Granted there’s no “standard” entrepreneur, but ask someone what they envision an entrepreneur to look like and they probably have some idea of the profile. Maybe they envision a Millennial, male or female, who’s ambitious and happy to pay the exorbitant costs of living in Palo Alto for a chance to make big cash.
Maybe they envision a former male CEO who’s a little older, but finally giving up the corporate grind in order to re-embrace past dreams of starting his own companies. However, the less likely profile is that of a middle aged woman—whether you think that’s a fair assessment or not.
Women, especially older women, of course face stereotypes, stigmas, and prejudices even in today’s “progressive” era (and maybe especially in today’s progressive era!) However, having people underestimate you can be a powerful tool in the entrepreneurial landscape. The Kauffman Foundation reported in 2014 that people between the ages of 45 and 54 are starting more businesses than anyone else. Last year, an incredible 30 percent of new entrepreneurs were 45-54, which was a huge spike of 25.2 percent from ten years ago. Also last year, those aged 20 through 34 were starting the least amount of businesses, which is down 22.7 percent from ten years ago.
Starting a business as a woman later in life comes with hurdles. These women are more often dealing not just with sexism, but ageism too. According to three female founders, Cynthia Schames (AbbeyPost), Sara Schaer (KangaDo), and Anna Zornosa (Ruby Ribbon), it’s not an easy path. Schaer says, “Twenty-something year old men have a completely different style of pitching, where they don’t necessarily know the answers to all the questions but they’re so brash about it they’re extremely convincing.” These men pose an unfair and serious threat for any entrepreneur who doesn’t use the same tactics.
Using Their Skills
All three women say that as an older female entrepreneur, it’s more critical than ever to choose the right investors. They cite a need to compensate for their gender and age. Schames says, “It’s weird to go to a meetup and literally be the oldest person in the room. If you sit there and dwell on it, you feel like a total outsider.” Remember that age can also be an advantage, since these women are used to massive juggling and multi-tasking. They may have more drive than their younger and/or male counterparts from their experiences.
Women in this group have also found people have no qualms about asking personal questions—like how they’ll manage a company and kids. In their 20s, they say they weren’t asked that because it was assumed that as a young, driven woman, they didn’t have kids yet. The best way to educate others and succeed is by showing a fantastic track record, which is what women in their 40s and 50s often have in spades.
It’s never easy to be an entrepreneur and there are challenges for everyone, even those males, whom are the 20-somethings. Understanding your hurdles and facing them head on is what can make or break your entrepreneurial venture.