What excites you about entrepreneurship?
1) The opportunity to wear multiple hats and impact various areas of a company’s business.
2) Bringing new technology to customers and helping them improve their business – in the process, discovering and learning about various challenges that the STEM world can continue to address. The opportunities are endless!
What do you think are the most common mistakes novice entrepreneurs make? How can they avoid making them?
1) The biggest mistake is – wrapping their ego around the product. Often founders forget they started a company to bring great solutions to customers – but once you start that journey, you will find the customers will help define a better product but many founders get stuck on the idea they had envisioned with relatively limited information.
2) Not listening to the customers very closely. Ignoring what the customers are telling you – assuming you know better.
3) Going to market too early and overselling the capabilities.
4) Duplicating the practices of a bigger company they came from – a startup and a mature company are two very different animals and need to be handled differently. Otherwise, there are a lot of resources and time wasted applying practices that are not productive for a small and growing company.
How can they avoid making them?
1) Be open to feedback.
2) Seek input from inside and outside of the organization.
3) Do not set a tone of ‘whatever the founders say will be the only way to do things’. This will limit potentially great feedback that can enhance the business and increase your customer base.
4) Realize that as founders, they may have expertise in specific areas (whether it is the technology, the market opportunity, the customer potential…) and not letting other experienced experts you hire have a voice is detrimental to the growth of your business.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, SCORE, etc.?
1) Trusted colleagues – to brainstorm about usefulness of technology for potential customers.
2) VC contacts – to vet ideas, technology & solutions that will have a likelihood of getting funded, ideas that are interesting to the VC community.
3) Co-work spaces – to manage early cashflow challenges.
What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
1) However you conduct your business in the early phases will dictate the entire personality of your business. Do the right things from the beginning to avoid politics & inefficient practices – otherwise it is very difficult to change as the organization grows.
2) Focus on hiring the right talent for the right positions – and develop those people – vs. only promoting your personal contacts.
3) Be transparent with your organization leaders. Do not try to sell them the same message that you are trying to sell to the outside world. They joined the company to help make it successful – trust them to help you. Give people room and respect to express and try new ideas.
4) Give employees loyalty and they will do the same for you.
What specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become entrepreneurs?
1) Seek out advise and support from other women leaders.
2) Join women’s organizations early in your career. Now there are many generous women happy to help the next generations succeed in STEM fields.
3) While you are young, you have the time to take risks – do it, give it a fair go. At the very best, you will be successful in your venture. At the very least you will learn so much about running a business, that experience will benefit you for the rest of your career.
Any other items you would like to bring up that could help female entrepreneurs?
1) Women still have to and are working harder than majority of their male colleagues in STEM fields. Take advantage of that for your own organization while helping to increase the presence of women in the business world.
2) Make diversity an equally important aspect of your company’s growth. There are numerous studies showing diverse boards and companies outperform the traditional make-up of companies.
Any other insights for female entrepreneurs?
Connect people to contacts that are relevant to them – this will often lead to them returning the favor and connecting you to people that can be helpful to you.
Encourage your male employees to have women in their networks.