A recent article, “44 Female Founders Every Entrepreneur Should Know,” was heartening to see. We need more publicity for accomplished women, particularly in STEM fields, to inspire all women to unleash their own visionary voices and step unabashedly into what has heretofore been seen as the domain of men.
The article is part of American Express’s Open Forum, which my cynical side reads as an obvious marketing ploy. AE is highlighting women not so much as a way to further equality and success for women but as a way to gain publicity and more business. BUT the fact that highlighting and helping women in business is even on the AE agenda as a way to increase profits only underscores what I’ve been saying all along: Women are the future of business.
Combine this with the fact that most successful tech startups are founded by the boomer generation (see Ageless). Not only are women the future of business, but women in midlife and beyond will be leading the way into that future.
A few examples from the “Female Founders” article demonstrate that life—and entrepreneurial success—are far from over after 40. Women at 40 are just getting started.
Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of If We Ran The World, shows why 50+ women in particular are ideal entrepreneurs: experience. She brings her years of expertise in advertising to her 2010 startup as well as to her role as a mentor, such as advising other tech startups (e.g., Behance).
Jen Bekman, CEO and founder of 20×200 and Jen Bekman Projects, shows that it is never too late to change your course and pursue what moves you. She moved from a successful career working for companies such as New York Online, AOL, Meetup, and Netscape, to opening her own Manhattan art gallery. Then, combining her tech experience and knowledge with her love of art, she started 20×200, a profitable online art gallery (> 180,000 prints sold). Bekman also started an international photo competition “Hey, Hot Shot” to provide support and exposure for photographers all over the world.
Deborah Jackson founded JumpThru and Plum Alley, and cofounded Women Innovate Mobile, with Kelly Hoey (also a founder over 40) and Veronika Sonsev. Her companies all focus on promoting women entrepreneurs, especially those starting tech companies, through funding (Plum Alley is a women-funding-women organization), mentorship, and networking, among other strategies.
The cofounders of BlogHer, a community media company that brings together and supports women bloggers, are all over 40. Lisa Stone, Jory Des Jardins, and Elisa Camahort turned a single event into a wildly successful network for women, with more than 40 million visitors a month and 3,000 blog partners. With backgrounds in tech, journalism, and media consulting, all three brought their career experience together in a new venture.
Common threads run through these examples of successful female founders over 40, threads that I think are integral to their success, not merely coincidental.
- All made use of their experience in starting their companies, even when taking detours off their initial career path. This is one of the main reasons that a company started later in life is more likely to be successful. Even if you completely change course, your previous career choices do not go to waste. Your experiences can inform your new path in multiple, often unexpected, ways.
- Every woman created a company that aligned her soul’s purpose with profit by finding a match between that purpose and a need in the world. Too many women feel that doing what they really want to do, what resonates with their soul, means not making money, and in this economy, that fear is enough to silence their visionary voice. But profit and purpose are not mutually exclusive. As these women show, just the opposite is true. The key to finding the profit in your purpose is to determine a genuine need you can fill in the world that aligns with your values, with what matters to you.
- All of these women reached out to others, particularly other women, often as an integral part of their business plans. Being a mentor (and seeking mentors) is another key to creating a sustainable, solid business. Women helping women, intergenerational cooperation and mentorship, and ultimately community are key components in today’s successful startup. And this trend will only get stronger as we move into the future.
These women (among many, many others) illustrate that it is never too late to awaken (or reawaken) the visionary voice we all have inside and let that voice guide us to reinvent our lives and work in ways that reinvent the lives and work of others. Women over 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and beyond are in an unprecedented position to capitalize on their strengths—experience, empathy, collaboration, and connection—to not only transform how the world does business but to transform the world itself.
Are you incorporating any of these threads into your current or future business plan? Capitalizing on your experience, integrating what matters most to you, creating a community of collaboration and mentorship?
Image credit: flickr.com Photograph by nextconf