How to Become A Successful Woman Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship can feel like a daunting journey for anyone, but especially for women. There are objective realities one hears about – such as female founders nabbing only 2% of venture capital funding in 2017 – but women may also grapple with limited professional networks, lukewarm support from their families, and difficulty in finding the right mentors and advisors to help along the way.

Earlier this year, we at Upaya wrote about the tenacious female founders in our portfolio and how their companies were outperforming the others. We asked them what piece of advice they would give to other aspiring women entrepreneurs. From their insights, several themes emerged. . . 

Check your gender at the door

“An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur, male or female… I believe that the environment around an entrepreneur plays a major role in shaping how the person and business turns out, so connect with as many women entrepreneurs as you can and learn from each other's struggles but do not limit your learning and conversation to women only!”

– Apoorva, Co-Founder of Karmantik

 

“First, announce your strengths, not your constraints. Statistically, women apologize more; men brag more. Change the balance. Second, ‘Divorce Nice, Marry Effective.’ Don't worry about being nice; it's a word that is thrown particularly at women. You need Effective, not Nice.”

– Nisha, Co-Founder and CEO of Elrhino

 Nisha, Co-Founder of Elrhino, discussing notebook designs with an employee.

Nisha, Co-Founder of Elrhino, discussing notebook designs with an employee.

Be prepared to break all stereotypes

“When we first started Karmantik, our cobblers assumed we were just a bunch of college girls working on a 'project'. Despite working hard and being professional, it was frustrating to see that these men did not take us seriously. It took many conversations and months to build a professional rapport.”

– Sruthi, Co-Founder of Karmantik

 

“Initially, when my business partner and I used to go to the [local market] to talk to seller or buyers, they used to ignore me because of my gender. With persistence, they have now come to learn to deal with me and consider me at the same level as my business partner.”

– Siddhi, Co-Founder and Director of Parvata Foods

 

Set clear boundaries

“Draw lines, craft new rules. The family will need to know that you have a work life that is not to be messed with, just as your work team will have to understand about your family life. Don't be afraid to say ‘no’ to either entitled party - everybody will play by your rules, so long as you set them.”

– Nisha, Co-Founder and CEO of Elrhino

 

Your mission is your North Star

“An entrepreneur needs to demonstrate unwavering commitment to the business and the team. Our businesses look to solve problems. These problems can be complex and need that we find multiple ways to get to the solutions. Every entrepreneur will have long and lonely days. It is during difficult periods that the entrepreneur will have to delve deep and stay true to a belief system and an original commitment that was the core purpose of setting up the venture.”

– Wilma, Founder and CEO of Saahas Zero Waste

 Wilma, Founder of Saahas, with one of her employees.

Wilma, Founder of Saahas, with one of her employees.

Involve men as partners in the creation of a gender-equitable environment

“It is true that a woman has to work twice as hard and speak twice as loud to make sure she's heard but it's also time to [examine] men-led start-ups and [advise] VCs/investors [about] what they can do to make the space inclusive for women entrepreneurs.”

– Apoorva, Co-Founder of Karmantik

 

“Find a partner who is not just supportive, but also your biggest cheerleader and fan. In your personal life, as well as work life. Else you might as well not be in a partnership. If it comes down to the wire, be prepared to make a choice. My personal belief as an ambitious working woman: either have a fan for a partner, or you might as well not have a partner at all. Because it needs a certain enthusiasm and devotion to keep up with the sort of energy that you need and should demand of a partner. The sort of partner that can think for themselves, have the maturity to be equal parents and are not waiting for your instructions.”

– Nisha, Co-Founder and CEO of Elrhino

 Nisha poses with her father and Elrhino co-founder in front of their factory in Guwahati.

Nisha poses with her father and Elrhino co-founder in front of their factory in Guwahati.