To Get Female Entrepreneurs To The Top, It’ll Take More Mentors

September 11, 2018

Female Entreprenuership

By Jeff Barrett, CEO at Status Creative(opens in new tab)

In short:

  • For any entrepreneur, success hinges largely on who you know and who knows you, not on how hard you work.
  • Nobody knows this better than Chelsea Krost: the accomplished millennial expert speaks widely about the lack of mentorship for women in business, and how more corporate support of females would improve the lack of funding for female-run companies.
  • According to Krost, networking among women and equal opportunity from employers and venture capitalists is key to female entrepreneurs’ rise.

When she was 16 years old, Chelsea Krost launched her first radio talk show. (For reference, when I was 16, I was playing “Madden” and kept on locking my keys in my car.)

Now 27, Krost is a leading millennial expert(opens in new tab) who appears regularly on shows like “Good Morning America” and “Today” to discusses trends in her generation. She advises brands on how to market to millennials effectively and does brand ambassador work for companies like Intel, Mastercard and IBM.

Krost (R) appears regularly on TV shows, often alongside other strong businesswomen. (credit: Instagram/chelseakrost(opens in new tab)) Pic 1(opens in new tab)

It’s not about how hard you work. It’s about who you know … and who knows you.

Krost is self-aware enough to know that her path is not common. The path to success is a combination of talent, drive, positioning, contacts and timing, and she happened to hit them all correctly. Sometimes an entrepreneur can make it with just a couple of those factors in place, but it commonly takes the perfect storm of all five to generate a big break.

And this is why entrepreneurs who simply “work hard” tend to feel stuck. Hard work isn’t how it works. You can drink four cups of coffee and watch a Gary Vee video--and sure, it will motivate you--but it won’t push you forward.

Almost everyone has talent, knowledge and something unique they bring to the table. But every successful person I know, myself included, has connected directly with someone--or most likely multiple people--who have helped them reach their goals. It comes down to contacts, timing and how you market yourself. It really is “all about who you know.” Even more importantly, it’s about “who knows you.”

Female entrepreneurs lack mentorship. 

When there’s a gender or diversity gap in business, it usually has nothing to do with a gap in talent or drive. It’s a matter of the “who you know” folks not paying enough attention to a minority demographic.

Women have historically gone unrecognized by powerful members of the business world, Krost told Grow Wire. But things are looking up these days.

“I have never heard more talk about women in entrepreneurship(opens in new tab), women in the workforce, and women’s equality,” she said. “You can’t deny that 2018 has been a year of women’s empowerment: encouraging women to be strong, to speak up and to stand up for themselves, yet but we still have work to do.”

Krost (far R) keeps her "girl squad" close. Mentorship, she says, is key. (credit: Instagram/chelseakrost(opens in new tab) Pic 2(opens in new tab)

That “work to be done,” Krost said, is getting mentors matched to females in business. Without a network of mentors who can move less experienced females up the ladder, the discussion around women in business(opens in new tab) is just that: discussion.

No generation is more primed to resolve this issue, Krost added.

“One of my favorite things about millennial women is that we will not settle for less and we will not allow gender bias to stop us from creating new businesses, starting a family and finding our work-life balance,” she said.

Female-owned businesses are skyrocketing, but their funding is comparatively weak.

Between 1997 and 2017, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 114 percent(opens in new tab) in the U.S., compared to a 44 percent increase among all businesses, according to American Express’s 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. Women-owned businesses generating $1 million or more annually grew by 104 percent in the same timeframe.

What’s more, female founders received more venture capital funding(opens in new tab) in 2017 than in previous years, Krost noted. But it was still far less than their male counterparts: Women-led teams received just $1.9 billion of the total $85 billion invested by venture capitalists in 2017. That’s just 2.2 percent of the year's total. And, only .02 percent of VC goes to female founders of color.

These stats are the backbone of Krost’s broader societal to-do list.

“… My hope is that we will start to see more VC funding supporting women-lead businesses(opens in new tab), more women becoming venture capitalists(opens in new tab), more women in the C-suite, and it’s time to finally close the gender pay gap(opens in new tab) once and for all,” she said.

Krost's Instagram posts reflect her desire to change business norms in her generation. (credit: Instagram/chelseakrost(opens in new tab))

Pic 3(opens in new tab)

Here’s what you can do—right now—to accelerate change.

If you’re an employer, then ensuring equal opportunity for females and other minorities(opens in new tab) is a helpful move, Krost said. Experts recommend(opens in new tab) being completely objective and transparent when hiring, give women and other minorities the information they need to make solid employment decisions, and run audits if necessary to figure out where your company lacks diversity or pay equality.

“As women, we are more emotionally intelligent, confident, ambitious and determined then men give us credit for,” she said. “But you know what? We don’t need the credit. We just need equal opportunity.”

Networking is also key, especially among female entrepreneurs themselves. To that end, Krost launched a coaching division(opens in new tab) within her company, Chelsea Productions, to help female entrepreneurs increase their visibility and influence. She encourages other organizations to open similar wings.

“Women need to stick together, empower each other, propel the conversation and continue to innovate our way to the top,” she said.

No statement rings truer. Female equality in business—or equality for any minority—isn’t a program, initiative or act of CSR. It’s a matter of powerful and diverse entrepreneurs creating more powerful and diverse entrepreneurs.

And it doesn’t stop at mentorship. It also means that VCs must recognize there is a powerful and underserved community of diverse and female founders out there. So VCs, don’t invest in female entrepreneurs because it fulfills a CSR objective. Do it because it will make you more money, and invest in them because you know that there is a community waiting to support their success.

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