Earlier this month, we shared the stories of four trailblazing women from history who helped pave the way for women in financial services. As we close out Women’s History Month, we wanted to also acknowledge the accomplishments of women in business today.
Women’s History Month Spotlight: Inspiring women-owned small businesses
Giving voice to female small business owners is one step to breaking down the barriers they and other minority business owners face. To do our part, we caught up with two women entrepreneurs (who happen to be Bluevine customers) to learn about the impressive strides they’ve made in business and all that they’ve had to overcome to get where they are today.
Let’s start with some introductions.
Joy England of Advocates in Action
Joy England has spent her entire career helping vulnerable populations find and maintain employment. Her first job was in social services as an entry-level job coach, a role that has come full-circle with her business, Advocates in Action (AIA). Launched in 2016, AIA provides employment services for individuals with various abilities and needs by encouraging them to share and embrace their stories.. They offer pre-vocational training services, individualized employment plans, and more.
England never thought she’d be an entrepreneur and many close to her advised against starting a business. At the time, she had a steady full-time job with reliable pay and benefits for her family—as a single mother, no less. But she stayed true to herself, launched her business, and even expanded it during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve individuals across the US.
Owning a business was never on my radar,” England said. “But I’ve always been an advocate. Show me the gap, and we’re going to stand in it. We’re going to figure out a way to build a bridge over it.
And bridges she has built both for her clients and herself in business.
Kiara Nelson of Natural Boss Creative
Kiara Nelson, a 22-year-old brand designer, unintentionally launched her business during her freshman year of college.
When a tour guide mentioned that first-year college students typically don’t secure internships, Kiara set out to prove them wrong—and she did. Her peers couldn’t believe she was able to get an internship as a freshman, so they asked her for help.
“Everybody wanted to know how I got my internship as a freshman and how I could help them,” she told us. “That was around the time when creative resumes became popular, so I started designing people’s resumes and cover letters, which eventually led to business cards, LinkedIn headers, portfolio websites, pretty much anything related to personal branding. I did it for free, but then somebody tipped me, which made me realize people would actually pay for such a service.”
She started charging people, and her clients successfully secured internships. Word spread, and small businesses began approaching her for logos, websites, and business cards. Now, she creates branding assets for service providers through her business Natural Boss Creative.
I’m passionate about taking people from one point and providing them the tools they need to elevate their brands and businesses—you know, bring them to light.
Overcoming obstacles unique to women entrepreneurs
As we spoke to England and Nelson about their business experiences, we noticed a few similarities to their journeys, particularly when it comes to overcoming obstacles. To help other women entrepreneurs persevere and gain confidence in their businesses, here are four lessons to take from women who have been there.
1. Accept that being afraid is OK
If you have a business idea but are afraid to start, don’t let that fear stop you from giving it a try. Fear is not a sign that you won’t find success as an entrepreneur. If anything, it means you will.
England took a leap of faith when she started her business. As we mentioned previously, she had a great job and excellent benefits, but she still leapt into entrepreneurship. As she says, “I did it anyway and did it scared. I think that’s the theme of a lot of entrepreneurs, but especially female entrepreneurs. We just have to do it afraid. And then, you know, use wisdom to make some good decisions.”
She goes on to say that, as you “do it afraid,” you realize you can survive it. The fear evolves; it challenges and stretches you.
“I hate to sound like Nike, but you know, just do it. You have to.”
2. Learn to believe in yourself
Part of managing fear lies in believing in yourself no matter what others say.
Despite some urging England NOT to start her business, she had faith in herself that it was the right move. “You’ve got to believe in you more than you’re afraid of what you’re facing or what you’re trying to do,” she recommends.
Nelson, too, believed in herself. She knew she’d get an internship as a freshman, and today, she continues to build the business of her dreams. “People say you can’t do something, you’re going to do it,” she says. “There’s a little bit of fearlessness that you’re just going to jump in and take things on and figure it out.”
To help you figure it out, find people who will support your endeavors and who will encourage you along the way.
3. Overcome imposter syndrome
Many women entrepreneurs experience imposter syndrome even when they believe in themselves and their businesses.
Nelson says, “It’s very easy to attach to what others are doing and compare that to yourself. But they say comparison is the thief of joy. So I quickly learned to stop doing that. I’m cruising in my own lane right now and having a great time enjoying my own journey.”
She’s taken that a step further and started considering her competition as her community. Shifting your mindset this way will help you overcome imposter syndrome and might even lead to opportunities for collaboration and referrals down the road.
“I see competitors more as community,” says Nelson. “I want everyone to win. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, but when you have people to connect with who know what you’re doing and what you’re going through, it makes a big difference.”
At the end of the day, remember that there is only one YOU.
4. Acknowledge that failure is part of the process
Sure, few people get things right the first time, but that doesn’t mean the work is done.
“Celebrate every failure. Celebrate the stuff that doesn’t work because it will lead you to the stuff that will.”
This is how England approaches failure, which is an inevitable part of business. One that helps you learn so you can do even better next time.
More support for women entrepreneurs
Another obstacle women business owners face is access to capital. At Bluevine, we’re dedicated to helping all small businesses get the financing and banking solutions they need to grow their businesses, and that includes women-owned small businesses. Our flexible working capital and business checking options enable women business owners to maximize cash flow, invest as needed, and grow with confidence.