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In the last 20 years, the number of women-owned businesses in the US have nearly tripled. According to a 2017 State of Women in Business Report released by American Express OPEN, there are over 11 million businesses in America owned by women generating almost $2 trillion dollars in revenue. With the corporate world still struggling with the gender wage gap and a glaring absence of women in leadership positions, entrepreneurship has proven a viable alternative for talented and driven women who want to make the most of their skillsets, impact, and earning potential.
I had the opportunity to ask four women, who climbed off the corporate ladder and dove into the world of entrepreneurship, about the experiences that led to their transition, and their advice for millennial women considering the leap.
Sabrina Peterson, founder, Glam University
In 1999, I had a job in corporate America working with PnC Mortgage. That was a very dark time for me. I was on eggshells because I had my apartment, my car, and all of my bills, and my wellbeing was dependent on this particular job. I realized that, at that point, my position wasn’t based on how much I knew or how great I was at the job but on how my boss felt about me. I had seen too many people’s quality of life change after losing a corporate job, and I was always fearful of that happening to me. I wanted to be in a position where my pay and my job stability were based upon how good I am at my job and how well I performed.
As an entrepreneur, I know that as long as I’m good with my customers, continue to market, and keep progressing, then I will continue to be a part of the conversation of whichever industry I am in. But the greatest thing about my life as an entrepreneur is that I am able to be a mom and a mogul. The bulk of my business is online, so I’m able to be a hands-on mother and still make a great living.
The thing about being an entrepreneur is that when you do show up, you actually have to be effective and make sales. Without sales you’re not in business. In this age of instant gratification, a lot of people have left out the ground work that needs to be done in order to be sustainable. What I do with my business, Glam University, is coach women on their personal finances, building out their business plans, make sure they have sustainable and scalable plans, and helping them get funding for their ideas.
Kristen Fraser, founder, PVTL
I started in the music industry working as an assistant to the CEO of Cornerstone Promotions, the agency side of Fader Magazine. That’s where I really learned the ins and outs of artist marketing and brand partnerships. I’ve also worked for a small agency called Game Seven, Nike Sportswear, and Island Def Jam. Working with brands connected me to Beats by Dre where I worked in music marketing for four and half years.
I’ve had my company, PVTL, an artist and brand partnership agency, since 2014, but that was balanced with working full time at Beats by Dre until I made the full jump into entrepreneurship in May of last year (2018). I couldn’t have done the jump from corporate to entrepreneurship without a lot of planning and thinking ahead. Getting the foundation secure before leaving a stable ground was important to me so I could step right into running my business full time. I spent a lot of time with mentors and peers who are leading their own ventures as well before I made the transition and I asked a lot of questions. Your path will be your own 100%, but you should be able to learn from others paths as well as you route your own.
[Before you leap], do your research and gain the experience. Make sure you have sharpened your skills or know exactly what it is you are offering. What makes your business unique? Why you over someone else or another agency? A lot won’t be learned until its experienced so be open to not knowing with the hunger to soak up new information like a sponge.
Bailey Parnell, founder, SkillsCamp
For over two years, I essentially worked two full-time jobs—my role as a Digital Marketing Specialist in Ryerson University Student Affairs and building my business alongside it. I made the transition to my business full-time on July 12, 2018. I will never forget the date. This was two and a half years after I launched the first iteration of SkillsCamp, a soft skills training company that helps develop skills such as stress management, personal branding, cross-cultural communication, intergenerational understanding, collaboration, and self-awareness.
Having a clear plan when switching careers was extremely important for me. Some entrepreneurs suggest “investing everything you have” or “risking everything”, but I find that to be privileged advice. I didn’t have anyone who could pay my rent if I failed. Failure wasn’t an option, so I needed a solid strategy before making the leap. When I went full time, I wanted to be able to focus all of my energy on the business and not worry about affording food each week. When I had a good-enough amount in the bank, a strong base of clients, and a stream of leads coming in more consistently, I gave my bosses four months’ notice. I loved my job and the people at Ryerson. I was not running away from anything, but rather towards something I wanted more.
If you’re on the verge of a career change and aren’t sure you’re ready, do what’s right for you. Entrepreneurship is currently glorified as billion dollar investments and hoodies, but it’s actually the oldest profession and many people have found many different paths to it. Define what you would need to feel confident and competent before making the jump, and then put in the work into to making those circumstances real.
Tyra Baruti, co-founder, Kingdom Economic Solutions
Prior to starting my business, I spent a little over three years working as a paralegal, and later, the office manager, for a private-owned Family Law & Personal Injury Attorney in Columbus, GA. I left the company to earn my master’s Degree in Business Administration. After graduating, I worked as a corporate auditor and very closely to the legal department for one of the top debt buyer companies in the U.S. This is where I learned the “process of debt”, how to analyze a credit report, and how debt is sold and purchased.
I took those lessons, made the transition to entrepreneurship in 2014, and now work for myself as the CEO and co-founder of Kingdom Economic Solutions, LLC. We are a consulting firm and our mission is to provide economic solutions through strategy execution to help business owners and individuals to achieve targeted goals through financial coaching and implementation of infrastructure.
In making the entrepreneurship leap, strategy is key. Most people who don’t have a plan of action, never take action. Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, but it must be a plan. Sometimes the future can be hard to predict but when switching careers having a strategy gives you focus. After leaving my last corporate job I was laser focused on what was ahead because I had no plans on going back. Over time, I did evolve my strategy organically, but I am grateful I had a strategy to evolve.
Mentorship is also important. I was grateful to have someone who taught me the industry and showed me all the ropes. However, as I grew, I required different mentorship. When you move to different levels in business, it always important to consult wise counsel. Preferably those who have been before you in your industry and who are not intimidated by what you carry.
January 8, 2019 at 01:57PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs