Women in Business Series Part 1: 4 Takeaways on Scaling Up

It’s 2017, and many entrepreneurs are shaking things up. In light of Women’s History Month, see what your team can learn about starting a business and scaling up in 4 key business areas from some of the situations women in business have faced.

Insights on Scaling Up Based on Women in Business

Breaking Into Markets

While women business owners have already been making huge strides in stereotypically female industries like the fashion, cosmetics, and childcare sectors, they’re also into breaking the mold.

More than ever, women are starting businesses in sectors traditionally dominated by men, like manufacturing and technology. From lab testing to app development, women are creating revolutionary start-ups in competitive industries.

The takeaway? Breaking into competitive industries is possible.

Entrepreneurs wavering on whether to start new businesses in ambitious sectors can take heart from these women start-up founders and business owners. Entering unfamiliar terrain will be tricky, but strong business planning, extensive research, and a refusal to quit can help your company stand out. 

Competitive industries are tough by nature, but breaking into them is doable. You just need the right organization, and a drive to succeed.

Gaining Funding

Many women business owners have reported the difficulties they face in gaining funding from venture capital firms and other investors. When VC firm First Round Capital looked at their data from the past 10 years, they found that investments into teams with at least one female founder did 63% better than all-male founder teams, but data shows that only 9.7% of VC-backed start-ups are founded by women.

The takeaway? Securing capital can be extremely difficult.

The VC funding process is not always as data-driven as venture capitalists might think. To get funding, make sure your business plan is well-organized and answers any questions your potential investors may ask. Try to reach out to investors you think will understand the appeal of your product/service or that your message resonates with. These people may be more likely to back you over your competition.

Growth and Acquisition

Plenty of women-owned businesses are growing, and fast. Female founders are more likely than ever to own and run “unicorn startups”, companies valued at a billion dollars or more.  With such high levels of growth, many women-founded business have gone public or been acquired by other organizations.

When your company starts scaling up, you might be hesitant to give up any control of your business, but acquisition doesn’t spell the end of your entrepreneurial career. Many of these acquisitions of women-run businesses have actually helped female entrepreneurs start new ventures.

The takeaway? Acquisition isn’t be-all, end-all. 

One example in particular where acquisition helped a female entrepreneur’s career grow in new and different ways is the case of Sandy Lerner, who co-founded tech company Cisco in 1984. After selling her stock options in 1990, Lerner co-founded and later sold make-up company Urban Decay, and today runs a successful organic farm.


Women-founded businesses are not immune to failure. One of the most prominent examples of recent failure is the case of blood-testing lab Theranos founded by Elizabeth Holmes. Reports of faulty methodology and failed inspections plus a lawsuit from former partner Walgreens led Theranos to close its labs and focus on other projects.

The takeaway? The threat of business failure is always present. 

Since failure is always a possibility, business owners have to be ready to adapt. While failure can cause some companies to go under for good, there are different tactics entrepreneurs can use to deal with their failures and move on to new ventures.

Canadian entrepreneur Kelsey Ramsden spoke to Forbes on how she overcame past business failures to become Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneur two years in a row. You can get over your failures, but it’s important to acknowledge that failure is a real possibility you may encounter.

While every company has unique challenges and obstacles, entrepreneurs in various industries can gain valuable insights from the situations described here. For more info on what women are doing in business, check out more women-founded start-ups to keep an eye on in 2017, both in the tech sector and across other industries.


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