In this blog post, we gather some tips from female entrepreneurs who participated in the EIT Food EWA Program.
Women own 36% of small businesses worldwide and currently these businesses generate around 1.9 trillion dollars in revenue and employ more than 9 million people. If we got into a time machine and went back 50 years to tell women that in the future they would be in charge of big, medium and small companies they would have said we were being very ambitious, to say the least.
Today, the percentage of women in front of small businesses has been increasing. Still, many women face barriers when it comes to starting their own business: they lack the confidence and the encouragement to fill leadership roles, they lack the funding to develop their businesses, and they lack female referrals and support networks. Thus, programs and initiatives that encourage women to enter the startup world continue to be a necessity. According to Legaljobs, 59% of startups have programs designed to increase the number of women in leadership positions.
This week, we decided to dedicate an article to the ladies who want to start their startups in the agri-food area, since we have open applications for EWA, an EIT Food program designed to develop women’s entrepreneurial skills and help them get funding for their food and agricultural businesses. So, we asked two female entrepreneurs from our EIT Food network to share some of their business knowledge and help us create this list of 4 important lessons for aspiring women entrepreneurs.
#1. Resilience and purpose
It’s a cliché, but it's true that enjoying what you do, having a big goal in mind and never giving up, are the main keys to a successful business. Having a purpose is particularly relevant. A sense of purpose makes you dedicate yourself to a cause beyond yourself, fueling your motivation and giving you meaning and direction.
For Iracema Rosa Stramota, Executive Director of Grow In Peace and founder of the Agrolux project, this is the transformative element that every woman entrepreneur must have:
"Nowadays, it’s common to say that the main characteristic of an entrepreneur is resilience. I have no doubts that part of success lies in our ability to overcome adversity, and transform difficult moments into opportunities. However, and because the difficult times last longer than we'd like, I believe that what truly defines an entrepreneur is his/her purpose. The ability to stay inspired, in a highly competitive and uncertain environment."
#2. Face your fears
Sometimes, to achieve what you want, you have to break your bubble and go beyond your comfort zone. These fears, of course, will be different for each entrepreneur, but they often have to do with the fear of failure, and it's normal if you think like that. However, excessive fear can be paralyzing and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Our advice is that you think about your fear without the judgment that makes you back off, and then take calculated risks.
On facing fears, our EWA alumni, Gabriella Sá, told us that she considered herself "a more conservative lawyer" and that EWA helped her step out of her comfort zone.
"Participating in the EWA program meant completely stepping out of my comfort zone and discovering that through my work I can help innovative ideas achieve their due prominence in the world."
#3. Look for support
It's not impossible to achieve success alone, but the truth is that the process is much easier when you build support networks. There’s no need to be afraid to ask for help from those who can benefit your business, as it’s natural that we are not experts in all areas. This support can come from your own team, from friends, mentors, professionals, among others.
For Gabriella Sá, the EWA program was a great help. Gabriella is a lawyer but also works at the Portuguese startup Shimejito, and participated in the 1st edition of the EIT Food EWA program in Portugal.
"I represented Shimejito in the latest edition of the EWA program and won second place. Certainly, after participating in all the mentoring classes and performing the proposed exercises, my mind opened up and I realized that I can be much more than a lawyer, I can be an entrepreneurial lawyer."
Her advice to all female entrepreneurs who want to participate in the program is to make the most of the resources, contacts and knowledge that mentors and industry experts share.
"Enjoy each class, each teaching, and each exercise to get to know their own brand and proposal better. Unfortunately, we often have a great product, but if the message doesn't get across well, it can be confusing for those interested. Also, don't forget that behind your product there is a person, a story, some reason why it came about, that needs to be told so that people can sympathize."
#4. Believe in your potential
Finally, having self-belief is decisive. This could be both the most important step and the biggest challenge to achieve success.
You will not always feel confident and comfortable throughout your entrepreneurial journey. But it’s essential to remember every day your value, your commitment and your talent. There are no limits to what you can achieve when you have the confidence to continue to face challenges and learn.
As Gabriella Sá said "the world is small for women like us!"
Apply for EWA by Sunday (June 20) and join a group of 10 talented women ready to start their businesses!