Starting a new venture as an entrepreneur and choosing to move toward the unknown is often the name of the game for entrepreneurs. There is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of risk, and a lot of fear. Often when first starting out, female entrepreneurs constantly ask themselves a line-up of “what if” scenarios. What if I fail? What if I have no business starting my own company? What if people laugh? What if nobody believes in me or my product/service? Worst of all, what if I don’t believe in myself? What if? What if? What if?
Entrepreneurs are familiar with risk, and they regularly take significant risks in order to achieve their goals. Along with risk comes fear, though, and women entrepreneurs are no stranger to that either. Being a woman in business can be incredibly scary, as risk is a necessary (albeit stressful) part of the journey to follow their passions and share those passions with the world. That fear can sometimes cause women to second-guess themselves, and often hold them back from ever even taking the first step toward their entrepreneurial goals. But fear shouldn’t be the reason to not follow a dream — in fact, it should be a guiding post in the purposeful and impassioned path every entrepreneur walks when starting out on their own.
As important as it is to not let fears overwhelm you, it is equally as important to not sweep them under the rug and pretend they don’t exist at all. Recognize them for what they are, address them, and move on so they don’t continue to control your life and business decisions. This can be a challenging step for many women entrepreneurs to achieve, but it is a crucial step toward ensuring the long-term viability needed to confidently build your company.
Below are the five most common fears that plague entrepreneurs, along with some tips for how to conquer them.
1. Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is one of the most common phobias for all people, and most especially for new female entrepreneurs with so much at risk. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report, up to 61.6 per cent of people worldwide experience this fear. But while the idea of failing may be overwhelming to some, failure isn’t necessarily the opposite of success.
Many successful business people and celebrities have attributed much of their successes to their past failings. The lessons learned, and opportunities that presented themselves as a result of an initial failure ultimately led them to where they found their greatest success down the road. Oprah Winfrey, self-built media mogul and host of one of the most successful long-running daytime shows in history, was significantly demoted early in her career from news co-anchor of Baltimore’s primary TV news station to working on their morning TV segment that had low viewership. We bet her former boss has long-since regretted that decision. Thomas Edison, creator of the lightbulb, once said that he did not fail 10,000 times, but instead discovered 10,000 ways that will not work. Can you imagine if he gave up after his 9,999th attempt?
Failure often presents entrepreneurs with opportunities to re-approach the issue at hand, and ultimately have the potential to lead them to their greatest success. Failing doesn’t make you a failure, but giving up does.
2. Fear of Uncertainty
In order to take your business to the next level, or even just taking the first step when you’re initially starting out, women entrepreneurs must take risks to succeed. So much is unknown when taking a leap of faith, and the outcome isn’t always guaranteed success so it can be overwhelming and scary. It can be easier to default to the path of least resistance and stick to what you know and are comfortable with, but growth doesn’t happen inside our comfort zone.
Fear of the unknown is incredibly common; however, if you want your business to improve or grow, change is a necessary component. In order to understand the unknown, we must first learn to know it. Only after we take that first uncertain step can we know what was once unknown. By taking risks and proceeding with confidence, women entrepreneurs have the opportunity to learn, grow and take their businesses to the next level.
Life can feel like it’s throwing one curveball after another at us sometimes, particularly now during a global pandemic when so much is changing and uncertain. After several months of navigating the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic landscape, women in business are experiencing heightened fear of uncertainty due to all of the impactful changes that are shifting on a daily basis. It’s difficult to plan and develop a clear approach when we don’t know when or how long children are returning to school for come September, whether their supply chains will continue to be intact, or if customers are able to continue buying goods and services. There is a lot of unknown, and as such, a lot of fear. When faced with new and unfamiliar situations, such as COVID-19, female entrepreneurs need to follow their own instincts or turn to their trusted advisors for an objective and fresh perspective, and be willing to adapt their business approach and planning as new factors come into play.
Think back to when you tried something new and it didn’t go according to plan. How did you respond? What did you learn from it? Did you grow, learn and adapt? What skills did you utilize to succeed? Oftentimes, when something doesn’t meet our expectations, there can be an unexpected opportunity to seize in its place.
3. Fear of Rejection
Most people, and entrepreneurs in particular, are afraid of rejection on some level. When a female entrepreneur is excited about a new idea or opportunity, it is only natural to hope those around them share that same excitement too. But what if you pitch your proposal to a prospective client and they laugh you out of the room? Or if you ask an acquaintance for advice on a project idea, and they tell you it’s not worth pursuing. These are natural fears.
There is also a very real fear of rejection for women in business, as females are sometimes more likely to be rejected for financing than their male counterparts, for example, and there are other barriers that women face that are very real in this regard.
It is natural to worry that no one will buy your project or service that you have spent so much time and effort perfecting, but in any of those scenarios, the worst case is they will reject your idea and say no. That can sound intimidating and scary, but being rejected isn’t always a bad thing. Entrepreneurs don’t need every single person to say “yes” to their pitch; they just need the right ones to say “yes”.
Business owners all face rejection throughout their careers. When you are searching for your ideal business partner, or investor with deep pockets and similar priorities, or quality but affordable vendors to bring your vision to life, you will likely encounter a lot of people and need to sort through many different options before you find the right fit. But in order to find out whether each person is the correct fit for you and your business, you will need to ask the tough questions. And some of them may say “no”, but don’t take it personally. That “no” is a helpful step toward finding the right one who will say “yes”. You don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t believe in your vision for your company, or share your values. Let their “no” go, be grateful they didn’t waste precious time with a “maybe” or a wavering “sure”, and focus on the next potential “yes”!
In order to help become more comfortable with rejection, female entrepreneurs should actively take on roles where they are out of their comfort zones and know they may likely face rejection. Situations such as making cold calls to boost sales, or ask a mentor out for a virtual coffee to pick their brain are perfect to help overcome rejection. The more entrepreneurs face rejection, the easier it will become to let them roll off your back.
4. Fear of Falling Short
Sometimes your biggest critic isn’t your business partner, or customer, or friend, or parent. It is yourself. Many women entrepreneurs struggle to believe they are good enough to run a successful business, land a deal, or even just find happiness within their lives that it holds them back from ever trying. Or, if they do achieve one of those goals, they believe it won’t last or that they don’t deserve it.
For many women looking to start a new business venture, or take on a driving role in an existing organization, there is often a sense of Imposter Syndrome when they continue to harbor feelings of inadequacy despite earned success or recognition of their skills. With a constant undercurrent of insecurity in their achievements or expertise, women entrepreneurs can frequently self-sabotage their successes by being their own greatest critic.
Many people battle the fear of being mediocre, and ultimately don’t follow through on their entrepreneurial dreams and goals because of it. Self-doubt can impact even the most confident, successful businesswomen, especially amid uncertainty, and setbacks can feel even more devastating to those who already question their abilities to begin with.
A few suggestions to help conquer these fears:
- Don’t compare yourself: It is easy to look at those around us and see their successes, especially in the social media age, and compare those successes against our own failures. Instead of focusing on others’ successes, celebrate your own. Instead, embrace what makes you unique, and focus on how to become the best version of yourself. You have special talents that none of your competitors have; the key is to discover and harness them.
- Invest in your relationships: Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your vision. Find mentors, colleagues, friends and a community of people who clearly see your potential and support your successes with you. Leaning on those around you, especially during uncertain or trying times, is crucial to help you stay the course and maintain your confidence when you might need a gentle reminder.
- Master your emotions: Insecurities and fears can feel like cold, hard facts, when in reality they are just our emotions playing games with us. Learning to control your emotions and recognize them as what they are can help you master and ultimately overcome your self-doubt.
5. Fear of Success
You may have read the title of this fear and done a double-take. No one is afraid of success, right? It’s the goal! Wrong. Fear of success is actually more common than you would think.
As women entrepreneurs achieve continual success in their businesses, each of the other fears discussed in this article tend to become amplified along the way. As the success grows, the fear may follow suit and morph along the way.
Suddenly, what was once a goal to meet minimum supply demands, is now a fear that your vendors can’t keep up with the increased sales. When you initially started out your side hustle as a fun passion project, you never expected to struggle to maintain your work-life balance as it gained popularity.
As these fears change and grow along with your business, trust in yourself enough to know that you will rise to the occasion just like you have at every other step of the way. Your instincts and the community you have built around yourself can help guide you through any trial, including the ones you may not have ever expected.
The topic of common entrepreneurial fears is very real for women in a unique way than it is for men, which is part of the reason why Tsuts’weye was created: to support business women in the Shuswap succeed. Often women experience these fears differently than men, and COVID-19 has amplified women’s fears, often for very real reasons such as child-care concerns, domestic responsibility, and that the type of industries women are more likely to be involved in have been more greatly impacted by COVID-19. So we as women, even more than our male counterparts, need to work towards overcoming these fears, and the tools suggested in this blog can help you do just that.
The fears listed above, along with others women entrepreneurs will undoubtedly face throughout their working careers, will ebb and flow as business grows. Tsuts’weye Women’s Network, a program designed to support female entrepreneurs and small businesses, has the tools and resources to help guide its members through these fears. Reach out to talk to the team and we can help find the right solution to help you. Check out our website for more information at www.tsutsweye.ca.