Starting a business takes courage, preparation and determination. Between payroll taxes, administrative formalities and business closures, the world of entrepreneurship can be tough. This reality is even more present when it comes to female entrepreneurship. Indeed, in addition to all these constraints, women must learn to make a place for themselves in a world that is 65% male-dominated.
According to the NISSE (National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-Employed), “women are still less likely to be self-employed and they still too often run smaller businesses with fewer employees than their male counterparts”.
This difficulty in taking the leap is said to be linked to our customs and mentalities. For example, many women already feel a daily mental burden at home and therefore feel unable to add the difficulties of the female entrepreneurial world to this.
You can also add the fact that even after taking the leap, difficulties remain. Access to finance, for example, remains difficult for women. Bank refusals are much more frequent for them than it is for men. Yet studies show that women apply for fewer loans and repay them better than men. In fact, as an article in the Echo states, women are denied 12% of bank loans while men are denied 8%.
Even if it seems that women’s interest in entrepreneurship is growing and that access to education is more accessible, there are still too many women whom do not consider having their own business. Even if this seems to be improving, many efforts are still needed.
However, nowadays women are better supported and all kinds of mutual aids are put in place to give them the desire to become entrepreneurs. It is not always easy to take the plunge, but we can assure you that once it is done, women entrepreneurs feel more fulfilled in their work and gain a taste for freedom, for surpassing oneself and for independence. It is in this context that we offer you the following advices.
Join women’s self-help groups
In the conclusion of her research work on the influence of domestic mental load on women’s entrepreneurship, Toussant Karin, states that the most valuable resource for women to support each other is sisterhood. This is why our first piece of advice is to join the various women’s networks that exist. Created by women for women. Indeed, because of the difficulties faced by women entrepreneurs, many initiatives have emerged. So think about finding out about them and joining the ones that suit you.
Among these initiatives, you’ll find:
Wowo: this self-help community allows you to network and to exchange advices.
Wib.brussels: this Brussels-based platform aims to support, inform, raise awareness and train women in entrepreneurship.
FCE Belgium: this association of women entrepreneurs organises networking events in Belgium and around the world.
Julie Foulon, founder of “Girleek”, whose full interview can be found in our article “Focus on the connected entrepreneur: Julie Foulon“, states that
… Us women don’t have that luxury of wasting time. So, if we go somewhere, we have to get something out of it, and it has to be used in our business!
It is therefore important that women help each other to overcome the common difficulties they face.
Find out about available support
There is a lot of support for entrepreneurs, but they are not well known. It is therefore important to find out about all those initiatives. Whether they are specifically designed for women or not. As we have already mentioned, bank rejection is a reality for women entrepreneurs, but there are other ways to get funding for your business.
Here are some examples of available fundings:
- MicroStart, a micro-credit company, aims, among other things, to finance the projects of women who often face bank refusals as mentioned at the beginning of our article;
- The quarter following childbirth, a female entrepreneur is exempt from social security contributions;
- A new mother is entitled to 105 service vouchers (€ 945);
- Actiris helps self-employed people in Brussels to start up (€4,000 over six months);
- The Incitant Airbag helps, in Wallonia, to start up as a self-employed person or to make the transition from complementary self-employed person to main self-employed person (€12,500 over two years);
- The KMO–portefeuille, in Flanders, offers financial support for the purchase of services that improve the quality of businesses (maximum €7,500 per year).
The website Midas lists several types of financial support from which companies in Wallonia can benefit. The Brussels Economy and Employment site, for its part, refers to financial supports for the Brussels-Capital Region. Finally, the Flanders Agency for Economy and Employment deals with those for Flanders.
Adopt the right tools
In entrepreneurship, it is essential to be well organised. Especially when you are a female freelancer working alone! Having the right tools to navigate your daily tasks is essential to this organisation. Indeed, there are tools designed to lighten your daily tasks.
For each stage of your entrepreneurial life, it is possible to find the right software. Axonaut, for example, helps you with accounting, customer management and much more. Monday.com allows you to get an overview of your work and to communicate with your team if you have one. In the same category, you will find Asana. Finally, Accountable, which promises to be a freelancer’s best friend, makes it easy to manage your accounting.
Get inspired by other women
One of the reasons given for why women are less likely than men to become entrepreneurs is the lack of role models. However, there are in fact many women with successful businesses! Just take a closer look. These role models entrepreneurs have themselves experienced difficulties in their early days.
One of these women, Cécile Gondfroid, Director of Technology at RTBF, says that you need to :
Be comfortable in the workplace. At the beginning I often blushed because I was shy. You have to be who you are, be confident and not hesitate to give your opinion and impose yourself. Dare to apply for a job, join a team… Work hard and show off your work! It’s not the way you look that will impose yourself, it’s your work!
When you feel your motivation waning and entrepreneurship seems too difficult, turn to these women and their achievements. Read their biographies, interviews, follow their advices, etc. to find the strength to persevere. You will also benefit from the lessons they have learned over the years.
Among the books we recommend you read are:
Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington,
Dear Female Founder de Lu LI,
- Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg.
You can also watch documentaries, such as :
- Dream, Girl (the documentary): Showcasing the stories of inspiring female entrepreneurs by Erin Bagwell,
- She did that by Renae L. Bluit,
- She started it by Nora Poggi and Insiyah Saeed.
These inspiring women are also to be found in your surroundings. So open your eyes and find strength in your dentist, your hairdresser or your favourite baker. They have probably started their own business and can share their experiences with you.