Whether we are moms or aunties, we obviously know how to nurture the young beings in our lives so they will grow and develop properly.
In other areas of our lives, where we are trying to grow, sometimes we hold back.
Today’s case in point: a business we are trying to start on the side of an otherwise comfortable life.
Generally speaking, if you are the sole breadwinner in your situation, like Jackie, this post is not for you.
Jackie is a single mom with a full time job that covers her living expenses while she is starting her business on the side. Women like Jackie tend to move faster and make progress more quickly.
Even though it is not easy, it may involve taking on debt or cutting back uncomfortably, Jackie feels empowered to spend money. She doesn’t have to negotiate with a life partner.
She knows that she can reasonably expect her existing salary to continue while she gets the foundation in place for a new venture.
Finally, Jackie knows that replacing the income from her current job is the key to making the transition to working for herself, so she’s more open to taking risks to get there sooner.
This makes for very busy days and weekends, of course. But it is an almost perfect combination of cushion and pressure cooker to add up to a huge advantage, even though it doesn’t always feel like it.
This isn’t just my opinion.
Why do you think the fastest rate of business creation, by a long shot, in the United States is coming from African American and immigrant women? These are 2 sectors of women in the US that are likely already working a day job, see opportunity in entrepreneurship, and need to show progress quickly on their side business because they don’t have much of a resource cushion.
They are showing the rest of us the way.
This post is for women starting a business from a place of abundance - a dual income situation, or a situation where one partner makes good money and the household doesn’t really “need” a second income.
In other words, a nice cushion.
On the one hand, that sounds like a dream scenario, right?
Well, it isn’t always, and especially for women.
The first point is obvious. It can undermine a sense of urgency. Entrepreneur magazine says this of people (not just women) with a cushion:
You’ll naturally consider your startup more of a hobby than a living, and you’ll be less motivated to nurture it to fruition. Rather than being motivated by the sink-or-swim nature of sole entrepreneurship, your safety net will keep you from fully mentally investing in your enterprise.*
The second point is more gender specific. Women usually deal with some level of guilt, self-doubt and fear. I'm not saying that's you. But if it rings a bell, read on.
Let’s say Viv has worked part time for years, and her spouse’s income pays the bills. She prioritized a flexible part-time schedule to accommodate her family's schedule. As her kids get older, she’s ready to scale her business, or perhaps start a new one.
In this case, Viv has more hesitation and reluctance to spend money on the business than Jackie does, because that would mean spending the money that her spouse makes, and likely some of their savings, on her business.
She also has to claim more of her time as her own, time that her family is used to her spending on their priorities.
Those can be hard conversations to have so Viv tries to save money by doing almost everything herself, at odd hours and late at night.
This leads to a tough cycle:
This isn’t growing your business on the side, this is sucking the enjoyment out of a hobby while keeping it on life support.
I’m projecting here, because I was Viv in many ways. I’ve interviewed dozens of women about their business dreams, too, and there are a lot of Vivs out there.
I also see women in dual income relationships who make good money do the same thing. The family takes amazing vacations, but suddenly when it comes to spending money on a VA to support her in a fledgling business, they can’t afford that.
I’m not here to tell anyone how to run their life, hobby, side business, or finances. If you are feeling frustrated or discontented, I am here to encourage you to make your choices and enjoy them, and not let creeping expectations undermine you.
I have heard women in this cycle express guilt over “not growing fast enough”. It’s a catch 22, they don’t spend money on the right things to help get them to where they can grow, or even fail, faster.
Wait, did I just say fail? Yes, I did. No one wants to think that their business is going to fail, especially if they are spending money that they don’t feel is “their money” on it.
But the reality is, sometimes money is not the problem. It’s the wasting of TIME that is the real robbery.
You do want to find out what is wrong with your idea sooner rather than later. If you have a cushion, there is a danger of spending 2 years “working on a business idea” that is bound for failure, rather than spend 6 months in an inexpensive process testing that idea, and move on or adjust if the first version “fails”.
When a side business is a good thing.
There is nothing wrong with a side business. I just talked to a friend in real estate about video for her business.
She said, "No, no! Don't tempt me, I don't want to be any busier than I am now."
That kind of clarity is healthy.
The problem is when our ego (and possibly others) tells us that isn't good enough, we harbor expectations around it being more than that, but in reality we don’t feed it enough - we starve it’s growth.
This is a recipe for discontent. Been there, done that.
1) Accept and enjoy that its a side business, part time for now. Have fun learning and experimenting.
2 ) Go for it.
I encourage you to consider #2.
If you are fortunate to live in the US, sitting on cushions created by education and decent income, and you want to build a business, consider taking on a little more risk to move faster.
I live in Mexico City and have traveled extensively.
One reason I live here is because it is much less expensive for me while I build my business. I chose not to pursue alimony during my divorce even though there was huge disparity between my earnings and my ex-husband's income (partly due to the Viv effect I just described above).
I started over with no source of support outside of savings, side work from online video editing, and fledgling revenue from some new ventures.
I only mention that to let you know I'm walking my talk, I'm not "shoulding" you and suggesting you do something I have not done, and continue to do.
Mexico City is filled with small entrepreneurs and thousands of family businesses. It is inspiring but it is not glamorous. Prices and wage are quite low. The retirement safety net does not exist unless you work for the government or big companies for years - those jobs are hard to get. It is long hours and a lot of hard work to make ends meet. The banks are terrible.
I also currently share my life with a man who grew up here without much money or good social connections. In Mexico, you need one or the other to get ahead.
Living outside of my country, seeing life here through his eyes, has shown me that even with the barriers (racial, gender) that still exist in the US and other developed countries, first world women have incredible opportunities and resources at their fingertips that women in other countries do not.
This is what the immigrants to our country see clearly. The American Dream for them is not home ownership. It is the freedom to start a small business in an environment where the rules are clear, their investment is protected by a functioning rule of law, and they are supported by a healthy banking system.
This is not meant to guilt anyone in the US. I'm also not saying that American women are automatically better off in every way. I like the way Latinas make time for friends, family and leisure. I don’t miss the hyper-consumeristic, over-scheduled pace of my homeland.
It’s simply to give you some perspective and encourage you to consider taking on a bit more risk to move faster.
Because quite frankly, ladies, the world needs you out here, sooner rather than later.
So if you are ready trade in a little cushion and grow your business, check out this post 3 Smart Steps for Women to Move a Side Business to Center Stage.