Last week, I attended a focus group of sorts at the SBA headquarters in DC sponsored by the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) to talk about women business owners and capital. It was an exploration of the issues as they prepare to give a summit on the topic for women business owners this Fall. Admittedly, I almost didn’t go. For me, home to downtown DC can be anywhere from a 45 minute trip when I drive and there is no traffic (and I make every green light) but is more often an hour to an hour and a half. These days, I have so much going on that I try to cut out any extraneous out-of-the-office excursions but something drew me downtown that day. I didn’t know what to expect but absolutely got more out of it than I had anticipated.
What the group lacked in size (there were only about 5 of us) we made up for with enthusiasm and diversity of perspective. The experiences varied from those of us with fairly low capital needs in the past (I had a line of credit in my first company that I only tapped into two or three times) to the real estate developer whose assets include more than one multi-storied building and borrowing needs well into the millions. Without breaching confidentiality I can only say that it was a heated, animated discussion which, at times, involved more than one 4-letter word, which really
caused me to think: how many women believe or behave as if wealth – or even money – is a four letter word? Does a woman’s relationship with money impact her business approach and, ultimately, goals?
Over the past 5+ years of teaching in the ACTiVATE program, I’ve seen my fair share of women whose motivation for starting her own business is to change the world. I would say that a good majority actually fall into this bucket at some level or another. I am quick to relay to them, however, that it is easier to change the world when you have money, meaning to get them focused on the success of their business as a means to that end. Oftentimes, my bold statement is met with a skeptical or uncomfortable expression, which tells me more about their relationship with money than anything else. They believe, whether they recognize it or not, that focusing on money and wealth are bad.
Many books on entrepreneurship will tell you that starting a business purely to make money without following your passion is a recipe for lackluster or at least short-term performance or early burnout. The lucky folks are those whose passion actually leads them to a way to make money, which is exactly where we focus our ACTiVATE participants. But we’ve found that unless they challenge their relationship with money and wealth beyond just a desire for nice material things and into a way to build value, they’ll never be able to cross that chasm so many businesses fail to get across: real, sustainable, profitable growth that can take them a long way to really making some lasting impact.
As I was musing over this phenomenon, seemingly from afar, I realized I had my own mind-shift that needed to happen. To learn more about that, look for my next blog on “Bootstrap Mindset.”