This Woman Entrepreneur’s Challenges
My great-grandmother had a little card on her desk that I keep close to mine. It says, “If you believe you are right, you must go ahead and see if you are.” I live by this phrase. I also live by a second piece of sage advice from my mom. “When you are driving, don’t look at the ditch!” These are the guidelines of my life. Because of them, I consider myself to be unstoppable.
A lot of attention has been given lately to the stunningly low percentage of funding going to female entrepreneurs. In fact, I recently read that over the past year the number of Series A funding awarded to women in Silicon Valley dropped by 30%.
I have no idea what is going on in the heads of these people, but I do know one thing. The world is missing out on brilliant ideas that can change our world – for the better!
Portrait of a Female Entrepreneur
I am a classic example of the female entrepreneur. I have three children that I fiercely attend to. I can sense from a state away if a slice of white bread has been brought into our home! As a logical person, I know that children thrive most if they have at least one parent who is their primary caretaker. We also decided to nurse our children well into their third year. This was an intensely researched decision based on the well documented health benefits. Point One: As with most couples where the dad can’t lactate, the primary care taking responsibility rests on the mom, which in our case, happened to be me. And let me clear up one mystery that has stumped scientists and anthropologists and one particular male cook book author…the reason women end up cooking for their family is because, silly cook book writer, they don’t just instantly stop caring about their kid’s ‘hunger the moment nursing ends! We have created these humans with our own bodies, and have invested an incredible amount of ourselves in them. We want to be sure our kids are fed. I think about it all day long! Did they get enough breakfast? Will they eat their lunch? What are they doing after school and will it make them really hungry, or a little hungry? Likewise, just because we have a job or are starting our own company, we don’t stop worrying about getting the right food into our kids’ bodies. We still have to figure it out three times a day all year long for nearly two decades. Point Two: The availability of healthy food that can be quickly prepared is critical for the success of women in business who also manage a household.
I managed three moves. Navigated twelve different schools. The sheer complexity of the whole operation would make any program manager dizzy. I know this because that was my previous job. As I raised these children, I never let go of myself, my interests, and my passion, which is to invent and create. I completed a Master’s degree in Tech Management. I taught classes in computer science part-time. I also built up my website development company, Future Bright Interactive, which now has the most beautiful portfolio in all of Marin County. Being intensely goal oriented, I looked ahead to that first day when all three of my children went off to school, focusing on the top of the mountain, and when I reached it, the whole world would stretch out before me.
In preparation for this moment, I worked diligently, five minutes here, thirty minutes there, on my business Future Bright Enterprise – a laboratory for my products with global impact. To give you an idea, I have highlighted several of my ventures below.
Portrait of a Woman-Run Venture
My enterprise has produced classic problem solving products, typical of the businesses women create: they emerge out of struggles women recognize in their own routine. My mobile app Rambly (www.getRambly.com) will put your busy day’s schedule on a map, generate a route, and monitor your progress along the way.
My skin, hair, body and nutrition line, “The Yummy Collection” is nothing short of revolutionaryl. Yummy will change what we see on drugstore shelves now, which is rows of plastic containers that slowly break down and enter our waterways and food chain, each filled with toxic chemicals that we are encouraged to spread on our children and our own bodies. I coined the phrase “Farm To Vanity“. I took out the liquids, which means no preservatives are needed. My products are made in a bakery, and use 100% compostable containers. Mushroom packaging is on its way!
Wishing you could sit down and read an Old Fashioned Letter? For less than the price of a late, my online letter writing app will let you write long letters about your babies, your family, and we will print it on 100% cotton archival quality paper, package it in a beautiful chocolate brown button and string envelope, and send it off to your loved ones!
Each year more than 11 million trees contribute to wrapping paper that sometimes is used for just hours. Why not instead use beautiful fabric gift bags that last for generations! Trees Love Fabric Gift Bags! If you have a store or shop, instead of gift wrapping your sales in paper that just goes into the trash, preserve your beautiful brand for years! We can make uber minimalist bags, or Tiffany quality bags that look like they cost as much as the gift inside!
I climbed the mountain!
In minute by minute increments I nurtured each of these into reality, and when I launched my children at school, and I got to the top of the mountain, surprisingly I didn’t see the whole world, I saw a wall. Not the wall our new wacky republican presidential nominee promised to put between us and a labor force that is actually affordable to women, and not to mention willing to take over the domestic tasks that occupy so much of our productivity time. It is a financial wall. Here folks is the challenge!
You cannot care for a child and work at the same time.
Check this out. I applied for an SBC loan at one point, and was told that I couldn’t include childcare costs in my budget. It is considered a “personal expense”. Whaaa? That is pretty insane! I mean, if I am working on my business, that means that if my kids aren’t in school, someone else is taking care of my kids, and they have to be paid! Do you know how many days kids have off for random holidays and teacher training days? And with kids in two different schools, plus the sick days which never all happen at the same time, plus an entire summer, there is some child care needed over here! Who came up with that illogical rule? I had the opportunity to shake the hand of the person in charge of the entire SBC program in the US who was describing to a conference for women in business how much herorganization can help, and told her about this rule. Boy was she surprised! There seems to be this idea that childcare just appears out of nowhere, down from the mountains or something. Grandmothers just flood the streets at 8:15 AM entering homes in time to start baking bread for dinner. People, this DOES NOT HAPPEN! When a kid is sick and can’t go to school, it is a major family crisis! In many families a sick kid can cause lost wages, and in many cases the loss of a job. It happens all the time! The entire livelihood of a family can be endangered by one bout of stomach flu. Who is in charge? Who ever you are, this has got to stop. Point Three: Access to childcare that is also affordable is critical to freeing up women’s time to work.
Hours of lost productivity due to driving kids around
I am working my way through the day here. We started out with early morning where a sick kid can wreak havoc on an entire family’s survival. Next lets talk about “car line”. In the olden days a nice big yellow bus came and picked up the kids. Today, they have to be driven. I have always thought the phrase “soccer mom” was insulting because of its assumption that women WANT to spend hours and hours of their week driving behind a wheel. For free. In a car that no matter how hard you try, still ends up with crumbs on the floor and socks stuffed into corners. Lets talk about lost productivity here! I spend 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 in the afternoon driving my kids. That is one hour. I don’t see many dads doing car line in the morning, it is mostly moms. So lets say there are about 500 moms spending an hour a day driving their kids to school. That is three solid months of productivity time wasted EVERY DAY! In ONE SCHOOL! And it isn’t even 9:00 AM! Wow, I am even surprised by that. So let me calculate a bit more (to see the details, go to the end of this post). In Marin County, that is an average of 17 months of lost productivity time EVERY DAY! Just in our small county! That could equates to $3.5 million in lost tax revenue. Bring back those busses people! Point Four: forcing parents to drive their kids to school is not actually saving money.
Marketing Costs are the most limiting barrier
All right, we have gotten to 9:00 finally, and the work day has started. No one had to stay home sick, or has a bizarre holiday or random day off. I hit the ground running! I am tech savvy, so I have everything set up. I have my beautiful office that I pay rent for with earnings from my website development business. I have websites for my products. I have an accounting system. I have a part-time personal assistant to manage my calendar, because as ANYONE managing a household knows, calendar management is the biggest challenge (thus the creation of Rambly). I am past prototype, I have products. I have a lab, a commercial kitchen. What do I need? I need to get the word out! People need to know about these amazing products! But guess what, that takes $$. And without some sort of funding, the best thing I can do is buy Facebook ads in $40 increments. That is not going to work! I want to put my fabric bags into every Target, and replace the entire rack of paper bags with fabric bags. I want Yummy to transform packaging for skin and body care products. The next time you are in a Walgreens or CVS, just look down the aisle. Look at all of that plastic. That’s just one store out of thousands of aisle of plastic containers filled with toxins. I have big dreams, and I know that my products will change what we see in store aisles. I just can’t afford to tell everyone! Point Five: You can’t actually start a nation-wide or global business solely on social media, you need a real marketing budget.
One person can’t do it all
I presented to Whole Foods and they love my Yummy products and want to showcase them, but there is a huge application process to go through! It takes a team of people working full time for three months to get through the process. I just have until 2:00 before my mom hat comes on again and I am back in car line. Oh, and 80% of women in the US have children, so this whole kid thing is a super huge part of the experience of the female gender.
So what do I need? I need more productivity time. And if it isn’t my time, it has to be someone else’s. And if it is someone else’s, I have to pay them. And if I have to pay them, I need $$. Big mystery that so many women owned businesses have a hard time getting past having just one employee – the owner. And here is another thing that should not be a mystery. Why are women are extremely risk averse when it comes to finances? It isn’t because they are unsure of themselves, or not educated enough about money, none of that nonsense. Women do the majority of the spending. We know about $$, let me tell you. This is related to what I said above, that as the primary caretakers, we are hyper focused on food and shelter for our offspring. Given that a recent survey said 40% of people couldn’t come up with $400 for an emergency, you have to know that there are millions of families walking on that very fine line of being financially destroyed by a sick kid needing to stay home from school. Point Six: Attaining Food and Shelter is not a concern from back in caveman days – it is real and today. To provide funding for women means providing them with ZERO RISK funding. In fact, you should actually PAY women to apply for funding with your organization. They will hire five people to replace themselves. Worried about that being a sound idea? Before investing in yet another “cloud computing” start-up (which is so silly, we all know that “the cloud” it is actually lots of wires and cables and hardware in huge warehouses scattered throughout Utah or Nevada), how about taking a chance on a real solution for a real problem?
So, what is my summary? My sage advice for investors out there wondering how to get more women owned businesses in their portfolio?
Pay women to apply for your funding – they will hire five people to help free up their time
Dedicated to all of the amazing women out there who can do brilliant things if given the chance. – Wendy Louise Nog, MSTM, Founder, Future Bright Enterprise
|The True Cost of Removing Bus Service|
|hours per day||1||Months of Labor|
|Hours Spent Driving each day||3200||17|
|Number of school days||180|
|Hours Driving Per School Year||576,000|
|Pay Rate $20||$11,520,000|
|Tax Revenue Lost||$3,456,000|
|Bus Service Cost/student*||459|
|#of bus seats funded||7,529|