This is a guest post by Lucy Sanders, the CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
Q: When evaluating a start-up by a mompreneur (or to go broader female first-timer) what do you typically see as the weakest link (in supporting roles, research, presentation, concept etc). With respect to this, if you could give mompreneurs or female first-timers advice on building their support system or fine-tuning their concept before asking for funding, what would it be?
A: (Lucy) In the course of my work at NCWIT and as a technology enthusiast, I speak to many people who have started and/or funded technology companies. The advice they offer would-be entrepreneurs is pretty consistent, and genderless. First, is your idea compelling? Does it address a current or future market need? You must be excited about the potential and that passion needs to be conveyed confidently, not just in formal funding presentations, but in the numerous conversations you have as you build your business. So, brush up your communication skills and ask others to critique your efforts. Your first pitch for funding should definitely not be your "first" pitch – practice makes perfect. Your business case will really come together the more times you tell others about it. You should also take the time to create a one page business brief that contains company details, the market need, market projections, revenue stream, potential products, management team and potential competition. Fitting all this information on one page will force you to hone your pitch, making it far more concise and easy to understand.
Next, be prepared to work hard. I love the excitement and risk taking involved with startup organizations, but it often requires long hours. Some entrepreneurs find that they let their personal lives slide when faced with such demands. But I am convinced from many years of experience that one can successfully integrate personal pursuits with demanding career endeavors. Since you asked explicitly about "mompreneurs", I assume you are wondering specifically about balancing family and entrepreneurial pursuits. Take heart – it is possible. You can hear successful women IT entrepreneurs talk about integrating work and family by listening to the NCWIT podcast series.
One final thing you asked about is building your support system. Heidi Roizen has achieved success as an entrepreneur, a corporate executive, a corporate director and venture capitalist. In this interview she talks about how networking is a key component of launching a company, and how people can build successful networks. Her secret? "Be a friend", "Get a friend" – in that order. If you look at networking as relationship building and nurture those ties like you would the others in your life, you’ll be on your way to building a strong entrepreneurial support system.