I recently met a wonderful distributor at an event. In an industry built on amazing personal stories, hers stood out. And yet it all seemed so familiar.
Emily married young. She traded in her career goals for a marriage and kids, which she loved and devoted her life to. But 20 years later, that marriage came crashing down. She told me that it was the most disorientating event of her life. She felt like she didn’t have an identity anymore. And she was now the sole provider for her family.
But the corporate doors had closed around her. And even though she had a college degree, she hadn’t practiced her profession since shortly after she graduated.
If you’re Emily, what do you do? There aren’t many options. You can go back to school. You can work multiple part time jobs. Or you can start at square one and try to build a career (probably on top of at least one part time job as well). These aren’t ideal. But one thing that women like Emily have (and in greater abundance than men in my opinion), is an intense entrepreneurial spirit.
At the beginning of this year, CNBC published an article titled, Why Women Entrepreneurs Will Be the Economic Force to Reckon With in 2017. It was a great article. But it also highlighted this point, and something we’ve known in our industry for a long time: women make incredible business owners—some of the best in the world. And you don’t have to look past all the current IPOs to see the inroads women are making. It’s amazing. Globally, women entrepreneurship rates have doubled those of their male counterparts over the last three years. And in the US alone, women entrepreneurs are making a $3 trillion impact. The truth is, for women, there has never been a better time to start a business, and the world has started to take notice.
Emily is a textbook example. She now runs a thriving business with LifeVantage. She’s both admired and respected within her organization, and she’s building incredible leaders within it. But she is one of the lucky ones.
Emily was fortunate enough to find LifeVantage. Or I should say that LifeVantage was fortunate enough to find her. Within minutes of first hearing of our company, she told me, Emily felt an entrepreneurial spirit begin to flicker inside. She had felt it at a younger age, and there it was again.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
The amazing thing, is as unique as Emily’s particular story is, it is also a universal one. I believe that there are powerful leaders all around us who – simply because they don’t know where to find it – are kept from their dreams and their influence. As an industry, how can we kindle that entrepreneurial flame, particularly among women who are unfortunately “glass-ceiling”ed in the corporate world? I believe that they already are an economic force to be reckoned with. If we, as an industry, fail to attract, equip, and retain women today, we’re missing out on perhaps the world’s most talented, driven workforce.
AN EVEN PAYING FIELD
Entrepreneurship is the great equalizer. It doesn’t’ care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, or your gender. If you can build it, customers will come. I believe our industry puts women on an equal playing field, as well as paying field. You rise through the ranks based on what you build, not who you know (unless those people happen to be lots and lots of customers).
Our model eliminates many of the barriers that hold women back in the traditional workplace. Those barriers, by the way, might also be leading to the rise in women entrepreneurship. As an industry, we need to step up our game when it comes to attracting top female talent.
A FORMIDABLE SET OF SKILLS
Unlike any other entrepreneurial opportunity out there, ours gives women a formidable set of skills that prepares them to run any type of business. Does driving for Uber require contacting, presenting, networking, people management, training, sales forecasting, budgeting, inventory management, and good old-fashioned book keeping?
As an industry, I think we can do a better job arming women entrepreneurs with the business building and training tools they need to be successful. As a whole, we need to be more proactive using technology and data to integrate processes. The more closely our businesses reflect entrepreneurism rather than mere “opportunity,” the more success we’ll have attracting and retaining women entrepreneurs.
WOMEN SUPORTING WOMEN
Come to any of our events, and I’m willing to bet that at least 75% of the passion, energy (and the best ideas) are coming from our women leaders. No knock against the wonderful men in our industry, but these women, more and more, are representing the backbone of our growing business.
According to a recent poll in the UK, one in five women wants to start her business, but just over 60 percent feel confident enough to do so. I personally believe this is the product of years of seeing women undervalued in the workplace. It creates an understandable hesitation. But imagine, for a second, that one out of every five women had the confidence to open their own business within our industry. Can you imagine what that would look like? I’ll pause and let that sink in for a second.
Over and over, when female business leaders in any industry are asked about their keys to success, they mention the power of having a strong mentor and support system. We need to do a better job connecting the powerful female leaders in our industry with women who want to start their own businesses. Whether it’s through webinars, conferences, or social media, we can address this confidence curve and inspire an entirely new generation of women entrepreneurs in our industry. We’ll all be better off for it.
OUR UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY
As you can tell, I am passionate about this. That’s because I was raised by a brilliant single mother. She had five of us to look after, and to say it was a difficult job would be an understatement. Years of reflection have given me a deeper perspective along with more appreciation for what she was able to accomplish.
Like many women, my mother wore multiple hats. She was our caregiver, breadwinner, early-morning lunch maker, and our educator after school let out for the day. If my mother would have had an opportunity to build her own business on her own terms, I believe she would have changed the world.
This opportunity holds immense potential to women like Emily and my mother. But it’s equally valuable for every woman. What makes social entrepreneurship so compelling is that anyone can start without finding investors or investing capital. You can work during naps, between jobs, during college, or while the kids are at school. You can work as little or as much as you like.
How can we reach the struggling mother who only sees the option of working multiple part time jobs?
How can we reach the college student who dreams of starting her own business but constantly sees the doors of opportunity closed based on her gender? I believe that women entrepreneurship isn’t just on the rise, it has the potential to transform our industry if we let it. It will take a collective effort to identify, empower, and support a new generation of women who can make a world of difference. We have that opportunity. We are already years ahead of corporate America in this aspect, and I am personally seeing the power of women entrepreneurship every day. I for one vow to keep fanning that flame. For my mom. I hope you’ll join me.
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