Women in business: How to nurture your confidence in a courageous community, by we are radikl
By Sarah King and Claire Dunn of we are radikl
Women aren’t short of big ambitions, incredible skills, or keep-you-up-all-night business ideas. We’re full of them. But time and time again, research shows that what truly holds us back from starting a business is confidence.
So if you’re blinking into the post-lockdown light and looking for the courage to kick-start your dreams, we’re here to help you find it. Settle in for the first in a new series of blog posts all about discovering, developing and using your confidence to build a business you love…
Overcoming lack of confidence
In 2019, Tide asked 1,000 female entrepreneurs why they started their business and what barriers they faced when they did. The results were striking: six in ten female entrepreneurs said a lack of confidence was their biggest challenge. In contrast, 38% said finding financial support was their biggest problem – even women with secure finances were struggling with self-doubt.
Self-limiting beliefs and a lack of support in overcoming them had been battles for these women – and those we surveyed were only the ones who’d pushed on through to tell the tale. With figures like that, it’s likely many more would-be entrepreneurs with amazing ideas fall by the wayside before they’d even begun.
So why are so many ambitious women struggling with confidence?
See one to be one
The problem’s partly rooted in the pictures we paint for ourselves, and each other. When we think of a typical entrepreneur, all too often the person we see doesn’t look much like we do. In fact, they’re far more likely to be a bullish older white male in a big office than a woman of any colour working on something amazing from her kitchen table. But that’s not the way it has to be.
So many of us struggle to see ourselves as entrepreneurs because the behaviour we associate with entrepreneurship feels alien from our own. When we look at the corporate world, at TV, and at the entrepreneurs we recognise, many of us don’t want to wear the zillion-hour-week badge of honour, shout above the crowd or step on others to get where we want to be.
When we don’t see ourselves reflected in the entrepreneurial world, it’s no wonder becoming part of it feels daunting. At the same time, the business support that’s out there often feels designed for someone else too. It doesn’t help us build confidence, because it assumes we already have it. Which all leaves us asking ourselves, have we really got what it takes?
Don’t go it alone
If we could build a megaphone loud enough to reach all the brilliant women privately struggling with that question, we’d be up on a rooftop somewhere yelling our heads off because we know how difficult grappling with these doubts can be. Believe us, we’ve been there. It was a lonely business before the pandemic rolled in, and the last few months have made it so much tougher.
But building super-megaphones is impractical (and would distract us from our main job of building our business!) so instead, we’ve built something different. A community. A space where hundreds of women can come together to share experiences, answer each other’s questions, learn in ways designed specifically for them and give each other the confidence to do some incredible things.
All those voices together are reaching more women all the time, showing them entrepreneurship can be different – and can look just like they do. We encourage people to come to the table as themselves, leaving their armour at the door and being really honest about what they need. That way, we and the smart, welcoming women in our community can support them better.
Find your community
We know we’re not the only community out there supporting female entrepreneurs, and we’re over the moon about it. Because the more communities like ours exist, the more accessible female-focused business support will be – and the more confident women with wildly creative, game-changing ideas will become. Many communities make a movement. So find yours.
You might find your community on your doorstep, or on the other side of the country, but when you find a group of women who’ve got your back, you’ll know it. You’ll feel comfortable sharing your doubts, and you’ll see how quickly worries disappear when you’re lifted by like-minded people who know just where you’re coming from. It’s reassuring, inspiring and empowering, all at once.
Crucially, the last few months have shown that it doesn’t matter where we are, we can connect with people powerfully, virtually. We can make huge things happen from the comfort of our homes, whether we’re talking to people just down the road or a hundred miles away.
With so many female-led businesses born at home, a fresh acceptance of being based somewhere other than the office can only be a positive step forward.
So beyond doing an online search to find the communities that are out there, how do you go about finding the community that’s right for you? We believe there are three important considerations:
1) Know what you need and why you need it
When you join a business community, you’re making an investment in your learning as a founder and in the potential future growth of your business.
One way to ensure a good return on this investment is to begin with a good understanding of what it is you’re looking for (what you need) from a community and why you need it. Maybe you’re looking for a community to help to relieve the sense of isolation you feel working from home, or you’d like access to expert webinars on topics that matter in your business or the opportunity to be inspired by and learn from women who are just ahead of you in their business journey.
There are many reasons business owners join communities – the important thing is to be clear on what your reasons are and why they’re important to you.
2) Understand the values of the community you’re going to join
Any community is going to be shaped by the people who have designed and created it. Therefore give yourself permission to be curious and to find out about them: their values, their ethos, why they’ve decided to create a space for female founders. How often do members show up in their community space to support the others who are there?
If they’re hoping you’ll make an investment in their community, they should be open to answering these questions for you. If not, we’d suggest they’re not deserving of your investment and to move on quickly!
3) Protect time to show up in your community
Armed with the insights from the above two considerations, you’ll now be in a position to decide which community is right for you. But it doesn’t stop there.
Going back to the investment analogy, to get the best return on your community investment, you’re going to need to show up. To create time each week or each month in your community to be inspired, to make new connections or to answer the gnarly questions that are getting in your way.
When you join a community with a sense of generosity and a willingness to listen, support and share, in return you’ll get a group of cheerleaders who can help you shortcut your learning and find the answers you need, faster. This means less time spent blindly trawling the internet, more time making progress. You’ll be part of a warm, supportive network, without the awkward canapé-juggling of old-school networking.
Thing big, start small. But do start
There’s never been a year like this one. It’s tipped the world on its head and given us all a whole lot to cope with. If you’ve been willing the pandemic to pack up and go home so you can get your business off the ground, it’s probably felt like forever. But things are shifting and if you feel able to make the leap, now’s an exciting time to turn your working life into something new.
Building a business can feel hugely daunting, for all the reasons we’ve explored, but you don’t have to do it all on day one – and you definitely don’t have to do it alone.
Nurture that big idea, focus in on it and plan in detail for it – but start small, and be ready for a journey. Take small steps towards your goals, with a community of inspiring women right behind you. They’ll be there to help you celebrate the wins, learn from your experiences and build your confidence bit by bit, day by day. It’s a powerful thing to be part of.
We’ll be back in August with another post about using your confidence to build a business you love. In the meantime, we hope you’ll take those small steps and start finding your community. We promise it’s out there waiting.
About we are radikl
Sarah King and Claire Dunn are co-founders of we are radikl, a thriving online community fiercely supporting female founders across the UK. They’ve already helped over 1,000 women start and grow their businesses with practical, accessible programmes designed to nurture strong, sustainable, human businesses and a whole new kind of entrepreneurship.
Photo by Karina Lyburn