Startup Diaries: Breaking Down Entrepreneurial Stereotypes

Alycia Hawkins: Co-Founder of Digital Hawkins and Online School of Dance. Alycia Hawkins, Co-Founder of online marketing company Digital Hawkins and online dance community Online School of Dance, shares with The NextWomen the stereotypes she faced in starting a business as a young woman and working with her husband.

There are many challenges that come with starting a company, very similar to a package deal. If it were to be advertised it might sound a little something like this: “Start your own company and get 1 week of no sleep ABSOLUTELY FREE”. Sometimes it just comes with the territory, but as many entrepreneurs know it can be well worth it. I was familiar with many of the challenges because I was a part of a successful startup before I decided to branch out on my own. What I didn’t realize was that my battle was going to be a little different and I’d have to face stereotypes that didn’t affect my former employer. Here are the three stereotypes I faced:

1. Working with your spouse is a nightmare.

I started my company, Digital Hawkins (an online marketing company), with my husband. According to society, this is mistake numero uno. Why? Double the financial risk, personal feelings are invested, not bringing work home with you, arguing over decisions, the list goes on and probably already has you siding with the stereotype. Hate to break it to you, but my husband and I had been successfully working together the past two years. I'm not saying owning a company with him is just as easy, but we apply many of the same methods that helped us before:

  1. Keeping separate working spaces and giving each other some breathing room.
  2. Handling different departments.
  3. When our work day is over, we don’t discuss anything work related.

He loves digital marketing as much as I do and we work well as a team.

2. You’re too young and naive to start a business.

This one makes sense. Experience comes in handy and would definitely help make the process easier, but that doesn’t make it a requirement.

Just ask Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame. The great thing is in my industry, having 10 years experience could be more harmful than having 3 years. SEO and online strategies are always changing and being stuck in old ways will end up ruining a campaign.

The key isn’t always who has been doing it the longest, but more who can adapt the quickest.

This is what I thrive on and what my clients, who did decide to give me a chance, end up valuing.

There are many articles I have come across discussing ways to be taken more seriously as a young entrepreneur, but the advice that has helped the most was getting rid of the elephant in the room during a first meeting. Coming out right away and saying “I know I am young, but...” helps break the ice and stops them focusing on that fact during your whole conversation.

3. Woman aren’t entrepreneur material.

In our day and age, the idea of a woman being a business leader is accepted. We have come so far and have seen men giving us their full support and belief. Some even love having a woman as their boss while the others don’t mind it at all... Oh wait, it isn’t 2030 yet is it....nope, still 2014.

Even though we aren’t quite there yet, we really have made improvements on supporting women business leaders. Problem is, the support is there as long as woman are starting a “womanly” business. This is probably the hardest stereotype I’ve had to face because I’m not starting a fashion, babies, cooking, and or any other company that is typically associated with females.

While there is nothing wrong with starting a business in those categories, there is also nothing wrong with a woman starting something OUTSIDE of them. Because who is to say what a woman is familiar with? I love SEO, and graphic design, and website development. Those are MY associations and reasons for starting an online marketing company instead of a baby blog or online cake store and the support should be equal regardless. But it is not.

When people ask about our business, they look to my husband for the answer. When friends and family compliment our work, they compliment my husband. So what’s a girl to do...get used to it?

No. But instead, I live for the personal satisfaction of my work rather than thriving on approval of others. My husband always reminds me that when we are enjoying our yacht and summer home on the beach, I’m not going to be thinking about all of the times I didn’t receive support or respect. I’ll be too busy enjoying the fruits of my labor and what I was able to accomplish. If I lose a few possible clients because I am a woman, that’s fine. It will just make me appreciate the clients I do have even more. 

It is easy in the beginning to let these judgements get you down because all your work hasn’t had time to pay off, but when it does the stereotypes will break on their own. Become successful and they won’t be able to say you’re too young, woman are too emotional, or you can’t happily work with your spouse because you have already done it. That is my mission (along with helping market companies online and of course owning that summer home). 

Alycia Hawkins is a digital entrepreneur and marketer. She is the Co-Founder of a Tulsa based online marketing company that specializes in SEO, PPC, and Social Media called Digital Hawkins, as well as an Online School of Dance that offers lessons and tutorials called Online School of Dance. Alycia is excited to be able to use her passions to help other people grow their businesses and grow their talents. Both of these ventures are a joint effort with her husband Chance Hawkins. Together they love exploring the endless possibilities that the digital world has to offer. 

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