I am an entrepreneur, and I am a woman. I have these two things and many others in common with the 14 women that we feature in this issue of Maine Women magazine. Beth Sturtevant (page 10) very matter-of-factly says, “Set the direction of the business, and keep it financially on track.” Yes indeed, that is a big part of the job description for any entrepreneur. Dr. Masina Wright (page 13) talks about having support – financial, emotional, family – to help you in the journey. She also provide a huge inspiration for me in her words, “Clarity brings courage.” Think about that for a while.
As I was reading through the material for this issue, I thought a lot about the questions that our editor chose to ask the featured entrepreneurs. The first one: What were the most important needs in getting started? Confidence, self-awareness, money and good people around are some of the common responses. These were all important to me as well when I started Current Publishing more than 13 years ago. I would say that the single most important thing for me was to find the right people to fill the right spots on my team. Erin Oldham (page 5) says “Hire good people and make them work.” I would say “let them work,” because if you hire the right people, they know what to do and how to do it. But I do believe that every good leader must hold people accountable to the work they are responsible for.
The second question, “What was it about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own,” got a common response from our featured women. Many of them came from families where a parent was self employed – all of them came from families where hard work was a huge part of family life. Many of them also mentioned needing courage to be successful. I did not come from a family of entrepreneurs, but both of my parents worked full time for all of my life. My mom took a bus to the city every day to work in a legal office, and my dad did shift work at a factory. It was not a luxurious life, but it was clear to me that whatever we had, we worked hard for.
Like most of the women we asked, I don’t think there are any real advantages to being a woman versus a man when you are an entrepreneur. I do think that there are some things that women come to more naturally than men, and vice-versa, and I also know that women and men can be received very differently – depending on the audience. I believe that the biggest advantage to any entrepreneur lies in the resources we have built when we embark on the journey to start a business. These resources are the foundation of the business, whether they are financial, emotional, human or otherwise. Then, as the business grows and develops, we expand our resources and our knowledge and continue to grow the business. Holly Valero (page 12) says she reads 1,500 articles a week to stay current in her field. To me, that is key: stay current, and if possible stay a little bit ahead of the curve.
The next question we ask is what advice our entrepreneurs would give to others, and each offers great suggestions. Finally, we asked if they knew then what they knew now, would they have done it differently. Most seem to agree on “not really,” but many do say they would have started earlier. For me, I would say the thing I would have done earlier would be to get my MBA. I started my business, like many do, with passion and with experience in one realm of the business – but I was not a business person. I did not start my master’s program until 10 years into the business – I think five years in would have been a much better choice. So, my advice here would be to learn as much as you can about running the business side of your business so that you can be really passionate about the things that you love about your business.
Thanks for reading Maine Women magazine. Happy spring everyone!
Lee Hews, Publisher