Let’s debunk, once and for all, the myth that to be successful as a woman entrepreneur, you have to hide the very qualities that make you an individual—including your struggles. In fact, it’s the opposite. These things can become your greatest business assets, and tapping into them is exactly how women can unlock their uniquely feminine entrepreneurial potential.
Take my friend and client Susan Peirce Thompson, for example. To say that Susan has been on a painful journey with food would be an understatement. Susan was overweight as a teenager and obese in her 20s. In adolescence, she used drugs like crystal meth and crack cocaine to manage her eating and weight. When she hit bottom on drugs at the age of 20 and got clean and sober, her food addiction exploded in full force. She was diagnosed with binge eating disorder at the age of 23 and spent nearly every spare moment bingeing, recovering from bingeing or throwing her heart into some new attempt to lose weight.
Susan spent decades struggling with her weight, swinging from her ideal size 4 to a size 24. When she was lost in that battle with food, little did Susan know that her shero’s journey was beginning and would culminate in her discovering the secret to losing her own weight. This discovery led Susan to earn a Ph.D. in brain and cognitive sciences, become a tenured psychology professor and, ultimately, mentor hundreds of thousands of people around the world to free themselves from food issues. Ultimately, she founded a business that grew to become wildly successful: Bright Line Eating, LLC.
Susan’s struggles and subsequent transformation allowed her to understand what women in similar situations would need to heal and to experience transformations themselves. Her story is a powerful example of the miracle of allowing your deepest struggles to become the springboard for your business and its message.
Our struggles make us who we are. In business done the woman’s way, we do not have to hide them. In fact, these very wounds and vulnerabilities prepare us to make a greater contribution. In what I call the “Life Ph.D.,” life rolls out a curriculum of challenges through which we grow and transform. Our business message, core promise and brand—the thing we most want to bring to the world―more often than not lies somewhere deep within that painful transformation we’ve experienced. It’s the thing that—when we do bring it to the world—will turn heads, win faithful followers and attract loyal, paying clients.
And that’s exactly why it’s not only possible, but also incredibly powerful and promising, to leverage our greatest struggle into our greatest business asset―from the initial spark of inspiration to marketing and sales. Here’s how.
Ask what wounds make your blood boil.
Think about the biggest personal struggles you’ve overcome. Which one sparked a raging passion that still makes your blood boil today? This is the fodder that will drive successful business initiatives.
Reflect upon the wisdom, abilities and skills you gained through that journey.
Perhaps you have recovered from drug or food addiction and discovered a way to help others do the same, like Susan. Or maybe you are enraged by a medical system that allows breast cancer survivors to endure painful scars and have discovered a hands-on method for alleviating the pain. Whatever your journey, use the wisdom you have gained to help others. Document the process, too. This is the first step toward creating a map for others—and a valuable service you can sell.
Share the story of your wounds with your audience.
The world is hungry for more vulnerability, for leaders who’ve stopped claiming to be perfect, who don’t wear a mask and who own up to their own imperfect humanness. Opening up and sharing your own human side will help you connect with people, grow an audience and earn their trust.
Fold this story into your marketing.
To convert an audience into clients, you need to demonstrate how the wisdom you have gained from your journey will help them. So when you share your story, do so in a way that others can learn from and be inspired by.
This is the key to building a successful business: authenticity, vulnerability and sharing in a way that shows your expertise in the matter. When you share from this place, your clients will thank you and your business will thrive.