Two years ago, the BBC hailed “older women entrepreneurs” as “encore entrepreneurs,” often the most successful and promising demographic in a field where failure is 90+ percent. If you’re a woman considering starting a business or building your entrepreneurial brand, it pays (literally) to learn the tough lessons through osmosis. Now that a h
ealthy amount of successful female entrepreneurs blazed the trails and are happy to share their wisdom, soak up as many tips as you can to create your own shortcuts.
Laurie Pennacchi, CEO of ExpoMarketing, urges all entrepreneurs to always be flexible. ExpoMarketing began 25 years ago (the same time as the Gulf War), which had many of its potential customers on edge and postponing marketing efforts. There was no excess capital since the company was self-funded, so a quick focus change onto smaller projects with aggressive campaigns got them through tough times. Those smaller companies eventually transitioned into big, long-term clients for Pennacchi and her team.
A Passion Project
Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, spoke with Maria Shriver during the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit about the role of passion in her entrepreneurial pursuits. Theranos provides discounted medical testing kits to minimize the number of people forced to say goodbye to their loved ones prematurely. It’s Holmes’ commitment and near tunnel-vision for her goals, brand, employees, and customers that makes her such a standout entrepreneur.
Her advice? “Make sure it’s something you love so much that even if you were fired you would do it over and over again because you’d build it differently.” Being an entrepreneur requires endless ambition, working hours, sacrifice, and funding. If you don’t love your project(s), you’ll burn out very quickly. While the discussion on the how and why of burnout and how to avoid it is becoming more prominent in the workspace, without passion for your work, burnout is nearly guaranteed.
Lessons from the Greats
Marissa Mayer, famed computer scientist, entrepreneur, and current CEO of Yahoo!, first made waves when she took over the enterprise and put a stop to the fast and loose telecommuting rules. She’s now renowned for her business savvy, motivation, and innovative approach to operating a business. “I always did something I was a little not ready to do,” she revealed. “I think that’s how you grow.”
Pennacchi understands the wariness of diving off the deep end, and points out that preparation is key. When you first start a business, there are many big goals and a surplus of enthusiasm. However, you need both short- and long-term goals in order to pave the way for a smooth operation (or as smooth as a startup can be!). Hiccups will occur, and you need the ability to switch directions on short notice. If you can’t survive a downturn, which will occur, your business is in big trouble.
It’s a fantastic time to be a female entrepreneur, with Inc.com reporting that women begin businesses at 1.5 times the average rate in America. Plus, female entrepreneurs rank their happiness three times higher than women who aren’t entrepreneurs. That’s some inspirational numbers that all women can get behind.
 O’Brien, J. “The rise of older women as ‘encore entrepreneurs’.” BBC News (2014). January 16.
 McFarland, M. “’This is what I was put on this earth to do’: Elizabeth Holmes and the importance of passion.” Washington Post (2015). October 12. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2015/10/12/this-is-what-i-was-put-on-earth-to-do-elizabeth-holmes-and-the-importance-of-passion/
 Mayo Clinic Staff. “Job burnout: How to spit it and take action.” Mayo Clinic. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642>.
 Hoare, Rose. “Marissa Mayer: Six life lessons from Yahoo CEO.” CNN Online (2012). July 19. http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/17/tech/mayer-yahoo-career-advice/
 Calhoun, L. “30 surprising facts about female founders.” Inc.com http://www.inc.com/lisa-calhoun/30-surprising-facts-about-female-founders.html