5 Things Every Female Entrepreneur Should Know By 30
Dina Yuen, Founder, Asian-Fusion.com shares the five entrepreneurial lessons her father couldn't teach her, and which she learned the hard way.
I grew up in a family of three girl siblings, no brothers, and that’s exactly the way my Asian parents wanted it.
Defying millennia of beliefs and thought processes, my parents were and are a fascinating balance of modern progressives and traditionalists. They strongly believe in the nuclear family, providing a profound sense of love, commitment and closeness that in today’s generation may seem foreign or stifling. To me, my parents are the greatest blessing in my life. They gave openly of their love and constantly reinforced that we girls could and should achieve greatness and to never be intimidated by men.
Without my father’s encouragement to shadow his every step at his office during my pre-teen years, I may never have brought to fruition the innate entrepreneur in me.
The very idea that I could create something of value, that I could be my own boss, that I could build a huge company-these were instilled early on.
"If you are willing to work hard, make sacrifices and take the road no one else takes, you will succeed,” my father repeated through the years.
With all the sage and invaluable advice he bestowed upon me, there were pitfalls he could never have warned me about, simply because he is a man.
With no female entrepreneur role models around, I learned hard lessons the good old fashioned way: by making terrible mistakes, failing, picking myself up and marching fearlessly onward. Here are the five things I had to learn on my own, either by making these mistakes or being on the receiving end of those who were making them.
1. When you do things without your integrity and self-respect intact, the one that hurts the most is you - not the intended recipient of your decisions/actions.
If you’ve never been tempted to take the easy or wrong way out of a situation, you’re either not human or you haven’t pushed yourself to achieve huge things.
Building a business when you’re very young has its pros and cons. The con is often that we haven’t fully established what our ethics and values are, or even if we have, they haven’t been tested in enough real-world situations. It’s easy to say what you would do in a given situation if you haven’t actually gone through it. Maybe you’re facing a competitor who is using malicious and black-hat methods to bring you down. Maybe you’re dealing with gossipy women in your workplace. Or maybe you’ve been made an offer that shines like a gold bullion but has a terrible ethical catch.
You go ahead and react in any of these situations (or others like them) with highly charged emotions, possibly an unchecked temper, self-righteousness and the desire to ensure that you end up on top. However you react, if you throw your integrity and self-respect to the wind, telling that inner voice to shut up because you think you’re being cut-throat and savvy, in the end, the sleepless nights, perpetual discomfort and eventual eating away of your spirit cuts you and no one else And it will cut you-in ways you least expect.
2. If you don’t stand up for what you’re worth, no one else will.
In my very early years in business, I was always looking to make sure that everybody else was happy, that everybody else was getting a good deal. It was my way of building what I thought was a reputation of being honest, fair and easy to work with. It did very little of this. What I did end up with was people thinking my work, products and business were not of high value. It’s about finding that fine balance between striking a deal that benefits all involved and not demeaning your own value.
There will always be people who try to nickel and dime others; these are not the people you want to work with.
You want to deal with people who recognize your greatness, whether you’re a freelancer, small business owner or someone building a huge corporation. The stress, heartache and wasted time you’ll spend on those nickel and dimmers will end up costing you more in the long run. So be fair but always stand up for what you’re worth.
3. If you’ve worked hard at your craft and you know what you’re doing, your physical appearance won’t be the biggest thing that matters.
There’s no denying that looks matter regardless of what industry you’re in; of course more so in some than others. In my late teens to early 20s I was obsessed with wearing suits and slacks to meetings as if these garments would somehow assert my competence and intelligence. I was also ultra sensitive about not showing cleavage at meetings. The fact is that no matter how I dressed those years, what made business predators pounce was my underlying lack of confidence, not what I wore .Having gone through enough failures and successes by 30, and, more importantly, having proven my abilities to myself, I no longer wear suits or slacks. Not that there’s anything wrong with those articles of clothing if that’s what you enjoy wearing. My personal taste lies with very feminine dresses that celebrate my feminine figure, not because I need to show off to men (or women for that matter) but because I enjoy being me.
Now I dress solely for myself; my business track record, my intelligence and competence all speak for themselves.
Those who haven’t dealt with me before are initially surprised by my dresses but soon after I open my mouth they forget about what’s on the outside. And the few that don’t-that’s their problem if they’re distracted and don’t have the intelligence to focus on the business at hand. Dress as you, dress with class and focus on what really matters- your brain and spirit.
4. Starting your own business doesn’t always mean you have to quit your current job immediately and create an apocalyptic uprooting of your life.
In general, we women tend towards the dramatic more than men. We are also herculean doers, often having a hard time with delegating where and when we should. It’s no surprise then that many women think it’s necessary to stop everything you’re currently doing to start a business. Most of the time, that’s not feasible and completely impractical. Very few first time entrepreneurs are blessed with not having to worry about finances. I started several of my companies while still either working for another company or working on my own previous company which was already profitable and paying the bills.
I am one of the most ardent supporters of women pursuing their wildest dreams and because of that I’m also pragmatic about how best to achieve them.
If you’re already working a full time job that pays your bills and can’t afford to quit-then don’t. You will have to sacrifice though if you really want to achieve those dreams. That means potentially sacrificing sleep (I ran on 4 hours of sleep a night for years) to start building your business in the evenings and weekends. That means when all your friends are out having dinner and partying, you’re at home being frugal, doing the work you need to do and willingly putting in your dues. That means wearing the same clothes longer than your friends who are wearing next season Gucci and Pucci. That means cutting back on grande lattés and cable and any other perks that are “wants” but not “needs.”With enough hard work, sacrifices and taking calculated risks, you’ll see your business take off and the day will come when you can finally quit the job that allowed you to survive but not thrive.
5. Being envious and bitchy towards other women will get you little more than the wrong male admirers and a life of true loneliness.
First of all, being envious of anyone gets you nowhere. It’s a waste of energy. And time. Having these negative attitudes towards other women in particular only serves to highlight your glaring lack of confidence. We see it all the time-women at the office, women at the gym, women in a group of friends even-who say those catty backhanded remarks (“let me buy this for you since you can’t afford it,” as if she knew how much you really make; “that dress looks soooo cute on you; it would never look good on my small frame;” “what was the name of that loser you used to date?”), they think they’re being smart by trying to cut you down but anyone with a brain knows immediately that that woman is desperately trying to make herself feel better about her own miserable life. Don’t worry; you’re not the only one she treats that way. There’s a reason why envious, bitchy women are either alone or only have fake friendships and desired by less than desirable men.
Despite the huge strides women have made in the workforce in the past few decades, we still have ways to go.
It’s just plain hard being a woman and trying to create a successful business while balancing a family life. As much support as you need, other women need it too. As much as you want other women to be kind and genuine to you, be kind and genuine in return. Life is better with a great group of girlfriends because no matter how wonderful a man you may have in your life, there are just some things only a girlfriend could understand-especially fellow female entrepreneurs.
Of Chinese and Russian heritage, Dina Yuen is an entrepreneur, published author, journalist, musician, chef and CEO of multimedia company AsianFusion. She was the youngest to ever graduate from the Nila Chandra Culinary Academy at 12 years old before going on to study Industrial Engineering and Classical Piano. She has traveled extensively throughout Asia working with orphans and rescuing young girls forced into prostitution- issues she continues to support as a voice for women’s and children’s rights. She is currently developing several product lines under the AsianFusion and AsianFusionGirl brands, creating her first television series and writing her third and fourth books. Dina is based in San Francisco. Her websites are Asian-Fusion.com and AsianFusionGirl.com.
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