The Burden of Boobs on a Business

Hi – Shlomit here. I am a business owner and I have boobs, and therefore my struggle is infinitely harder.

In 2013 I opened my own company out of a simple desire – to be my own boss. I didn’t think that the fact that I lacked a Y chromosome would impact my ability to be a business owner (call it naivety).

Ironically, the name I picked out for my company, shevooking, basically made it seem like I was shouting “I have lady parts!” to all my clients.

Despite the fact that the name is actually a witty play on the Hebrew word for marketing (pronounced shee-vook) and I thought it was a nice little gimmick for the Israeli market where I live, my reputation as a female business owner preceded me and, for better or worse, dictated how clients treated me.

Soon after my business started taking off, I received my first “running a business in those shoes must be hard” comment from a smug little man who choose to focus on my stilettos rather than the strategic marketing plan I prepared for him.

 

Female entrepreneur in high heels

This is me. In stilettos. Biking to my office.

 

I thought he was belittling me for being a woman and took it as a challenge. I immersed myself in statistics of women entrepreneurs, read countless female success stories and read every news article about how to succeed as a woman business owner. These articles made it seem like women entrepreneurs are on the rise and women are just one IPO away from running the world (beyonce knows it, why don’t men).

The articles only wasted my time and made me realize that reading articles about businesses that I didn’t know were started by women or articles telling me how to succeed as a female entrepreneur wasn’t going to help me.

To understand the impact of gender in the business world, just ask an actual business owner if she feels that her gender is a major factor in everything she does, and you’ll discover that discrimination is very much alive, and that boobs are a very big burden.

These reassuring articles I was reading were created to lure female entrepreneurs like myself to feel empowered. Only one question though – Why are there articles about the difficulties of being a female business owner geared towards female readers and articles about the difficulties of being a business owner geared towards male readers? I can assure you, lady parts aside; we all experience the same hardships as business owners.

In response to these hardships, women decided to empower themselves, and so the era of “women for women” began with niche groups popping up on every corner of the world to help women promote women in tech, finance, marketing, startups etc.

But the truth is, women-for-women awareness doesn’t do much for women. Women are not the problem, but neither are men really. We’ve accepted the status quo and embraced the gender inequality, using it as a crutch if and when we are met with failure.

I’ve failed – multiple times – and not because I’m a woman, but because I made a stupid decision. So I got over it.

A recent Facebook post I stumbled upon discussed the value of these i-am-woman-hear-me-roar type groups and the predictable “women must stop degrading women before men stop degrading women” argument (which I hate) was raised.

Why is that what women fall back on? Why do we, who are so quick to form women-for-women groups, always blame women for our failures? I see no difference between a bitchy woman putting you down and a snarky man putting you down. In the words of Tay-Tay : Haters gonna hate (regardless of your gender)

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Instead of focusing on the haters, it’s time we all (we being business owners, male and female alike) focused on our abilities. Wan’t to be taken seriously as a business owner? Here are my tips for success:

  • Know what you’re talking about – it doesn’t matter what your business is, you have to make sure you are an authority on that business. If you truly believe you know what you’re talking about, your confidence is what will get clients to buy into you. Me? I’m really freaking good at branding, digital content marketing and strategy creation and I know it.
  • Be passionate about what you do – my favorite clients are the ones that love their business. It doesn’t matter if they are part of a mega company or have an idea they want to get off the ground, I’m immediately drawn to people who are passionate about their product. As a business owner, I think that being passionate about what you do, aside from making it easy to get out of bed in the morning, is what will make the difference between short and long term success.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail – Since my first attempt at skateboarding, to a recent decision I made about a client, I have met failure more times than I can count. Sometimes you’ll fail because of someone else, and sometimes you’ll fail because of yourself. Don’t blame anyone if you cannot blame yourself. A successful business owner in my mind is someone who has failed and stood up again (and again and again and again in my case).
  • Step outside of your comfort zone – think of something that makes you squeamish and do it. It doesn’t matter if its something small like a new shade of red lipstick you didn’t think you could pull off or giving a lecture in front of a room of strangers – if you’re scared to try, you need to push yourself to do it.
  • Be patient – the media may make it seem like businesses skyrocket to success in seconds, but the truth is (and this goes in line with the ‘don’t be afraid to fail’ tip) – building a business takes time and you need to give it that time to grow. Don’t try to push your business to somewhere you cannot sustain it.

 

These are just my own personal tips. While I may not have the solution to break down boob-related barriers, I realized that the only thing stopping me is myself (as cheesy as that sounds), so if I believe in my abilities, never lose my passion, pick myself up when I fall and put myself out there every single chance I can, all I’ll have left to do it wait for success.

As for being a female business owner, I stopped fighting the fact that my gender went before me and owned it. If my gender is going to do anything for me, it’s going to bring me up not put me down.

I recently rebranded my company to emphasize the SHE and included my own silhouette in the logo. My love for high heels? You can find that in my prominently displayed tagline – “stilettos & strategy.”

I’m a business owner. I have boobs. Get over it.

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