The 5 Essential Steps to being a Girl Boss.

With 125 women elected into office last November, what a wonderful time to be a strong, independent, and determined woman! 2019 is your year to [professionally] shine, sister!

Female-led businesses have increased 58 percent from 2007 to 2018: there’s no denying women’s impact on the business world. However, women still earn an average of 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. Even worse off, black and Hispanic women earn about 60 cents and 55 cents for every white man’s dollar, respectively.

These are both uplifting and sobering statistics. It’s great that women are taking on the small-business-challenge but the never-ending wage gap remains disheartening. What better way to change the tide than participating in the wave?

In my quest to uplift and empower you, the entrepren-her, I have combed the internet for quintessential and significant tips on how to excel at being a female entrepreneur.

But first, a little tip from yours truly: deep breath and don’t ever forget: girl power.

1) Know your passion and construct your brand.

I believe it goes without saying that the most successful CEOs are passionate ones, albeit male or female. In order to get your business on its feet and sprinting to success, you must have a clear and concise concept in mind. Stay committed to this image as you forge your brand. These are the days of social media, and you should be employing this formidable tool to your advantage. Create an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook page all dedicated to your business. Get the word out and get your logo engrained into the mind of your prospective clients. You ARE passionate and you have a GREAT idea— now get it out there!

2) You don’t have to have hair on your chest to gain respect.

Society has led us to believe that being a business owner is intrinsically tied to a stereotypical “male” attitude: aggressive, harsh, competitive. In a word: macho. You do NOT have to adopt any or all of these qualities to find success. On the contrary, you should be unapologetically you. If we continue to associate these qualities with a successful entrepreneur, or worse, propagate these qualities whether or not they suit us, we will be contributing to the problem. A business owner can be approachable, non-confrontational, and supportive of her counterparts and still find success. And if you do possess some or all of these “male” qualities, then don’t be afraid to assume it. Male and female roles are social-constructs of the past, girl!

3) Your capacity to be a boss, a mother and a wife is your fortitude.

I’ve always found the cliché that women multitask better than men to be conspicuously true. A woman-run business is simply an extension of her already innate capabilities to multitask. Having a family should not be a hindrance but rather proof that you got this! As for the time consumption problem of the equation: I ask you to consider a man in a similar role. Do we patronize the busy businessman? No. Besides, what better a role model than a mama building and securing her future from scratch?

4) Know that you deserve respect then demand it.

I can talk about girl power until I’m blue in the face but talking about it and enacting it are two different things. As a female business owner, you need to exude confidence. Now, be careful not to confuse confidence with the stereotypical “male” attitude we talked about before (unless that is already a part of your personality, in which case, rock on). No, you are confident because you know your product or service inside out. You are confident because you know the brand you have created is exceptional. You are confident because you earned it. Your confidence is your tenacity. This is what will set you apart from your industry counterparts. You may fall victim to others’ ignorance or sexist remarks. But girl, you do not have time for ignorance. You have a prosperous business to run. Shrug it off as best you can because as an entrepren-her, you are constructing a better future for all of us. Don’t shy away from support groups either, we are our best ally. Check out Ewomennetwork or Ellevatenetwork for great advice and support during your path to success. Women supporting women! Disclaimer: Your self-assurance may cause men to shake in their boots.

5) No shame in seeking financing!

During my quest for pertinent information relating to this blog topic, one statistic in particular really shocked me. Just 25% of women seek financing for their business compared to 34% of men who seek funding for their businesses. Queen, there is nothing wrong with getting financial help to get the ball rolling. If you use cash as your main means of capital and shun your back to the lucrative aid of investors you may be cutting yourself short. Starting a business should not be synonymous with bankruptcy, honey. Bear in mind, men usually inflate their financial pitches and investors will, in turn, adjust their numbers right off the bat. It is important to know how to ask concisely for how much you want and adjust your number based on the “exaggeration-effect”.

Female representation in the business world is well overdue. We represent 50% of the population, and eventually…hopefully…50% of all businesses. It is a woman’s right to scoff at stereotypes, demand equal pay, and occupy leadership roles. We seem to be at a turning point in history, so what better time than now to pursue your entrepreneurial dream? Create your brand, be true to yourself, know that family and work DO mix, and command respect. Need more inspiration? Look no further: Leslie, the creator The Blurban Planner, is building her writing empire right before your eyes (and slaying to be perfectly honest). Sign up to this blog for regular inspiration to help construct your own empire and repeat after me: girl power!

An Encounter with Entrepre-hers in the City of Love

Starting a project, a business or a work of art is a lot like starting this very article. A plethora of ideas and possibilities at your very fingertips and the challenge of figuring out how to translate all of that into a tangible, coherent, and meaningful piece [of writing].

That’s why becoming an entrepreneur is both a thrilling and terrifying experience. Unlike writing this article, the tangible product often represents your life's’ investment; the tangible product will be the fruit of many trial-and-error experiences. Who, then, is the archetype of this brave endeavor? Whom do YOU associate with the term “entrepreneur”?

With the stereotype of the entrepreneur being that of a man, I’d like to contribute to breaking apart this assumption by presenting you a few young entrepren-hers bred on fine wine and addictive cheeses. Hailing from the “City of Love” these Parisienne women are anything BUT dependent on a man. They are forging their futures, cultivating their creations, and making multidisciplinary moves. These entrepren-hers are just a few lovely droplets within the glorious wave of women leaders today. From fashion to politics, art to science we, the women, have plenty to influence.

Let’s dive into the literary with the entrepreneurial endeavors of Mathilde and Esther. These two young women are in the process of creating their own publishing house, specializing in artists’ books. This is no easy feat, but each of their complementary backgrounds brings something to the table. Esther is a graphic designer and typographer while Mathilde is a lithographer also trained in the art of bookbinding. These two are so close and supportive of one another that creating a publishing house together is the natural evolution of their incredibly innovative friendship.

Mathilde’s lithography printing press.

Mathilde’s lithography printing press.

So what exactly is the idea, you ask? I had the opportunity to speak with Mathilde directly and she provided some much-needed clarity on the subject. In Mathilde’s words, “the idea is to bring together artists around editorial projects supported by traditional printing techniques such as lithography, engraving, and screen printing”. Sounds enticing: the concept of bringing older, or “traditional”, printing techniques to light in these modern times. With nearly everyone in the Western world carrying a mini computer in their pocket, I am really inspired by their mission to make printed things by hand.

I asked Mathilde where they were in the creation of their publishing house and she responded with an absolutely charming and very demure smile, “We are currently developing our very first publication: a portfolio of lithographs made by tattoo artists!”

I have to admit, my interest then piqued. Lithographs made by tattoo artists? Skin-etching experts exercising their expertise on cold, non-living slabs of stone? The sheer genius of it all…you can share in my stupefaction by following the evolution of their first book on Instagram @peaudepierre (peau de pierre means ‘skin of stone’).

Mathilde (right) working away in her atelier.

Mathilde (right) working away in her atelier.

How did they find the inspiration for something so captivating? Speaking softly but passionately in her native French, Mathilde explained to me that her partner “Esther grew up in the publishing and book business, allowing her to develop the critical thinking that instinctively led her to follow that voice,” with our coffees cooling in the chilly January Parisienne air, we took a little pause to savor the stationary stone facades and bustling fur coats passing by. Sitting on café terraces in Paris is a year-long tradition. The Parisienne way of life is a much more relaxed approach, although equally as adequate (if not better, considering the health effects a stressful approach can have on your body in the long term).

Our coffees now finished, she continued, “for my part, I have always been sensitive to words, paper, and the object of the book in general. These affinities were strengthened during my studies, naturally leading me to bibliophilia, i.e., the book as a work of art, and by extension, printing. I came to the lithography with the need to create the image through an interaction with the material: the stone, such a fascinating and noble entity, the incarnation of immobility and silence which transforms into the support of a visceral expression”.

Mind blown.

Ok, not only is this entrepren-her beautiful and talented, she’s an eloquent genius. At this point in our conversation I wanted to grasp her beautifully articulated words and slap them onto paper, luckily I did more or less just that. I suppose that is the best compliment I can give someone who’s starting a publishing house. If there is any book I’d like to read, it will be one of Mathilde and Esther’s creation.

Wrapping up my time with Mathilde, I asked her what it’s like starting this project as a young woman. Speaking on behalf of her bestie once again, “Esther works independently and puts her capabilities at the service of a variety of clients: publishing houses, cultural magazines, musicians, tradesmen... it’s sometimes difficult to establish oneself as a young typo-graphist despite a prestigious training. You must be open to the needs of customers that you have to anticipate to make yourself indispensable.” I can relate to this. Myself a young working female professional, the need to ‘spread yourself thin’ is a palpable one. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if I had been a boy, gaining respect wouldn’t require me to be a jack-of-all-trades. Yet my experience through the feminine lens I’ve been gifted has made me a jack-of-all-trades and yes, a master-of-many.

Continuing her incredibly inspiring explanation, “as for me, I am independent too, but I work mainly in the Stéphane Guilbaud atelier. I found my mentor, a kind of spiritual father who pushes me forward and gives me the means to embark on ambitious projects”. Here, our conversation deconstructed into the various printing techniques she explores at the atelier. I left our rendez-vous feeling enlightened, enchanted, and most importantly, empowered.

Continuing my endeavor to discover Parisienne entrepren-hers, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Milena, a young upholsterer who creates curtains and cushions and specializes in the restoration of armchairs and sofas from varying eras. This being a rather unique profession, I was compelled to know more. How does one even end up in this line of work? Are there kids out there dreaming of restoring their family’s couch? Luckily, Milena was there to answer all of my burning questions.

First, I had to know what inspired her to pursue this career. Milena, a half French, half Brazilian beauty spoke with conviction, “I have always had a passion for objects and furniture so I wanted to become a designer. I aimed to first learn the craft of the artisan with the intention to move eventually towards the creative side of things.”

Well, at least that’s clear! There ARE little people out there dreaming furniture related dreams!

Milena working away in her Parisien atelier.

Milena working away in her Parisien atelier.

Milena works as an independent craftsperson, but her path to independence was not always an easy one. To get to where she is now, she explains, “I arrived here by not giving up, fighting and advancing a little more each day with perseverance and determination. Initially, I had a partner. I opened a shop and the partnership fell apart. So I decided to continue my business alone, which is not easy day to day but overall, works very well.” Unlike our aforementioned artist-bookworms, speaking with Milena is the proof that a partnership is not always the best path to entrepreneurship.

But restoration? Sounds like a pretty physical undertaking. I was curious about Milena’s experience as a woman in this field. Her demeanor is commanding and engaging; it’s easy to imagine her operating all the heavy machinery involved in the process as well as passing orders to those working beneath her, but does everyone else perceive her this way? She tells me that “as a woman in this business it has not always been easy. It’s a ‘man's job’: it is often necessary to carry very heavy loads. I had a lot of trouble at first to find a job or even an internship in this often misogynist environment where you’re regularly accused of being too weak or too slow. I quickly decided to work for myself. Today, as a woman-upholsterer, I live very well. I have a good relationship with my clients and I do just as well as any man. I have never refused a job.”

The birth of a beautiful hand-made chair, hammer and all.

The birth of a beautiful hand-made chair, hammer and all.

Say it with me now: G I R L   P O W E R.

Here’s this incredible woman before me breaking all the stereotypes in her domain. The proof that any job a man can do, a woman can do--period. Her creations are the epitome of high-quality, handmade works of art and having worked for a couple of well-known brands, Prada for example, Milena is only at the tip of her iceberg of success.

Prada showroom, complete with Milena’s creations.

Prada showroom, complete with Milena’s creations.

Her long term plan is equally as impressive as her current achievements. She intends to “make the business grow, build a great team, and work with friends to mix our trades: upholsterer, cabinet maker, decorator, and architect to offer a complete and diverse service to my customers.” Check out some of her amazing work on Instagram @milenassis_tapissiere

Exchanging with these women was an absolute pleasure-- no, it was a complete intellectual orgasm. These women are taking the great leap into the unknown of business ownership. They are unapologetically diving into the abyss of uncertainty that is being an entrepreneur. These women are willingly taking the risk of creating something from nothing.

The opportunity to speak with such individuals was soup for my creative soul. They inspired me to write and most importantly, get things done. Strong, young, intelligent women with actions and aspirations that role models are made of. I’m pretty sure these women lit a much-needed fire under my butt.

They are creators. They are leaders. They are entrepren-hers.

They are nothing short of incredible women.