Inspiring a pipeline of female founders

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

Think about it – 40% of all businesses today are started by women.

Our WEOC program works every day to connect women business builders with the resources and networks needed to start and successfully grow their businesses. Dedicated programs and events like our women business builders, mastermind, vlog series, individualized coaching, and targeted business development services inspire and cultivate a vibrant and inclusive entrepreneurial community on the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center campus.

While overall new venture formation rates in the United States have been declining for many decades, we need to encourage more women to start their businesses. Now is the perfect time to encourage young minds to explore this important and transformative career path.

Here are 5 ways to spot and encourage young, female entrepreneurship:

Help her to discern her passion and a path forward. For example, does she love graphic design? Maybe she has an affinity for caring for animals. Both domains could provide a foundation for a business. How might we connect her passion to a startup venture? Along with shadowing a business builder, the uses of psychometric or talent assessments like Predictive Index and BP-10 can help clarify and confirm an aspiration entrepreneurial journey.

Have the money talk. It’s never too early to teach financial literacy. If she has some income from a part-time job like babysitting, she can learn the basics of accounting. For example, half of her income goes in the bank for expenses and the rest is considered “profit” for paying herself or reinvesting in the business. Kids need to understand that entrepreneurship requires money management — and there’s no better way to learn than by doing. Bootstrapping and learning customers before investors can help set the venture and the founder up for long-term success.

Practice soft skills. It’s a fact that people buy from people they know and like, and that means you have to get used to talking to strangers or investors. Stress the importance of creating meaningful connections through eye contact, posture, and building mutual rapport.

Don’t “helicopter her”. As much as parents want to shield their kids from unpleasant experiences, that won’t serve them in the long run. Failure is a natural part of life, and that’s important to accept. On the flip side in grappling with obstacles, she’ll come out stronger with determination, grit, perseverance and problem-solving skills. Along with the financial stress of college loans, young adults wanting to avoid failure is one of the reasons many young people don’t even try entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are resilient and bounce back from adversity. Let your daughter lean into it and see firsthand how to succeed, dig out of a hole and thrive.

Show, not tell. If possible, introduce her to female business builders you know and let her hear their stories firsthand. Such women probably had role models they learned from themselves when they were younger. In other words, show her what success can look like. Our vibrant and inclusive entrepreneurial community is here to be a support system, launch pad and support system for entrepreneurial success.

Speaking of success, the future looks a little brighter for women-owned businesses, according to the latest data available.

  • Women-owned businesses now represent 42 percent of all businesses — nearly 13 million — employing 9.4 million workers and generating revenue of $1.9 trillion, according to the annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.
  • In addition, over the past 5 years, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 21 percent, while all businesses increased by only 9 percent. In other words, women’s contributions to the economy are significant — and we need to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation of female trailblazers.

Visit our student builder program or our WEOC program and learn more about how to start your business or share the opportunity with someone you know who might be interested or even better inspired by doing their own thing!


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