade publications online and off to keep current.
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