The founder of LocalBlox shares what she's learned from the challenges and triumphs of starting her business. By Sabira Arefin (Founder & CEO, LocalBlox)
Being an entrepreneur is inherently tough and that is especially true for women. Women are often judged by their looks instead of by their intelligence. I’m a woman in my early 30s and potential investors often make their first inquiry about when I’ll be “having a baby.” They also advise that since I’m a “woman entrepreneur,” my company should focus on a small niche and leave the larger market opportunities to the men.
I’m here to provide advice for women entrepreneurs, based on my experience as founder of LocalBlox, a website for businesses and individuals who desire a strong local connection with their community. The company currently serves over 112,000 communities throughout the U.S., helping businesses acquire new local clients and helping individuals find a way to explore amenities and resources of local businesses.
It’s easy for a female startup founder to become distracted while launching a new business, but distraction is a mistake that drains energy and resources. Female business owners need to ascertain their strengths and focus on being the best in their chosen field of endeavor. It’s also important for startup owners to network within their local communities and industry before and after the startup launch. Those contacts have the potential of becoming important resources for you in the future. While building LocalBlox, I’ve learned some lessons that women entrepreneurs should consider to avoid setbacks when launching and growing their companies:
- Don’t take no for an answer. Always look for ways to overcome obstacles, whether it’s funding, a location from which to operate the business, or outlets to market the product.
- Don’t rely on others for validation. If you believe that you have a sound product or service for which there’s a need, don’t be afraid to look foolish in the eyes of others.
- Never stop innovating and evolving. It’s never enough to create a product or service. Entrepreneurs must continually strive to make their product better, more unique, and to increase the value for customers.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Some of history’s most well known names failed multiple times in the business arena before satisfying their ultimate goal.
- Don’t expect overnight success. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a sustainable business. Persistence is the key.
- Don’t spend money for the wrong reasons. Perhaps one of the biggest problems for startup owners is a failure to be frugal and spending money they don’t have on all the outward trappings of “success.” In the early stages of a business, it’s especially important to keep overhead low. Shop around for the best prices on everything from business cards to office furniture.
- Be a monopolist. Understand your customers and their needs. Build your product better than any competitor or anyone in the market so you can be a monopolist and survive during the tough times.
- Focus on your business and revenue. Your product must work and meet the need regardless of any backups from any big name partner or investors. Focus on your business and customers and worry less about funding. Funding doesn’t guarantee success.
Although not every business will succeed, it’s important not become disheartened, even if you fail. Successful entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes and apply the knowledge they gain toward building bigger and better enterprises.
Women 2.0 readers: What's your best tip for budding entrepreneurs?
About the guest blogger: Sabira Arefin is the CEO and founder of LocalBlox, a local-neighborhood site connecting neighbors and small businesses. Before starting LocalBlox, she worked at several Fortune 500 companies, including Countrywide Home Loans and Expedia. Arefin earned her MBA from Duke University. Photo credit: stevendepolo via Flickr.