For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to become an entrepreneur. My earliest encounter with the entrepreneurial world was at the age of 7 when I decided to collect blueberries from the field across my grandparents’ house and to venture in the street to sell them to my neighbours. However, it was only last year, when I won in the 2015 McGill Dobson Cup for Entrepreneurs, that I realized that some individuals still believed that women are not welcomed in the power positions of businesses, especially as entrepreneurs.
Throughout the competition, most of my male acquaintances belittled my success, telling me that it was unrealistic for me to win and that my ideas were not good enough. “How is your little project doing?”, “You girls are cute!”, “This is a bit ambitious for you girls, don’t you think?”. These are phrases that resonate in my ears to this date. I felt like I had to work twice as hard to be seen as credible as my male counterparts competing against me. After talking to fellow women competitors and entrepreneurs, I was surprised to learn that they all had similar experiences.
Fortunately, I am particularly stubborn and obstinate, and those remarks did not stop me from pursuing my journey to the podium. Little did these people know that in May 2015, I would convince a panel of five successful entrepreneurs to donate $5,000 to Groundit, a company that I founded with a fellow female student, PhD. Mitalie Makhani. Not only is our company entirely women-owned, but it also aims to reduce pollution and increase food security by transforming coffee grounds from cafés into superior quality and natural fertilizer. However, a lot of women with disruptive ideas remain scared of taking the leap into entrepreneurship and let their ideas die slowly before they can even reach the market.
As women, we are professional at second-guessing ourselves and are a little bit to good at calculating risks. We often overlook the benefits that a career as an entrepreneur can offer us and, instead, settle for stable career that will never truly fulfill our creativity and our internal hustler. Furthermore, it is hard for us, women, to imagine having an entrepreneurial future when we are so misrepresented in high-power positions, with less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs being women.
When it comes to raising capital for their venture, women are also disadvantaged compared to men. In fact, when a woman wants to access capital through governmental agencies or venture capitalists, she is less likely to step out of the room with a check then if she was from the opposite gender, says professor Donna Kelley from Babson University.
When they do have access to capital and launch a business, women tend to open smaller local retail businesses such as bakeries and hair salons instead of creating more disruptive and scalable ventures. Do not get me wrong, I love cupcakes and highlights! However, we should not be scared to go all in if we have a bold idea.
Although I often felt repressed and marginalized during my entrepreneurial journey, it made me realize that women should not have to prove that they have the potential to revolutionize the marketplace like their men peers; they are essential in today’s entrepreneurial community. Women are fierce, smart, empathic, skillful, creative and active listeners. They invented windshield wipers, anti-reflective glasses and liquid corrector. They are accountants, engineers, chemist and managers that could all become the founder of the next Google or Tesla. Recent studies even show that ventures owned by women tend to last longer!
If you ever wondered about how it is to be a women entrepreneur, I can tell you from first-hand experience that it is bumpy ride, but that it is worth every tear and drop of sweat. If you have been fantasying about being your own boss or thinking about a business idea, I urge you to exploit these thoughts and to start writing a business plan. If you ask me, McGill Dobson Cup is the perfect way to have access to world-class mentorship and to win thousands in funding and services. Trust me, this experience changed my life and I know it can change yours too!