Welcome to this month’s installment of our Normalize This Series. Women’s entrepreneurship is a topic we hold close to our hearts. We at Attn: Grace are proud to be female-founded, and we are constantly inspired by the incredible women in our network. The truth is that we’ve come a long way. Our role as women in the workplace has grown exponentially. The Economist named the economic empowerment of women as one of the most remarkable revolutions of the past 50 years. Women contribute more than $3 trillion to the economy and own over 36 percent of all businesses. Female founders that manage to raise capital are flourishing. By way of example, women-founded companies in First Round Capital’s portfolio outperformed companies founded by men by 63%. But despite these remarkable statistics, startups with women founders received less than 3 percent of all venture capital invested each year. Sadly, there is much to be normalized.
Today, on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, we want to honor our collective progress as well as share some powerful inspiration. We asked our phenomenal community of successful female entrepreneurs what advice they might have for women considering starting their own entrepreneurial journeys and their response was overwhelming. We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we did.
Let’s get inspired!
“Entrepreneurship has no age limit. As we age, we collect more tools, resources, and experiences that better prepare us for the challenging journey of starting a business. Leaning into your life expertise is the way to win. And to underscore the point, research from Penn State demonstrated that the most successful entrepreneurs are over 45. What's more, a 50 year old entrepreneur was 1.8 times more likely to achieve high growth than a founder in their 30s.
So keep building ladies. We need more brilliant women building growing companies that change our world for the better - and model their success to the rest.”
“I started my third and best company at age 50. ‘Older’ entrepreneurs benefit from the experience and wisdom gained, driving these founders to combine lessons learned with passion and drive that leads to better companies and outcomes.”
Pam Marrone, PhD
Founder & Director, Marrone Bio Innovations
“I started my entrepreneurial Journey at 28 and I am turning 58 this year. In 30 years I learned so much about myself and the world. Things always change, but being a woman in business in many ways hasn't changed a bit. The struggles are the same, raising capital, balancing family, dealing with the never ending info and data flowing towards us. Clearly, there are more "voices" than ever out there serving us, leading us and contributing to our success, voices that take into account our differences. The most important voice, however, is my own. It is louder, clearer, unapologetic, and most concerned with "my being" than in pleasing other beings!”
Chief Mood Booster & Founder, Adoratherapy
“My advice to new entrepreneurs is two-fold: 1) make sure the problem you’re solving is acute and that your solution is a painkiller, not a vitamin; 2) surround yourself with folks far more talented but just as passionate as you, whether that’s a co-founder, an executive team, or an investor. This will be a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s not as glamorous as it looks so I really hope Founders take time to prioritize their health and personal perspective. In the early days of my first apparel business, I was steaming and hanging clothes, for my second business, Manicube, I was sterilizing and barbiciding tools every day in my bathtub, and now with Exponent, I’m kitting out Vitamin C Test Kits and running around in my car dropping off samples for consumer focus groups. The day-to-day is such an exercise in bouncing between ‘doing’ and ‘thinking’ so keeping sight of your vision, your ‘why’ for doing what you’re doing needs to be meaningful.”
Elizabeth R. Whitman
Founder & CEO, EXPONENT
“The most important part of my entrepreneurship journey has been intergenerational mentorship and collaboration. We have so much to learn from each other, and there is so much power we hold when we can lean on, trust, and depend on each other. We're in this together!”
“Two cliches are very true in the case of being a founder - it's a journey/adventure with ups and downs, and it takes a village.
The challenges and hurdles we face as female founders were not instantly apparent to me. At first, I was able to take an idea, work with former colleagues and friends in my network to vet it, and find the right partners to bring it to life. I partnered with and chatted to men and women, just good people who had more expertise in areas I was lacking.
In my experience, over this 4+ year adventure (and counting!), the hurdles and unequal treatment are subtle but over time are increasingly popping up more and more. I just stay focused on the bigger picture and surround myself with smart, thoughtful, driven people of all backgrounds to continue to grow the business and evolve as a founder.”
Staying positive doesn't mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days, you know that there are better ones coming."
Founder & CEO, Type:A Brands
“For me, there is nothing more important than discipline and trust, having become an entrepreneur at 52. Discipline to stay the course when things are challenging and to provide some safety for those who depend on me. And trust in a purpose that is bigger than the monetary success of my company. True success for me is when your company meets the needs of the community it is meant to serve and that your team is in lock step with that vision to make it possible.”
CEO, State of Menopause
“Throughout my 20-year career in the corporate tech space, I kept dreaming of doing something “big with impact”, but I never knew what that meant until I met a woman who was on the ground floor of building Neutrogena, who had a vision for helping others through menopause. She was in a place in her life where starting a new company wasn’t in her roadmap, but she urged me to make the leap. I quit my job and started Gennev without a grand plan or having done much research. I learned by doing. And it was the best way to learn. I urge every woman with a ‘dream’ to seize that opportunity – planned or unplanned. The learning is in the journey and when your heart is filled with the work you do, you will find a way to figure it out. You’ll learn what you’re made of.”
CEO & Co-Founder, Gennev
"Entrepreneurship is tough, but what's going to carry you through is believing in yourself and knowing that every problem has a solution. Having an optimistic mindset will help you navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship."
“Find what fuels you, makes you angry, makes you proud, makes you want to change the world, and go after it, with every fiber of your being. Most importantly, just keep going.”
“Menopause is our passage to power. This is the time in our lives when we have the most freedoms, were the wisest we’ve ever been and frankly we don’t give a crap what others think about us. PAUSE, make your plan, and grab your power!”
CEO & Founder, The Pause Group, Inc.
"What do you want to be when you grow up? Well, at 53, I’m still “growing up”. I learned along the way that the answer to that question is not finite. Instead, it’s a continuum of various destinations that bring joy, and that each step prepares you for the next.”
Debbie Dickinson, Esq.
Founder & CEO, Thermaband, Inc.
“I think making a mid-career switch is both brave and smart. We gain perspective and experience with time and thus bring all of that to any new endeavor. My recommendation for anyone starting a new business or pursuing a passion project is to not try to do it alone. Building an advisory board and asking for support will not only improve the process but yield a better result.”
Founder & CEO, Brilliantly
“Follow your intuition one step at a time! Trust your gut but also think of the quickest way to check your assumptions.”
“Perfectionism is the enemy of momentum - momentum is the measure for success.”
CEO & Founder, RIPA Global
“Do what you love, and be aware that it’s not a guarantee of ease; rather, it’s a guarantee that when it’s hard, you keep your humanity and your sanity. In authentic entrepreneurship, courage is the ask and the reward.”
“Just jump in and start it! You will learn and adjust along the way. Too many women want to know everything and feel that they are going to make all the right decisions before getting started. There is NO right way to start or run a business and it is NEVER too late to try it!”
“Create the time and space to slow down and get clear internally, so you can be clear with your team and partners.
Over the last few years as we've been building Origin, I find myself in constant go-go-go mode and switching contexts all day, from marketing to finance, internal to external. I've realized I can't show up and provide clear direction or give honest feedback if I don't have the time to process things myself. This means trying to end meetings 5 minutes early so I have a buffer to jot down next steps, daily journaling, weekly resetting priorities, and monthly goal calibration exercises. I tend to lean more creative so all this structure felt excessive at first but it's been a game changer!
I also try to check myself and share with my team when I'm reacting in real time and thinking on the spot versus when I have a fully baked perspective. Both are totally fine, but I realized that sometimes my thinking out loud mode can create confusion and be perceived as directive, so I'm much more explicit now in what mode I'm operating in.”
Co-Founder and CEO, Origin
“They say the world whispers until it shouts, and one day an idea will shout that it’s ready to be born through you. When that day comes, trust yourself that you are ready. Know it won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding; it won’t be linear, but it will all make sense looking back. My advice in taking this leap of faith is to know that the biggest first step is remembering your ideas are worthy, and no one on the planet is quite capable of doing what you so uniquely do.”
Co-Founder & CEO, Superbloom Health
"No one will ever believe in you more than you believe in you. Cultivate a powerful mindset, find the people who will help you go big, invest in new skills and rewrite your story. This is your time!"
Founder, Million Dollar Women
“Learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable!”
“I think women are uniquely gifted to become successful entrepreneurs. A generalization, of course, but we typically respond to all inquiries, express appreciation, attend to the details, are master multi-taskers, infinitely resourceful, resilient and determined. I became CEO of MinuteClinic when I was 54, though I had done many other startups previously as a part of larger organizations. The 4 years before the sale to CVS were some of the hardest and most exhilarating of my life. I'm so glad I got to share that experience with my daughters who were 11 and 14 at the time.”
Former CEO, MinuteClinic
"Trust your gut. When all you can think about is the problem you want to solve, there's a strong chance others want you to solve it too. I always ask myself, why not you?"
Co-Founder & CEO, Diem
“I started my first company at 26 and my latest company at 50, over 12 years ago. The good news is that after 50 you're better connected, you're more confident and you've seen so much more in terms of mistakes and recovery that you have much more wisdom to guide you. You've also seen how NOT to do things so you can often make decisions based on doing the opposite -- like treating people well, listening and caring. Plus, most of us are far less naive at 50+ which means we'll be less likely to get taken advantage of! All in all, I recommend entrepreneurship at any age, but I find it can be far more satisfying now that I know who to call to help out and I'm more willing to ask for help.”
CEO, Thought Leadership Lab
"I am 51 years old and left my corporate executive job as the breadwinner in our family after 27 years. I know now that I was always meant to advocate for women and I wanted to show my children that it is never too late to bet on yourself."
Co-Founder & CEO, TOP the organic project
-“There are many paths to success, and with products and services that are centered on women’s sexual health and wellness, the path may be over, under, or around the most direct route to the goal. You don’t have to like these extra barriers and double-standards, but to succeed, you’ll have to acknowledge them and find ways to circumvent them—and be prepared ahead of time for the extra distance that may be added to your trip.
- Never, ever, ever take “No” for an answer. You may hear “No” a dozen times. You may hear it a hundred times. But somewhere out there is your “Yes,” and if you stop before you get there, somebody else will hear it—not you. Many of the 50+ entrepreneurs I know interviewed in the coming describe doors slamming (both literally and proverbially) in their faces at some point in their careers —until they finally met the right funder/partner/savior who “got it,” who took a chance on them and their businesses.
- It’s OK to ask for help from people who have fought the same battles—it’s a best practice. You can preserve sanity, time, and precious resources if you can turn to others you respect (in your industry or out) as your personal, business brain trust.
- Never, ever lose your sense of humor or sense of perspective. I often think of several famous lines from one of my all-time favorite movies, Airplane. As events start to go terribly wrong and it appears a plane crash is imminent, the chief air traffic controller, masterfully played by Lloyd Bridges, says, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop smoking.” And he lights up. At the next crisis point, he says, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop drinking.” Commence the pour. Finally, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” Many were the days when that sentiment described how I felt during my own journey, and tapping into humor kept me from becoming totally discouraged.”
Rachel Braun Scherl
Managing Partner & Co-Founder, SPARK Solutions for Growth
"Your Story's Not Over...it's just the beginning of a new ERA! There is a new surge of women (of all ages) who have the desire, aptitude, experience, and energy to start their own businesses, and/or to guide younger entrepreneurs on how to grow their businesses. They are motivated not only to create wealth, but also to leverage their intellect, creativity, and insight to make a meaningful impact in their sphere of influence. Entrepreneurship is one of many ways we women can thoughtfully address and solve real and pressing issues and redefine outdated notions of "retirement".
Together we are proving that "it's never too late to cultivate your purpose, harness your extraordinary, and monetize your brilliance."
Yes, it’s true — life is short, ladies, but also life is loooong. And we mean that in the best way possible! So many of us, women in our midlife and beyond, are reinventing ourselves and our careers, pursuing new passions and investing in developing new ideas. Entrepreneurship amongst women over 50 is trending in a most exciting way, and we, for one, are cheering all of us on! Let’s do this.
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