by Melissa Pickering
When I started iCreate to Educate, I read a lot of books on female entrepreneurs and started to recognize a consistent message – female entrepreneurs tend to have more self-doubt than our male counterparts. How was I, as a female entrepreneur, going to battle this self-doubt in order to be successful?
The following steps are the ones I took to build a successful company and specifically, to take full advantage of the resources and advice available to me:
1. Take advantage of access to experts. When I started iCreate, I participated in an incubator program that provided me access to many experts who had experience running a business and finding funding. Through conversations I had with these experts, I found that my company was lacking true focus. I was waffling between starting a product-based company or a service company, but I did not have the bandwidth to do both. Find mentors and experts who can help you identify issues in your fledgling company.
2. Weigh advice against your business goals. While I received plenty of great suggestions, I needed to put them into context and frame them in relation to my business and audience in order to know how much weight to put into each piece of advice. While advice is great, it doesn’t mean that it is all right for you at a particular time in your business planning. Pick the person with the background that has the most relevance to your business and meld that advice with what you already know about yourself and your business.
3. Follow your gut instinct. When the devil of self-doubt starts knocking on your door, realize that you and only you have your company’s best interest at heart. You developed a business because you saw a need in the marketplace. Others, while helpful, may not have the same vision. If anyone tries to get you to move in a direction that doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
4. Commit to a business model. When starting my business, I spent a while trying to determine what the best business model was for my company. By hiring for and putting my money into product development, I was forced to commit to running a product-based company. Taking a leap of faith in a specific direction can help you move your company forward.
5. Honor the relationships that work. When you find people who provide good advice for your business, nurture those relationships. After soliciting advice, I always follow up with people to let them know what I did with their recommendations and how it worked (or didn’t work) for my business. Going to a couple of people repeatedly for advice makes soliciting wisdom extremely efficient. Not only do you save time telling your story, but those experts also become emotionally invested in you and your business. By participating in an incubator program, I was able to learn alongside my peers. This network of entrepreneurs has stayed in touch and we continue to learn from each other. I would not be where I am today if not for this network of peers.
6. Change direction when something isn’t working. No decision is final, and – particularly when it comes to marketing – it’s OK to try out different approaches. Set a timeframe for recognizing success based on a particular plan, and don’t be afraid to change directions if the plan has not worked. Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board in order to achieve success.
Anyone who is passionate about starting a business can be successful if they learn how to incorporate the advice of others who have been successful before them. Just remember that you are your own best advocate, and when you follow your passion, you will truly be a successful entrepreneur.
Melissa Pickering founded iCreate to Educate in 2010 to unleash the inner Imagineer within every child. By commercializing an educational technology from university-based research, she has built up iCreate to engage thousands of kids in classrooms and homes around the world. Originally a mechanical engineer for Walt Disney Imagineering, Melissa was inspired to bridge the generation and gender gaps in the STEM fields through iCreate.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.