Yesterday I learned that Titi Branch, Co-Founder of Miss Jessie’s (one of the most popular natural and curly hair products in the country) passed away this weekend from apparent suicide. First, my heart goes out to her sister and family. I can’t imagine the pain you are feeling, but know my thoughts and prayers are with you. Second, Titi Branch’s death brings up a major issue about the challenges women entrepreneurs face and the pressure we feel to excel. The following are three reasons why being a woman entrepreneur is daunting at times.
This is a (Perceived) Man’s World
Although women now make up over 50% of all small businesses, the ones that are highlighted the most in the news and media are companies predominately owned by men. We are often still one of a few women in the room at business and investors events, unless it is a woman-focused occasion. Let me tell you, as an African-American, woman tech entrepreneur, I am usually the only one in the room. As women, we can effectively stand our own when in these settings, but the day in and day out pressure that sometimes comes with feeling we have to be the brightest star in the room just to be considered “worthy” of being there can be heavy. We are increasingly more present at the decision-making table, but are sometimes still not treated as equals (we all know this is still reflective in pay). So to be in the spotlight like the Branch sisters of Miss Jessie’s – company growing exponentially, releasing a new book, countless speaking engagements, mentoring other entrepreneurs - can be very stressful.
I am Superwoman
We sometimes feel we have to be the be-all and end-all, whether it’s because of society, family, or internal pressure. Women often feel like they have to be an amazing business owner, wife, girlfriend, mother, friend, and everything to everyone often times. It can be stressful and exhausting. The reality is that we can’t be perfect at everything at all times. Shoot, it’s hard enough to be “perfect” at one thing. Sometimes we have to focus more time on the business to win that huge contract. Sometimes we need to take a break and have a date night (or weekend) with the boyfriend or husband. Sometimes we just need to spend a day at the park with the kids. But let’s not feel like we have to do all of these things all the time at the same time, especially when you are exhausted. It’s okay to put something “in the parking lot” and come back to it later. It’s even more okay to take time to just focus on yourself (I am a huge fan of going to the spa)!
Can I talk to you?
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be a little crazy. Crazy enough to jump into the unknown and try to create something from an idea. That’s why “crazy” people make the best entrepreneur. That’s why we sometimes need someone to talk to about this. I am a HUGE supporter of seeking professional help and talking to a therapist. This was even brought up recently during Paul C. Brunson’s Mentor Monday panel of Hope interviewing various entrepreneurs. It’s important to have family and friends who support you, but sometimes we need an objective third-party ear to share all our anxieties and frustrations with about life. Sometimes those close to us may not understand the challenges of being an entrepreneur while still trying to be everything to everyone. Or we may feel like we have to be strong for our family and can’t let them know we are dying on the inside. Talking to a therapist can let you release your fears while receiving constructive feedback on how to deal with the challenges.
The journey of entrepreneurship can be rough at times with road bumps that feel like mountains. But there are great benefits: flexibility, creativity, and the chance to create your own destiny. Regardless of what is happening, be encouraged ladies. What we are doing is not easy, but know you are not alone. Know you are loved. Know you will always make it through. Know you can always talk to someone for help.