Eight Lessons for Success from Female Founders in SheWorx

Being a successful entrepreneur means more than starting a business. It means late nights and long hours, scraping by on something that resembles a paycheck. Developing pitch decks. Formatting business plans. Networking. Coffee dates. Nail biting. Molar grinding. Follow up calls and well-drafted e-mails. Waiting for the phone to ring. It’s not a glamorous life. But there are plenty of women who have gained respect and garnered success in the startup world. SheWorx brought together 200 female founders at the SheWorx100 Summit Series, to discuss their most valuable entrepreneurial attributes and lessons learned along the way. 

Be Authentic

 “I genuinely like people and deeply care about the work and interactions that come from our studio. I believe to be an agency that exceeds expectations, you have to love your clients and put their success over your own ego” – Rebecca Bartlett, Founder, Bartlett Brands

People know when you’re not being authentic. They can see it in your eyes, hear it in your voice, and read it in your body language. What you want is for people to see that you actually care. Get to know your stakeholders by asking about their families and finding out what makes them tick. Genuine people build legitimacy through open and honest relationships with others. And If people trust you, they will trust your team and believe in your product.

Focus on Unique Strengths

“Of our co-founders, all are minorities and I am a woman. Three of us were artists in a previous life. We have always had to think outside of the box always solve problems creatively. This has helped us adapt and change as needed to succeed outside of traditional startup funding models." -Lucia Brawley, Co-Founder, Amp.it

There is no single model for how to become a successful entrepreneur. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that good ideas are not born from having a specific pedigree or having a particular kind of experience. The best founders are the ones who look within themselves to leverage their unique strengths and experiences in order to build great products and teams. It is natural to evaluate your weaknesses and assess external challenges, but learn how to change your perspective so you can quickly see how even the most difficult problems can be transformed into an opportunity to get stronger. 

Embrace Empathy

“My startup, Golden, is financial care for seniors. I have built the business (team, service, customer engagement) around behavioral economics, using customer focused-empathy first and foremost” - Minda Cutcher, Founder, Golden

Empathy allows founders to connect with their stakeholders in a meaningful way, through understanding and acknowledging each person’s unique set of complex needs and emotions. Understanding that not every person’s worldview will match your own opens a new realm of possibilities in business. All entrepreneurs are in sales at one point or another, the best way to build rapport with customers or investors? Being empathetic and caring about their needs.

Think Big. Be Bigger. 

“Confidence that I can make a solid pitch for whatever my team is able to come up with as far as a ‘minimum viable product’ has been crucial to my success” – Lauren Harriman, Founder, Tech Talk Translated

Successful founders exude confidence in themselves and in their products. There’s nothing wrong with knowing that you can get the job done. As the founder, you need to live and breathe your vision, and know that you are the best person to drive the company forward. Enthusiasm and confidence is contagious. Be humble, but be brave.

Ignite Your Inner Fire

“Being a former professional athlete turned entrepreneur has helped me individually and collectively as a founding group. We are hardworking, dedicated, passionate, driven, coachable and know how to grind to get the end result” – Leslie Osborne, Co-Founder, Sweat Cosmetics

Passion is fuel for energy, kinetic momentum which drives us forward. Purpose. Conviction. Drive. Enthusiasm. Commitment. Creativity. If you love what you do then you will do your best work. One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that you can build an empire around what inspires you, and lead a more fulfilled life as a result.  

Shift into Overdrive

"[I have] ambition and drive to make an impact to many others in an area I'm passionate about (helping to launch people's careers)” - Lola Han, Founder, CultivatePeople

Ambition drives growth. When you have an insatiable desire to be bigger, better, faster and stronger, then you will naturally seek out opportunities to take up space, to improve, to gain speed and strength. Learn how to see possibility everywhere. Once you’ve made a decision to pursue what it is that you want, then commit to the pursuit. Give it everything you have and don’t look back. 

Set your Fear Free

“I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. I don't really remember when any of my parents weren't engaged in their own business. I've always worked for startups dating back decades now. That experience gave me a fearlessness that only now I realize is unusual.” – Barbara Tien, Co-Founder and CEO, Ponga

Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. It’s not easy to confront the beasts looming inside of you. But if you can manage to face up to whatever it is that is holding you back, you will learn how strong you are. Strength leads to power and confidence. When you take a chance, and accept the risk, you’re far more likely to reap the rewards. 

Don't Be Afraid to Lean on Others

"My success is attributable to many things. Endless support and encouragement from my family and friends. Our investors and advisors, especially those that came in first and early because they believed 100% in us. Our customers and champions." - Amanda Greenberg, Co-Founder, CEO, Baloonr

Behind every successful leader is a group of other successful leaders who have her back. Building a company is a journey that cannot be done alone, and you don't need to shoulder the challenges yourself. Be open to mentorship and finding people who can guide and support you. The strongest leaders are the ones who aren't afraid to ask for help and activate their networks. 


Lisa, I love the amazing work you and your team at Sheworx have done for female leaders. I'd love to volunteer to help your SF chapter reach more women in tech. I'm a product person who had tried (and failed) at launching my own startup and have been with Google and Square. Let me know if you'd be interested to connect. I'm at marygliu [at] gmail.

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