Jason just sent me an article from NY Times on why women make such good entrepreneurs even when they have to balance work and family. It brought up all the usual reasons: women are good at multitasking, women are more compassionate, blah, blah, blah... I sometimes get annoyed at these stories because they try to make women look more angelic than they are in real life. This article was more realistic and did mention that women can get just as power hungry as men in the workplace and can take their aggression out on their co-workers even more than men do.
But I think the discussion completely missed the real reason why women often start successful businesses. I believe it's our willingness to start small. Very small. All those start ups that get millions of dollars of venture capital because they want to revolutionize this industry or that industry? Those are started by men. The women interviewed by the NY Times reporter for the article were starting businesses like nanny agencies, and renting “stork announcement” yard signs for new parents. These businesses don't look like much at first, but they are usually profitable from day one because the expenses are so low and before you know it, they can turn into much larger enterprises, like the Tupperware or Mary Kay empires.
Most men (and the academic / corporate culture) encourage people to think big. And most successful women entrepreneurs know how to think small. I don't mean "small" in the negative sense of the word -- just the opposite. When you think small, you make sure you can sustain your business at all stages of development. Besides, there is always room for growth. Could it be that this philosophy comes from women's innate desire to nurture children? On one hand, a new baby can't do much -- no talking, thinking, or walking yet. On another hand, she can't really get herself into much trouble (I am a little scared of the time when Sammy starts to crawl and walk, by the way). But by the time she'll be able to do those big people things, I hope to be more prepared for them. At least that's my theory, but my knowledge of bringing up children is limited to 3 weeks for now.
Why am I writing about women and business all of a sudden? Because I have a baby girl and a toddler of a business. Helen's Kitchen has really taken off since I started it in 2005. By the end of 2006, I managed to quit my software job and teach cooking classes full-time. Obviously, I am taking a break at the moment, but it's time to think about starting to teach again since I have to post the class schedule and start registering people at least 2 months before the classes start. I am planning to start small (that's my strategy with everything in life). On September 15th, I'll start teaching once a week and gradually add more classes after Sammy starts daycare.
Just the thought of all this is scaring me to death at the moment. When will I go shopping, make hand-outs, and clean up the kitchen? When will I process all the registrations? Jason will take care of Sammy while I am teaching, but what if she cries? What if she'll need me and I won't be there? How will I survive taking her to daycare for the first time? It all seems completely overwhelming at the moment. But so was posting the schedule on-line by the end of July. The first 2 weeks, I barely checked my e-mail and just the thought of processing class registrations gave me chills. But here we are: the schedule is up, I am still alive, even after registering 12 people in 2 days, and Sammy is doing well (she loved our first playgroup meeting today :). I did have to reply to lots of registration requests while pumping milk for my little sous-chef (thank god for hands-free pumps!), but women are supposed to be good at multitasking, right?