Here’s an idea for women who bump up against the glass ceiling at work: Create your own business where you own the ceiling. And the good news about that DIY approach to business is that it’s easier than ever before.
Christy Wright is an entrepreneur and business coach whose mission is to help create a “movement of women making money doing what they love.” It’s a needed message.
I have five adult daughters and have watched them as they struggle to make their way in the marketplace over the years while also making room for family life. At times, business can seem stacked against women.
What Wright has to say gets them excited.
A couple of my daughters were in an audience when Wright gave a presentation. Suddenly I started getting a flurry of texts saying, “Dad, you’ve got to connect with Christy. She’s amazing!”
Wright was six months old when her newly single mother started a cake shop that eventually employed fifteen people.
She saw certain key traits while growing up in that business. Wright recalls “sleeping on flour sacks and sugar bags” before she went to school because her mother would have to be there very early in the morning to get those cakes baking.
“I started my first little side business myself when I was twenty-three to help pay the bills,” Wright said. It wasn’t because her mother advised her to—it was because her mom had modeled business bootstrapping.
Wright had always wanted to try country life. She visited a forty-acre farm with an eleven-stall barn and decided to rent it out. That could have been a problem since the rent was three times as much as she had been paying. But her entrepreneurial upbringing gave her a leg up.
She reasoned, “There’s no way I can afford it, but I’ll just start a little business boarding horses and that will help me pay my rent. So that’s what I did.”
Wright had zero experience on a farm, but she made life there work because she followed her mother’s example. Many women don’t have that example, so Wright has written a book to help make more of their dreams come true by becoming entrepreneurs.
From our conversation, I took four lessons that can help women in the marketplace today. And I’ll let the guys in on a secret: Men can benefit from these lessons too.
1. Find Something You’re Passionate About
Passion and Proficiency are very important to business success. Wright emphasizes the passion side of the equation because of her perspective on how women are motivated to succeed.
“Why you do it will always affect how you do it,” she explained. If you love what you’re doing, “You put a different level of passion into every detail of your work,” making success all the more likely.
2. Take Some Risks and Learn from Them
Wright points out that because of the internet and social media, we have ready access to much larger markets than before. Marketing our goods and services is easier and cheaper. We can raise capital through several websites and other sites serve as incubators and resellers.
“The barrier to entry into the marketplace is lower than ever before. You can dip your toe in the water with very low risk and very low cost. And so it’s a great time to try some things out,” she said.
It may not always work, or work as well as we’d want. But lessons are much less expensive to learn these days. And with the right attitude, those lessons can help us to adjust and grow our businesses for future success.
3. Everyone Wants More Flexibility in Business
One of the frustrations women (and men!) have with corporate environments is how much time they demand and when they demand that time. Often, they don’t leave much margin for life.
If you strike out on your own, you can design your own business with your own values in mind. And those values can include the flexibility that you and others need to have room for life.
In Wright’s way of thinking, this doesn’t always include a strict separation of business and private life. When she goes on the road to speak to audiences, for instance, she often takes her son with her. But it does include the insistence that women’s business efforts should give them more room for life.
4. Independence Is Important
One warning Wright had for fledgling female entrepreneurs was this: Don’t let your inexperience lead you to make commitments that will start to feel like that glass ceiling again.
She specifically cautioned against getting into partnerships before you know what you’re doing, only to have that partnership frustrate you and cost you a bundle in the future. “Find ways to do business with others without going into business with others,” she says.
And let me say, from years of experience as an entrepreneur, that’s sound advice.
Question: Which of these lessons resonate with you? What are some other ways you could own your own ceiling and accomplish your goals?