The thought of starting your own venture is exciting, to say the least. But for many, the appeal lies in the aura of coolness and the idea of ‘making it big’. The fact is, however, that you wouldn’t have even heard of the vast majority of start-ups and businesses—because they couldn’t survive.
There are a few factors common to all of those that did sustain themselves though. Courage, perseverance, innovation, confidence and, wait for it, purpose. Pay attention to that last one. If you and your venture don’t have a purpose beyond ‘I want to be rich’ or ‘I want to be famous’ (normally followed by ‘just like Bill Gates/Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg/etc.’), you might as well save some time and throw in the towel right now.
Here’s what five women who managed to break through have to say about having a purpose.
1. Sara Blakely, founder of inner wear brand Spanx
Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of Spanx, took up something she cared about personally (in this case, hosiery) and looked for a business opportunity. It was hard work, and there were obstacles galore, but she held on to her purpose throughout it all.
“With every obstacle that has happened to me in my life, my brain immediately says, 'Where is the hidden blessing?'; In starting a business and growing a business, every day is learning how to manage obstacles.”
2. Ida Tin, founder and CEO of Clue
Ida Tin’s Clue is not your run-of- the-mill period tracker app. It doesn’t feature the usual pink backgrounds and flower icons here, but focuses instead of detailed data analytics and monitoring. Importantly, the concept was something she identified with, and something she thought would be genuinely useful for other women too.
“Every woman in the world – some half of the world’s population – faces the realities that come with menstruation and fertility, and yet these are topics that have been considered “niche”, lacked scientific research and still remain societal taboos in some regions. I’m proud to be part of the femtech space of companies opening up the global dialogue about female health.”
3. Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
When Anita Roddick started The Body Shop way back in 1976, she had two goals: first, to sell beauty products made with natural ingredients, and second, to build and ethical business, both socially and environmentally.
“The challenge we've posed for ourselves is to trade in a way that keeps communities and cultures together so that there isn't this burgeoning into the cities. We're always looking for ways to trade directly for harvestable products, to pay people a good price, and to have a real relationship with them. When we think about how many families or communities we've helped sustain, that gives us a little more glow than just looking at the question of how to make 51 million pounds profit rather than 47 million pounds.”
4. Nineveh Madsen, founder and CEO of Her Magazine
Nineveh Madsen spent years working as a journalist and news anchor before she launched Her Magazine, an online publication dedicated to business news for women and female entrepreneurs. In the course of her career, she found a dearth of content that empowered women, and she decided it was time to change that.
“News can be a grind, and there were many stories I was moved by that didn’t necessarily make the cut on to the airwaves. Topics I wanted to venture into that were too taboo. I saw the digital space as an opportunity for me to create a voice for the stories and ideas I was most passionate about.”
5. Sairee Chahal, founder of Sheroes
Driven by what she saw as a lack of professional opportunities for women in India, Sairee Chahal in 2014 launched Sheroes, the first jobs portal in India that’s exclusively for women. Her ultimate aim was to set up a supportive network for working women across the country.
“Unfortunately, once you step off the job ladder in this country, you end up falling off completely. It’s either up or off. There’s no easy way to weave your social expectations with that of a regular job.”