Carving Out Your Niche – Re-defining Success on YOUR Terms

by Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC

What does it take to carve out your own personal niche?

Authenticity. Gravitas. Personal mojo. Stick-to-itiveness. Vulnerability.

Entrepreneurship is tough no matter how you slice it. But it can be especially challenging thing when an aspiring woman is breaking into starting her own business.

Over the years at the NIIC, I recall several local women business owners who shared their frustrations with how some male leaders in our community tried to dissuade them from leaving their jobs at larger local employers. They shared with me how they were told that their businesses would surely fail, and they should not even try. Comments were centered on things like their idea was not good enough, or they were not equipped to be an entrepreneur. So, against the odds, what where some of their techniques to address these early adversities and blaze their own trail?

First, They had a strong belief in themselves.

Don’t let anyone take away your personal power. Trust your gut—while at the same time—do not be afraid to go against the grain. These women possessed confidence and humility. They didn’t take no for an answer. They focused on getting and satisfying customers. Often, their initial customers came from outside our community.

Second, they built their network — powering it with smart and focused resources.

The most successful business builders understand that it’s OK not to know everything, and it’s perfectly acceptable to lean on business partners for knowledge and support and to access resources that might give you a leg up in starting your venture. Our Women’s Entrepreneurial Resource Center (WEOC) is a great example of this in action. We work hard and smart to foster a “we’re in this together” mindset. Our sponsored event, meet-ups and programming give entrepreneurs and WEOC members the opportunity to meet and converse with like-minded individuals in a supportive and welcoming environment.

Third, they embrace positivity and focused on their energy level and producing early wins — and not on their activities or to do list.

You can’t do it all well—at least without going crazy. Time is a limited and precious resource. Hiring your first employee is both scary and necessary. It puts you on a path that only 12% of female businesses can accomplish. Savvy she-preneurs know when to replenish and refresh their energy levels. A recent female entrepreneurial founder told me that “WEOC and NIIC represented her B 12 shot.” She further explained, “WEOC and the NIIC have always been that push at the right time.” As you might know, a deficiency in B 12 vitamin can mean that if “you come up short on the vitamin, it can result in intense fatigue to wonky vision.” So when you need a “boost” to be built up when you are facing rejection, experiencing loneliness or feeling like you are not making faster progress, seek out a knowledgeable, trusted entrepreneurial support provider like us to inspire and co-create and engage mentors and trusted advisors to bring out the best in you. We know our female entrepreneurs can gain confidence from our encouragement and our support network. WEOC and the NIIC will walk you through the entrepreneurial pathway step by step to make sure you are heading in the right direction. A mentor of mine, once opined, “Don’t live in the rear-view mirror. Live in the windshield.”

Fourth, they cultivated an “inner circle of influence”—by establishing a brain trust.

There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from the success (and failures) of your tribe. Maybe your company or business idea lacks focus, or you don’t have a plan for scalability. A mentor can help you troubleshoot, support you in gaining insights and higher levels of self-awareness and implement the necessary changes in you and in your business. He or she can also serve as a sounding board for decisions and an emotional support system for the choppy waters of starting a business or leaving your job. These are close advisors with rich and deep expertise. Their only interest is in your success. They bring no hidden agenda. They are there for you.

WEOC was established to help you break through these barriers. WEOC, in partnership with The NIIC, offers timely and immediate business assistance to women entrepreneurs at all stages of their venture paths. From ideation and startup through growth and expansion, WEOC was designed to understand and respond to the unique needs of women entrepreneurs. We do this through business growth coaching, training & entrepreneurial education, connectivity and access to capital. Simply put, WEOC lessens the barriers getting in the way of your personal and professional success.


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