Written by: Tamu Browne, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
I have always been enamored with the idea of growth — personal growth, professional growth, but particularly entrepreneurial enterprise growth. The latter pushed me to study the strategies that female entrepreneurs have used to secure venture capital in my doctoral studies. Combined with the experience gained from my co-creation with scores of female entrepreneurs, I have noted a specific set of strategies that women owners can use to scale their enterprises, whether or not they seek to secure venture capital.
1. Choose to scale. All businesses begin small. However, not all founders wish to remain small. The female founders who initially decide that they intend to grow and scale their ventures are generally the ones who do. Why is that?. Well, the decisions one makes in the start-up phase of the business life cycle will be radically different for a founder who has decided to scale than who has not. For instance, she will seek out a team very early on in the business life cycle and create business formations such as LLCs very early on to facilitate scaling. However, an entrepreneur who has not decided to scale will tend to remain a solopreneur who on-boards new team members more slowly, if at all.
2. Join coaching or accelerator programs. Many research studies point to the value that female entrepreneurs receive when they enroll in accelerators and incubators. Benefits include knowledge, support, a widening of their networks, access to critical resources and gatekeepers, and guidance. A woman who wants to scale her business realizes that she must invest her time and sometimes money to garner the advantages mentioned above, which will redound to spur her venture's growth and collapse the time between start-up and scale.
3. Paying attention to her network. The oft-quoted African proverb — “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”, is an adage that rings true when scaling is the goal. Entrepreneurs should never minimize the importance of networks to their quest to scale. Aldrich and Zimmer first advanced the social network theory of entrepreneurship in 1986 to explain an entrepreneur's social network's role in venture growth. New networks bring new knowledge, new opportunities, new introductions, and new resources that an entrepreneur can leverage to aid in scaling.
Unfortunately, it has been proven that generally, women tend to have smaller, more dense networks than their male counterparts which stifle enterprise scaling. Women who are effectively scaling their ventures strategically nurture and grow their networks, pay attention to the diversity of the relationships in those networks, and modify their networks as they transition through the stages of their business' life cycle.
4. Leveraging technology. Scaling and traditional business growth are not synonymous. Scaling involves growing a business' revenue without significantly increasing costs. Technology is an efficient way to do that. Female entrepreneurs who scale have created business models that allow them to reach thousands or millions of potential clients, most often by leveraging technology. Technology increases reach and revenues efficiently. Women who wish to scale their ventures will seek ways to incorporate technology into one or more areas of their business, be it product design, service delivery, or manufacturing.
5. Finance. You may have been telepathically shouting "money" at the screen as a scaling prerequisite. I agree. It is impossible to scale without finance — be it debt, equity, or pouring back profits into the business. Female entrepreneurs may face obstacles to obtaining capital, and some may be averse to external funding for several reasons. However, persistence in acquiring financing is necessary to scale. Initially, a woman can choose to seek out the financing options best aligned with her risk propensity. More risk-averse entrepreneurs can seek to access grants, pitch competitions, small loans from credit unions, traditional crowdfunding, equity crowdfunding, and of course, friends and family. However, what is most important is the acceptance that cash is required to scale.
Tamu Browne, Executive Contributor, Brainz Magazine
Tamu Petra Browne is the founder of Coaching by Tamu and focuses on guiding female entrepreneurs to transition from solopreneurship to enterprises of scale. She has worked with scores of female entrepreneurs in the Caribbean region and the diaspora by partnering with regional and international accelerator programs through her online academy and her in-house entrepreneurship education programs. Tamu is currently using an experiential approach through these engagements to determine the optimal strategies that women solopreneurs can use to generate at least a million dollars in revenue - an initiative that she has dubbed Mentored to Millions. Tamu holds a Doctorate in Technology Entrepreneurship and is currently in the ideation stage of an extended reality coaching solution.