Women may have once been pigeonholed into certain professions, but no longer are they simply expected to do gender-specific jobs. Female professionals are taking control of their careers in a way that works best for them, including when and how they start their own businesses.
"Everyone has to start a business that's meaningful to them; I think it's an old model to tell [women] to go into a specific field," said Carin Rockind, a happiness and life purpose expert. "I think that’s got us to where we are today. What you’re passionate about is way more important. Women need to tap into what they're good at and what makes them feel great."
American Express OPEN's 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report found that 11.3 million U.S. businesses are currently owned by women, and an average of 1,072 new female-owned companies are being started every day. This number is growing five times faster than the national average for all businesses, meaning more women than ever are taking the leap into entrepreneurship. [See Related Story: Money and Connections Still Hurdles for Women Entrepreneurs]
As to what kinds of businesses a female entrepreneur should start, businesswomen agree that the sky is the limit.
"I don't think there are any guidelines to the type of companies women should begin," said Cologne Trude, co-founder and creative director of Show Me Your Mumu, a boho-chic clothing line. "Women's strengths are so diverse that opportunities are endless."
"I think women should get excited about what excites them," added Melinda Emerson, an author and business coach known as "SmallBizLady" on Twitter. "There aren't [enough] women-centric businesses out there."
Where to start
Emerson suggests starting a business you know something about. When you're ready to begin the business you're most passionate about, consider your limitations.
"I have seen people quit really good jobs to start businesses they hate," Emerson said. "There are fantasies of grandeur about running a business. It’s really hard out there."
If you have no savings, no money and bad credit, you should not start a business, Emerson said. She suggests saving 20 to 40 percent per paycheck before you quit your job to begin your business.
Most important, Emerson emphasized the importance of doing your research. Make sure you know who your paying customer is.
"You always have to check and make sure your business model makes sense in an industry that’s growing and not sinking," Emerson said. "It needs to be relevant three to five years from now. You don’t want [technological advances] taking your business."
As you get your business off the ground, surround yourself with people who will help you succeed, whether it's through support or lending a hand to get the business started, said Cammy Miller, co-founder and creative director of Show Me Your Mumu.
"Being a leader doesn't mean you have all of the answers and the more open you are to learning from everyone around you, the more you can grow in your role," Miller said.
"One of the things that’s been harder for me to learn is to bring other people with you,” happiness expert Rockind added. "It's very lonely to have your own business. There are so many important skills, and you can't be good at everything. ItꞋs OK to ask for help and collaborate with other people."
Love what you do
Building a business from the ground up is challenging no matter how you look at it. But, ultimately, you should love what you do.
"I always encourage female entrepreneurs to be strong and work hard at what they love. Starting and running a business is by no means easy, and there are going to be a lot of hardships and emotional setbacks," Trude said. "As a female, running Mumu has been very stressful and emotional at times, but every tear has been worth it and I am stronger because of it."
If Rockind had to go back in time to give herself advice, it would be to just do it.
"You have to put yourself out there," she said. "Believe in yourself and your purpose."