In an open letter to inspire future women entrepreneurs, Anne Ravanona shares some of the key things she has learned on her journey so far.
Dear Female Founder,
Here’s the thing – a secret you know deep down inside of you: you already have everything you need inside you to succeed and be a fantastic entrepreneur.
From one global woman entrepreneur to another, I have five key messages to help you on your unique journey.
1. Be yourself
My mother would often write those wise words to me when I was younger. As Oscar Wilde put it: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
As an entrepreneur, you really have the opportunity and owe it to yourself to truly be yourself. The more authentic you are, showing the real you (yes, warts and all), the better you will resonate with customers, your team, your investors, other stakeholders and – most of all – yourself.
Being an entrepreneur – a change-maker, someone who sees a problem they passionately want to fix and does everything in their power to fix it – takes a huge amount of energy. You will have many decisions to make every day. You can’t waste energy trying to be someone else, or hide behind a mask.
Your team will follow you and go the extra mile for you and your customers. Your investors will invest in you because of what makes you unique – your special mix of character, values, personality, experience, talents and passion. Your family and friends will enjoy your quality time with them, all because you are the real you, at home and at work.
I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was 17. At 21, I opened up a sales office for an Irish company in France, straight out of college, in an industry I knew nothing about. I changed sectors, roles and professions every three to four years, and honed five languages as the voracious, curious learner that I am. Then I decided to be true to myself and my passion: help women leaders in business reach their full potential and create more gender equality. My deepest value.
I founded Global Invest Her to help women entrepreneurs get funded faster through demystifying funding. Every day, we change hearts, minds, systems. We will not wait 80 years for gender equality. We are doing our part now.
2. Be brave
Starting and running your own company is hard, and so worth it! You have to be brave enough to say no to a steady salary, clear career path and more stability than on the entrepreneurial rollercoaster. You may create new markets, new products, new services or ways of thinking, so be brave and stand by the decisions you make. Expect and embrace all the nos on the journey to yes.
Embrace your mistakes. Be brave enough to own them. Fix them, and move on. Don’t beat yourself or your team members up about them.
You have chosen the path of the pioneer, an unchartered course, uncertainty. When doubt rears its ugly head (it will) and that little voice makes you lose confidence (it may), it’s time to …
3. Believe in yourself
Easier said than done, I know. And if you don’t believe in yourself, your products, cause, team or the company you are building, why should anyone else?
Trust your intuition and your inner voice. It is a powerful guide – ignore it at your peril. Dramatic as that sounds, it’s true that when I listen to my inner voice and fully believe in myself, magic happens and I increase my impact on the outside world. When I don’t listen to my intuition, I always regret it later.
‘It’s just as hard to raise $500,000 as $1m, so you may as well go for the bigger number, and not have to raise another round 12 months later’
You have more power than you can even imagine, so it’s time to unleash it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Doing a TEDx talk, being a keynote speaker at conferences and contributing to HuffPost, shining the light on other amazing trailblazing women – these are things I strived for and made happen. “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve,” said Napoleon Hill, and my mind is burning with ideas to amplify women’s voices and gender equality so that we have the same opportunities our male counterparts already enjoy.
Follow your passion. Believe in yourself.
4. Think big
If you are going to build a company, you may as well go big! Whatever you are thinking, think bigger, and you’ll be amazed at what you will achieve. If you were thinking of selling in one country, think several. One product line? Imagine another two to three in your pipeline. Dreaming of big partnerships, key corporates, many users? Multiply that by 10. That’s how guys think, and guess what? They do it!
We need more women-led businesses with $10m to $100m revenues. We need more women-led unicorns.
We (women) are the biggest market in the world – bigger than India and China together – and we control more than 80pc of purchase decisions and will control most wealth in the coming years. It’s time to show our true worth to the world. Everyone will benefit, because we tend to build companies that impact our families, communities and countries on a wider scale. Let’s amplify that. Join the club!
5. Ask for more money
Last but not least, ask for more money! Especially when you are looking for funding. Be sure to ask for at least 40 to 50pc more. Investors tell me they usually have to reduce male entrepreneurs’ projections by half and multiply women entrepreneurs’ projections by many multiples. If you don’t ask, and back up with facts, you will not get.
I watch women entrepreneurs pitch all over the world and they tend to gravitate to a magic number of 500,000 (regardless of currency) when the guys ask for more than 1m. And guess what? It’s just as hard to raise $500,000 as $1m, so you may as well go for the bigger number, and not have to raise another round 12 months later.
If you are reading this, you have made the decision to change the world for the better. Now, be yourself, be brave, believe in yourself, think big and ask for more money. I can’t wait to see what you achieve!
This letter was first published in Dear Female Founder, edited by Lu Li. If you enjoyed it, check out the other 65 inspirational letters of advice from women entrepreneurs who have collectively raised more than $85m in investment, generated more than $1bn in revenue and created more than 2,000 jobs.
Anne Ravanona will be speaking at Inspirefest, Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to join us from 6 to 8 July in Dublin.