Do Women Make Bad Entrepreneurs?
I was sitting at a small curbside table, drinking street beers with six other entrepreneurs (all male) in Saigon as we stared at our hands.
We were discussing the theory from Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, authors of the book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, that biology was a huge determining factor in entrepreneurial (or, really, general) success.
Specifically, that those of us with higher testosterone levels were predisposed to things like entrepreneurship. Regardless of gender. One of the ways to tell if you have this “gift” is by looking at the length of your ring finger.
If your ring finger is longer than your index finger, it means you have higher testosterone level, from your development in the womb. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, just the genetics of embryonic creation.
Of course, higher testosterone levels do tend to correspond to more men than women.
My hand was immediately studied, to determine if I had the magical finger length.
Anyone who knows me will find it of no surprise that my body is teeming with extra testosterone flow.
Which sent us off the deep end of a cheap alcohol induced philosophy session – do women really make bad entrepreneurs?
The Myths of Women as Entrepreneurs
Look, having spent five years living in the land of coconut cowboys (aka SE Asia), while being the primary female face associated with a massive online community for location independent entrepreneurs, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me to speak about or write about or do anything about “women as entrepreneurs”, then I wouldn’t need to have a damn business, I could just make my money doing that all day long.
But I would also pull my hair out of my head, and I don’t look good bald, as my post-embryonic baby photos can attest.
There’s a lot of talk about whether there are biases, pros and cons, struggles, or unfair advantages to being a woman in entrepreneurship. Especially with online businesses, a territory that seems to be primarily dominated by men.
If you Google, I’m sure you can find no less than 100K articles either way.
Which frankly doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot of anything, except give people an opportunity to talk about things rather than doing them.
Rather than writing a whole diatribe on why women should or shouldn’t be in business, what they should or shouldn’t do, and what advantages or disadvantages women might have, I figured we should dig into an actual answer to a question today.
After all, talk is cheap when you are building an empire.
There Aren’t Enough Examples For Women in Online Business
Silicon Valley, Asian markets, London agencies, online conferences and web summits, blog post round-ups and features — there seems to be a lack of ladies “at the top” to convince the world that there are, in fact, a plethora of women in online business.
But they’re there.
Whether they are being featured or not, there are plenty of women in online business out there. It’s not like they’re unicorns, though at least 20% of the aforementioned Google search of articles will try to convince you otherwise.
Some Examples of Women with Online Business and Website Success
Denise Coates – Sometimes business is taking what you know offline and making money with it online. Coates started out working in the cashier’s department at her family’s UK bookmaking business, Provincial Racing, before eventually moving on to take over a small chain of shops. In January of 2000, she looked into the future and bought the domain name Bet365.com, which she launched in 2001 — after spending a year building the site from a temporary car park portakabin.
Laura Roeder – Laura is a classic case of stair-stepping her way up to a monthly six-figure SaaS company. She began as a social media consultant before she created online courses and a social media agency. Knowing there was a serious issue with current social media scheduling platforms, especially in recycling evergreen content and promoting products, she created Edgar in 2014. In just over a year, she had built $150K a month in recurring revenue. (You can hear more about her story first-hand in Episode 152 of the podcast.)
Payal Kadakia – As any good entrepreneur will tell you, it isn’t always sunshine and million dollar exits. Kadakia, the app founder behind the now multi-million dollar Class Pass, had two huge business failures before hitting it big. So big that Forbes magazine recently named her one of the top self-made millionaires to watch, as they expect big things in her future.
Liz Herrera – Amazon is so hot right now. Well, Amazon has been hot for a few years, and will continue to be hot for years to come. But ranking in Amazon’s internal search engine takes as much crafty SEO knowledge as taking on the behemoth that is Google. Enter Liz Herrera, who uses her knowledge in video and SEO to not only teach others how to rank products, but make a killing online herself. You can learn more about her strategies from her YouTube channel, where she shares some of her best secrets.
Jenn at Drink Coffee & Prosper – Building an online business isn’t always all-in all-at-once. Jenn started her first online ecommerce store while still working a full-time job in the corporate world. After just one year, she was making enough steady income to walk away from her day gig and focus on being an entrepreneur. Earlier this year, using the Empire Flippers marketplace, she was able to sell one of her sites for $80K, a process she outlined on her blog for others to learn from. Who says you can’t make money flipping?
Sara Blakely – Another entrepreneur who made money solving a problem she had herself. Pantylines. Am I right ladies? (Ok, I don’t have that problem running around in jeans and shorts, but I hear it’s a thing!) Blakely was selling fax machines door-to-door in Florida when she developed the prototype for what became known as Spanx hosiery and undergarments. Though the initial product was sold in stores, not online, Sara’s story is one of DIY the whole way (she sourced, patented, marketed, and sold the product on her own the first few years of the company).
Megan Quinn – Megan “put in her time” as a team leader and product development pro at companies like Google and Square, before stepping away from the world of tech and into the world of investing and venture capital. Currently, she is a General Partner at Spark Capital Growth, after working to build the VC behemoth that is Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). Fun fact, she’s pretty widely acknowledged to be one of the inspirations for Monica Hall on HBO’s Silicon Valley. And her Twitter stream is hilariously informative.
Carolyn Rodz – If you have an big business you are looking to dig in on, you can check out Circular Board, an accelerator for women who are starting companies that plan to gross at least $50M in revenue. Founded by Carolyn Rodz, a successful entrepreneur in her own right, the 12-week program not only helps participants learn to focus on their growing businesses, but puts them in touch with interested funders.
Marie Forleo – Marie is considered by many to be one of the most prominent women in the information product and content online business. While her career may have started as a trading assistant at the New York Stock Exchange, it is her online information products, affiliate program, and video content that established her as an industry name. Just try to find a corner of the internet that isn’t promoting her during a B School open enrollment period. When she’s not hanging out with Oprah and Sir Richard Branson,she’s speaking and teaching on entrepreneurship and business.
Arianna Huffington – Perhaps you’ve heard of a little online content site called The Huffington Post. Or perhaps you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade. Either way, Huffington started as a writer and journalist in the 1970’s, built a political and public personal brand through the 80’s and 90’s, and launched her news & commentary website The Huffington Post in 2005 — which was sold to AOL in 2011 for $315M.
So There ARE Successful Women Entrepreneurs Out There
When I reached out to some of the more prominent women in the Empire Flippers community about this article, I was greeted with the same degree of eye-rolling irritation I usually dole out when approached for similar stories.
One of my favorites came from Aussie Kiri Masters, owner of ILikeThatLamp.com, and an Amazon marketing consultant out of NYC. “Sure, there is a lack of female role models “at the top”, but why must a woman’s role models be other women? As entrepreneurs, we are all led to create our own path and overcome obstacles. If being a woman is an obstacle to overcome, I guess I never paid much heed to it.”
Cause that’s the thing, ladies looking for rah-rah fluff pieces of how you can run the world and still look good doing it. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not easier being a girl. But you already knew that. The business world is not much different than the world in that regard. We all have our own struggles to endure. But there are plenty of women out there enduring.
Of course, as a white American single woman, I’m firmly established on the highest few rungs of the privileged existence life ladder. Clinging there with my freakishly long lady ring finger.
Instead of looking for places to tell you it is ok to be yourself to be successful, just be yourself.
And just for fun, in the comments below, I gotta know…male or female — how many of you checked your finger length before reading any further in the article?!
Elisa Doucette is the Managing Editor here at Empire Flippers and the owner of Craft Your Content, an editorial agency for authors and entrepreneurs.