Small Business, Women, Success & Shame


As part of my series on financial health, I wanted to address women who own small businesses. In the past three years, I have struggled with many demons and have heard similar stories from other female business owners. Does any of this sound familiar:

1. I don’t know what I’m doing. (And I either tell everyone that, to offset any mistakes I might make, or I keep it secret and pray no one notices my incompetence.)

2. I don’t understand money. (I don’t trust myself to keep the books. I’m intimidated by the process of dealing with taxes. I don’t know how to make a profit, but I’m blundering ahead, anyway.)

3. I can’t charge what I’m really worth because no one will want to spend that much money on my services/products. (I’m not good enough to charge a fair price. I’m scared people will challenge my prices or the quality of my services/products.)

4. I’m just doing this for fun. (I’m too scared to take myself seriously and I don’t believe anyone else will take me seriously.)

5. I’ve don’t expect success, just something to make it worth my time and energy. (I’ve never been successful before, and fear that I never will be.)

There are many more stories we tell ourselves and many more fears we face, but these are the ones I hear most often, and the ones I tend to face within myself.

I have a lot of secret shame about my business. I feel like a failure as a business owner. I am moderately successful – I did make a profit in my second year, which is pretty good. But it was $2,000. It felt discouraging to work as hard as I did (and I was full-time at Five Seed at the time) and to only make off with $2,000. That definitely reinforced my fears that I don’t know what I’m doing. And of course, I couldn’t stop comparing myself to the other bath and body shops on Etsy that make thousands of sales each year, while I only just hit the 1,000 mark after three years.

For many, like myself, we reinvent ourselves, educate ourselves, learn from our mistakes and move forward – and often, it seems like our efforts come to nothing. In fact, we can even end up feeling like we’re going backwards – for a long, long time. Sales can slow or cease for months and we may lose our motivation and hope. Those feelings of shame creep back in. What did we do wrong? Why aren’t we able to make this work?

This series is for all of you out there dealing with ANY of these issues. I am very excited to share my first small business interview with Aimee Fahey of EcoGrrl fame and EcoGrrl Consulting next Monday. (If you are interested in doing an interview, please drop me a line!) I’ll also be writing on various small business topics throughout the year.

What topics would you like to hear about?

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8 thoughts on “Small Business, Women, Success & Shame

  1. Great thoughts! Girl, I had $200 profit my 2nd year as a chocolatier! Why do we as women always comparison shop ourselves? Pricing too low =cheapening our craft. I learned that as a career coach. I still charge much less than the fancy services but realized, morally, I can’t charge $500 for a resume. There’s a balance. The more we share, like you are now, the more we realize we’re not alone :)

  2. Uhmmm, okay, i think i share almost all those opinions… I mean, they say you should charge 4x your time and material costs for retail shoppers, i mean who would buy one of my bags at 160$-200$ ??? Can’t wait to see more and learn from that serie!

  3. what’s interesting in this is the connection with feminism and how women are cultured to feel this way.
    i would totally be 100% the same as you. I’m really looking forward to the interviews!

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