To celebrate Women’s History Month, we asked female entrepreneurs about the women in their lives who influence them most. In an outpouring of responses, people shared their female role models, from Oprah to Dolly Parton. However, the overwhelming majority of responses were stories not about celebrities, but about mothers, grandmothers and daughters. It’s often the women closest to us who serve as the biggest inspiration and motivation in our lives.
“The most influential woman in my life was my mom,” said Monique Davis. The owner of Gladiatrix Coaching, a coaching business specializing in teens, parents and women, shared advice from her mother that she lives by. “She always told me through all of the hard things in life, ‘cry today, be sad today, feel it today and then tomorrow you move.’”
Eleni Polychroniadou’s mother showed her that “Women can do anything when they put their mind to it, even when things get difficult.” Co-founder at Sintali, an environmental certification body, Polychroniadou said, “Her story serves as a reminder that life doesn’t stop for women when they have children, something which I think is important to hold on to.”
Many women cited their mothers as role models who showed them that although balancing a career and a family is not easy, it is possible. As busy professionals who are also expected to be loving mothers and family members, many female entrepreneurs reflected on their appreciation for mothers who managed to do both.
We look for wisdom and unconditional support from our grandmothers too.
For Imam Ingram, it was her grandmother who pushed her to start her fashion design business, By Iman Akilah. “Lucinda Joyce Crawford-Belin was my grandma and my greatest influence. She influenced me not only to be a woman of my word, a loving mom and a loyal friend, but she influenced me to believe in myself and start my clothing line.”
Jennifer Conroyd, founder and CEO of Fluid Running, shared her grandmother’s inspiring story. “The greatest reason she influenced me so much was her unconditional love for me. She was the one person who ‘saw something’ in me.”
It’s not only the women before us – the next generation of women can provide inspiration and motivation. Megan Nivens-Tannett, CEO and founder of Flourish, a digital marketing firm, said, “The most influential woman by far is my 16-year-old daughter.” Nivens-Tannett shared how her daughter believed in her even when she didn’t. “She’s still an unstoppable force and my biggest cheerleader,” she says.
Daughters can be both a source of unconditional support and hope for the future. Amy Osmond Cook, founder of Stage Marketing Chief Marketing Officer at Simplus, a Salesforce implementation partner, cites her four daughters as her biggest influences. “They question why the world is the way it is and believe they can change it. I believe they will.”
The future is certainly bright: female business ownership has more than doubled over the past two decades. Women represent one of the fastest-growing segments of entrepreneurship. However, female business owners still face significant challenges.
How can female entrepreneurs support each other?
In a recent survey of 1,013 female small business owners, women named lack of funding, (47 percent) and work-life balance (38 percent) as their biggest obstacles. These were followed by marketing, difficulty growing, and networking. Despite promising growth for small businesses over the last few years, starting a business is hard, especially for women. So, how can female entrepreneurs support and influence each other?
Three-quarters of women entrepreneurs said mentorship significantly contributed to their business’s success. Sharing knowledge, connections and advice with other female entrepreneurs is a valuable way to support each other. Founder and CEO of BAM marketing and communications Beth Bamberger says introductions are an impactful way to support female entrepreneurs. She believes that even one “immense” introduction can be life-changing for women in business.
So, share networks and make connections. Look for women-owned and operated businesses, manufacturing and supply chain companies, consultants and services in your community. Don’t just buy from them, partner with them.
As female entrepreneurs, supporting each other can be the most important and influential thing we do. April Maccario, founder of AskApril, summed it up best: “I believe in women supporting other women,” she said. “If the career path I carved out will allow other women to climb their way up, I have accomplished my purpose as a female entrepreneur.”