One of the resources entrepreneurs most need yet struggle to find is support. Connecting with other people who understand what you’re going through and have advice to share can make the biggest difference in challenging times.
Entrepreneurs Danielle Canty and Natalie Ellis founded online community BossBabes to make it easier for women in business to access that support. In addition to paid programs and membership benefits, they offer free resources specifically for business women, including a blog, a lively Instagram account with 3.5 million followers and The BossBabe Podcast.
“If we create rooms that people can enter no matter where they’re from … they can share resources and realize that things are possible that maybe weren’t before,” Danielle says.
In this episode of SUCCESS Stories, SUCCESS’s Madison Pieper talks to Danielle and Natalie about rejecting the “bossy” stereotype attached to ambitious women, the importance of finding your edge and always being ready to evolve.
Don’t let stereotypes define you.
As you’re likely all too aware, the world hasn’t traditionally taken kindly to women who are ambitious, confident and career-focused. They’ve long been dismissed as “bossy” and controlling, and told to quiet down and soften up.
That culture has slowly started to change. More women are founding successful companies, moving into C-suite positions and climbing to the tops of their fields.
A lot of that success has come from women helping other women. Whereas female executives have long been painted as cutthroat and competitive toward female colleagues, this generation is helping smooth the path for future female leaders.
“Come from a mindset that we can all win, and we win when we support each other; we win when we shout each other out; we win when we boost each other up; we win when we reach a hand behind us,” Danielle says.
When you are the only woman in the room, use your position to make sure that won’t be the case in the future. And if you hear someone using language like “bossy” or criticizing you or another woman for being “too ambitious,” call them out.
Explain why this is sexist: Ambition and assertiveness are praised in men but criticized in women. Would they describe a man who behaves the same way in the same terms?
You don’t have to accept other people’s perceptions of you, or the pace at which the world is willing to change. Use your drive and ambition to push the conversation forward, for yourself and other women.
Determine what makes you special.
The concept of building a brand from scratch seems so daunting that many people put it off. Identities aren’t formed overnight, so the sooner you start crafting yours, the better.
To begin, Natalie says, you need to identify two things:
- Your niche: the demographic you connect with most clearly. This will probably be quite general, for example, working parents, recent graduates or stay-at-home moms.
- Your edge: the skills, experience, traits and interests that make you unique. This is what sets you apart within your niche.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when working on branding is identifying their niche but not their edge.
“The people who have the strongest personal brands, especially on social media, are the people who know what their edge is and really lean into it,” Natalie says.
For example, Natalie and Danielle have always taken a more direct tone with BossBabes than many other communities targeting women in business. It’s helped them stand out to an audience who wanted that refreshingly straight-talking approach, and importantly, it’s true to them. Your edge needs to be authentic, or it won’t be sustainable.
Once you know who you want to speak to, make sure you have something to say that no one else can.
Expect your identity to change.
There’s a mistaken belief that changing your brand or your product means admitting that everything you’ve done up to this point has been wrong. In fact, it’s normal for a company to evolve, in the same way that we all change as we get older.
As Danielle points out, most people aren’t wearing the same clothes they did as teenagers. Styles and ideas change, and the mature approach is to adapt with them.
The COVID-19 pandemic underlined the importance of being able to move with the times. Like many other companies, Danielle and Natalie were forced to change their plans for BossBabes, including canceling planned in-person events.
Danielle explains that they used a strategy called “pivot don’t pause.” “Being a good entrepreneur is about trying new things and running with them,” she says. “It’s great if they work and they have a long distance ahead. But if they don’t, don’t be afraid to pivot, don’t be afraid to shift the ideas, because ultimately, the stagnation will kill you.”
Of course, you want consistency in certain aspects of the business. For example, Natalie says that she’s always been very insistent that BossBabes look polished and precise—even as her definition of polished has evolved.
“From the beginning, I would say our values have always stayed the same, but the way that we present our values has changed,” she says.
Know what you want to offer and adapt the way you offer it as you grow.