What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

One of the things I keep learning from gathering groups of working women together is how broad and diverse the realm of entrepreneurship is. Common culture would have you believe that entrepreneurship looks like a single white dude building a company out of his garage with a bunch of coding co-founders. Eating ramen. Dropping out of Harvard.

Sure, Silicon Valley has that.

But there is so much more to entrepreneurship than this.

I’ve met women who are building so many different businesses, in many different forms. What I’ve learned in interviewing and working with hundreds of you is that building businesses is a huge, broad landscape—and that women are building businesses faster than almost any other demographic group. (Black women are starting businesses at unprecedented rates.)

From private practices to PR firms to new companies serving women and families, to big tech companies to investment companies to research-based practices—women’s entrepreneurship is diverse, phenomenal, and important.

There is no one path to entrepreneurship

For some people, they became entrepreneurial by accident—stumbling into entrepreneurship when a career path reached a dead-end, or wasn’t fulfilling anymore. Others, like the story Tara McMullin shared on our podcast, found themselves jobless and pregnant and with a choice: start a new adventure or try to find another gig? Still some people start down the path because of a product idea they can’t get out of their head, or a market segment and a population that needs to be served. Some people become entrepreneurs because it’s their calling. Some people don’t even know they’re building a business until long after they’ve been serving clients and realize that they’re in the thick of it as a full-fledged business owner.

People are creative. We like building things.

Here’s a secret: most of us scroll Facebook and Twitter and Instagram because we are bored out of our minds, lonely, or craving more stimulation. The “news” is a stand-in for the type of deep satisfaction that comes from making things with our bodies and minds, and truly connecting with other human beings. Humans naturally crave learning, growth, and being with other people.

Entrepreneurship—the art of making new things, of creating a new business in the world, and serving other people with your gifts and talents—can be deeply challenging and immensely satisfying. I’ve met and interviewed entrepreneurs of all types and what I’ve learned is that it’s not about how you look, whether the media covers your type of business, or the “hustle” you’re supposed to have.

Entrepreneurship is about listening to your own inner wisdom, it’s about knowing yourself and deeply understanding people around you, and it’s about making things that change other people’s lives while also changing yours. It’s about the call to leadership, business, and growth.

Last year, in The Wise Women’s Council, we had 18 women join us for a nine-month journey following the ups and downs of building businesses, careers, and lives. Some of the folks we had joining us on the journey included:

  • A tech employee who used the courage of the group to quit a lucrative leadership position and venture out onto her own to test two of her ideas for upcoming companies.
  • A service-based entrepreneur who helps other business owners build maternity leave policies and stay sane while taking parental leave.
  • A marketing consultant who was fired from her job while pregnant and vowed to build a better business, launching a marketing consultancy from a small studio shed in her backyard in Seattle. (You’ll hear her story on the latest podcast roundtable.)

Today, I bring three of these women onto the podcast to talk about what it really means to be an entrepreneur and to live in the space of growth, experimentation, and challenging the status quo. You’ll hear from Sharon, a corporate executive who left one job to start a career as a coach to expand her learning and development practice, but realized how much she loved being within teams and companies and pivoted again to join a smaller startup team. You’ll hear from Michelle, a decision engineer with an MBA who started her own executive coaching practice when most of her peers were following a more traditional corporate consulting track. Then, you’ll hear from Erin, the founder of a PR consulting company who couldn’t get a new business idea out of her head, and decided to start a second company while pregnant even though the timing was crazy and she wasn’t sure if it would really work out.

Regardless of where you are in your career path today, it’s likely that at some point you’ll wake up and realize that something needs to change—and you’ll have to tap into your inner entrepreneur to create that change. I find that almost everyone I interact with and interview ends up having the question at some point or another. They wake up and they say, “What’s next? What happened?” That’s the call to take charge of your own life and career and try something new.

What’s your entrepreneurial story?

Take a listen from a few of the women we worked with last year and then, in the comments, tell us about your own entrepreneurial journey. What has it been like for you? What have you learned about yourself and your career as you navigate the ebbs and flows of working and parenting?

The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #133

  • I find that almost every one I interact with and interview ends up having the question at some point or another. They wake up and they say, “What’s next? What happened?” — Sarah Peck
  • I never imagined myself going the entrepreneurial route. I’m a risk-averse person. I like security. People thought I was crazy to start a business. But it would have been more risky not to start a business given what I saw about family, motherhood, and careers today. — Michelle Florendo
  • What’s been wonderful hearing all of the stories of the other women in the Wise Women’s Council is that it helps me think through who I am, what works for me, and how other people are working through these questions for themselves. — Michelle Florendo
  • Motherhood and family made me entrepreneurial, because I needed to figure money out, not just for me, but for my kids and my family. The stakes were higher. — Sarah Peck
  • Motherhood made me even more of an entrepreneur. — Sarah Peck
  • Parenting shows you how limited your time really is, which makes my drive even fiercer. — Sarah Peck
  • It was really, really eye-opening for me to be exposed to people who were my age building things out of nothing and getting to build companies. — Erin Simpson
  • I always had this kind of this humming, this buzzing of wanting to start my own thing at some point. — Erin Simpson
  • I was lying awake at night thinking, “Could I do this? Could I quit my job?” It was a job I really loved, but I realized that if I ever wanted to have a family, live the life I wanted, I was going to have to make something new and build it myself. — Erin Simpson
  • You need like 8 hours of childcare for like 2 to 4 hours of brain functioning at work. It’s not one-to-one, but you always plan for it to be one-to-one. You’re like, “I have 8 hours of childcare. So I’ll get 8 hours of work done,” and it’s never that way. — Sarah Peck
  • Let’s talk about what no one tells you. No one tells you rage is a symptom of postpartum depression. — Sharon Stolt
  • There was not a time we got together that I wasn’t openly weeping about something, because I had so much to process and I didn’t realize it. The Wise Women’s Council gave me space to process motherhood and everything that comes with it. — Sharon Stolt.
  • What I learned so much from all of you in The Wise Women’s Council was how much grief and rage are also related to identity change, and how much we all need to be able to express our grief, our anger, our rage, our bewilderment, and our confusion—all of these emotions that don’t have a safe place in a workplace or even time in the logistics of family life to really grapple with. — Sarah Peck


Want to be part of the magic that is gathering together with smart, talented, wise business women? The 2020 Wise Women’s Council is now open for enrollment. Early bird applications are open through January 20th, and the program kicks off in March. Apply here.


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