When you read articles about some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and business owners, one of the most common traits (apart from experiencing failure and having that be a humbling learning curve) is that mentorship is an important type of support they have either benefited from, or wished they had more of.
Even if you aren’t an entrepreneur, each of us can most likely point to someone who has sown seeds of encouragement in our lives and impacted it in a positive, powerful way. One woman is taking what is a universal theme and creating a way for female entrepreneurs everywhere to find inspiration and mentorship for their own career regardless of their location.
London-based author, entrepreneur and game-changer Lu Li has recently released a book called “Dear Female Founder” which contains 66 letters of advice from women who have made $1 billion in revenue between them. If that description alone doesn’t make you want to immediately purchase it on Amazon, allow us to share more about the author and why she decided to write this book.
Lu worked in product development at Proctor & Gamble in Switzerland before leaving to start her own company. Blooming Founders was launched as a way to challenge herself and to create an “eco-system” for other female entrepreneurs to connect.
On her website she talks about the journey from corporate career to solo entrepreneur, and how it is like no other type of job.
“I thought I could do it by myself as with everything in my life, but entrepreneurship doesn’t quite work like everything else. There is no straight path. Your success depends on multiple dimensions and many of them are out of your control,” she said.
Once she realized she wasn’t the only person facing this dilemma, she knew tapping into the entrepreneurship community was key.
“75% of female entrepreneurs are solo founders like myself, lacking scale and connections. That’s why we need a dedicated network to help us create new opportunities…We need an inclusive eco-system to create tangible change and more successful female entrepreneurs,” she said.
Lu and Blooming Founders are on a mission to give female entrepreneurs more visibility by holding workshops, panels, seminars and networking events where women are encouraged to tap into the eco-system that will help them thrive in an area that is still fairly male-dominated.
In an interview with Redherring.com, Lu described her company and her book as a problem to a solution – the lack of female representation.
“The idea originated after talking to my community members of early stage female founders and realizing that it’s hard for them to think of female role models in entrepreneurship. Having role models is important for your own confidence, because they show that you can do it, too,” she said.
In mainstream media conversations about innovation and entrepreneurship, Lu says names like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk often are the first to be uttered, but she believes the world needs to take more notice of what the women are doing.
“I wanted to change that and bring more women into the spotlight. They do exist in spades. It’s just that nobody knows about them,” she said.
TechCrunch’s Women in Venture report for 2016 found only 7% of partners the world’s top 100 Venture Firms are women. This can affect the funding decisions made by certain companies, when an overwhelmingly male board is deciding which startups they want to invest in.
In 2014 a Harvard Business School professor found that although the number of women-led startups has steadily risen over the past few years, women have received only 7% of all venture capital funding in the US. The common assumption that if you are the Silicon Valley stereotypical “white male in a hoodie” and therefore more likely to get funding is not exactly far off the mark.
Lu states this is unfortunately something women have to deal with, but that will not stop her from disrupting the cultural status quo in innovation and entrepreneurship.
“Thankfully, the world of entrepreneurship is an open space that is accessible to everyone and is not limited by corporate structures like you have in other industries, therefore I am very hopeful that we can change things to reach gender parity,” she told Red Herring.
One of the ways she wants to help other female entrepreneurs with ‘Dear Female Founder’ is by offering advice, from the authors, that speak to specific problems that women experience.
“Women start out with much less network than men; they also tend to start as solo founders. The dearth of investment going to women-led businesses doesn’t help either. Female founders are still seen as more ‘risky’ than male founders..[But] know that there are many others on the same journey who can help you overcome virtually any challenge. Find your support network and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she says.
The women featured in the book are as diverse as they are successful, and they don’t all come from Silicon Valley. The co-founder of Indiegogo Danae Ringellmann is included, as are OBE and MBE award-holders, and women who have started businesses in places like Colombia and Indonesia.
Separated into three sections called start, build, and reflect, each woman’s letter is not just an inspiring story to read but also contains practical advice so a startup owner can take action from what they have read.
Another important aspect of the entrepreneur lifestyle that Lu wanted to touch on is the different ways women approach business and how that is not often catered for in the industry.
“The picture of startup culture is often very one dimensional – it’s all about working long hours and drinking a lot of Red Bull. Our contributors talk a lot about achieving a healthy and balanced lifestyle,” she told Forbes’ Trevor Clawson.
Lu calls this book the “start-up equivalent to ‘Lean In’, shining more light on inspirational female entrepreneurs and encouraging women to achieve their own potential in entrepreneurship.”
If you are looking for a real-world perspective on what it is like to be a successful female entrepreneur around the world today, we highly encourage you to take a look at ‘Dear Female Founder’. It may just be the source of empowerment and mentorship you need to take your business from an idea to inception. And if you are based in London, join the Blooming Founders community.