Friends: The Unsung Heroes of Entrepreneurship
I was having coffee with another female founder and the conversation turned to the sweat equity our friends had put into each of our companies. In fact, one of my friends was with me for this chat; she had flown in from another country to help me out with the company I recently founded, Maven Women.
My fellow “femmepreneur” couldn’t have said it better. Having wonderful, brilliant, and loyal girlfriends may be one of the most important ingredients of a successful business. It has certainly been essential for me.
The sweat equity of friends is often unparalleled and one of the best form of startup capital.
My girlfriends are members of focus groups, product testers, editors and proofreaders, troubleshooters, and donors of a wide range of talents. Five of my girlfriends modeled for our initial photoshoot, our photographer is a close friend of mine, and our shoot’s hairstyles were done by another talented friend. This labor of love shone through in the beautiful pictures, which embody Maven Women’s values in a way they never could have without personally knowing the models. Their engagement created imagery which says something entirely different than the traditional fashion shoot that is lacking in personality, heart, and relatability.
Friends are often the greatest champions for your business.
Often the first people who will bet on your product or service and then spread the word are those loyal friends who have been betting on you time and time again, through all of life’s twists and turns. My girlfriends have not just supported our presales through their own purchases but spread the word through word of mouth, e-mail, social media, and more. They connect me with anyone they meet who may be a helpful contact and sing my praises often better than I could myself, seeing the best in me when I may be most uncertain. They are my greatest champions, and their efforts have been more successful than any other marketing campaign I’ve put forth so far.
The talent and brainpower of friends is priceless.
Many women in entrepreneurship are socially conscious pragmatists, creating the product or service they wanted themselves but couldn’t find. Resulting, their girlfriends are often in their customer demographic. I had a friend who is a whiz with color help me select our initial fabric colors, using survey feedback from a wide range of other friends to help.
Another friend who is a textile expert who helped me select the perfect match for our beautiful dresses. My friends have been brilliant with strategy and troubleshooting, often bringing in game-changing ideas that resulted in wise pivots large and small. They aren’t in the daily mess and muck of the company so they are dedicated without being myopic, offering a necessary outside perspective.
Friends provide the invaluable emotional support necessary to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
You can’t go into entrepreneurship without having dark days. Financial uncertainty, self-doubt, constantly evaluating whether to pivot or stay the course, and long hours take a heavy toll on even the most balanced women. Entrepreneurship can become all-consuming indefinitely. My friends play a critical role of pulling me into reality and a more balanced life. They also give me that much needed confidence boost that ameliorates the self-doubt so many femmepreneurs suffer from.
True friends can help you understand your strengths and compliment and encourage you, while also being candid with you about areas to improve or blind spots. They are constantly checking on me to see how I’m doing, and those who also work in entrepreneurship or have jobs with a high level of uncertainty and responsibility have provided a tremendous solidarity.
When one of my best friends saw the initial drawings for our first collection she candidly told me that she was impressed and they were better than she expected. She could see that this was bringing out my visually creative side that I had neglected for over a decade when I was in the worlds of law and nonprofit management. I was truly using a nascent gift, and it was an affirmation that this was in fact a wise career choice for me to embark upon.
It takes a village to launch a successful business.
I couldn’t do it without the tremendous help and support of my friends, and I try and find ways to constantly thank them for all they do for me. There is truly no way I can ever properly say than you. Many friends have told me that my work has inspired them to take professional or personal leaps and needed more courage or an additional dose of discipline to take on.
I’ve also tried to encourage friends who have talents and skills I’ve engaged in Maven Women, as some of them didn’t realize how gifted and unique they are. I also try and pay it forward, providing advice and support during their challenging times where I can and being an incredibly committed pro bono volunteer for their causes and endeavors.
And that’s what life is all about: those beautifully symbiotic relationships that are win-wins for all, where women bring out the best in each other and provide encouragement to live out their dreams.
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