Stepping Up and Out

At Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), we support the positive trend of empowering women in entrepreneurship. Specific groups including MyEO Women of EO encourage support as individuals pursue their unique entrepreneurial journeys. To celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on 19 November, we are sharing exclusive content from three WOMENtrepreneurs from different countries, which may inform others as they embark on their entrepreneurial journeys. Mary Evelyn is managing director of Bushwood Golf Club and a member serving as president of EO-Toronto; Deb Gabor is CEO of Sol Marketing and an EO-Austin member; Kim Parascos is CEO of iVolve Pty Ltd and an EO-Brisbane member.

In part one of this article, the three WOMENtrepreneurs discuss their paths that led to entrepreneurship, and specific challenges they’ve overcome to achieve success.

The entrepreneurial path is wrought with exhilarating highs offset by sometimes demoralizing lows. A big part of an entrepreneur’s success or failure is his or her fortitude in dealing with obstacles along the journey. Study after study shows that women entrepreneurs worldwide face unique challenges from their male counterparts. Yet, current research and global statistics also show a steady uptick in the number of women entrepreneurs entering the marketplace worldwide. How are women recognizing and finding ways to cope with the challenges they face? Why are entrepreneurial women worldwide committing to and succeeding in building businesses despite inherent challenges?

Here’s what three EO members from different countries shared.

On Achieving Work-life Balance

Work-life balance is a universal issue faced by working professionals; the incredible amount of time and energy entrepreneurs devote to their companies brings it to the forefront. The way we achieve balance can be telling about who we are as individuals, professionals and in this case, entrepreneurs. Our WOMENtrepreneurs have personal strategies for managing that particular challenge.

For Kim, the answer is a strong, supportive family: “I am very fortunate that I founded the company with my husband. As a result, our family holidays are work trips, and we’re able to tie everything in together. I also have a very close immediate family and lean on them. Their support allows me to lead the life I do.”

Deb focuses introspectively on finding personal fulfillment and allowing that to pour out into her life and work: “Work/life balance happens for me when I am fulfilling my highest, best purpose for the world and living a life that is exemplary of my values and beliefs. I’m a very purpose-driven person. I feel most balanced when I’m experiencing a feeling of forward momentum with speed and direction toward that purpose, which is propelling other people to achieve success in accomplishing their business goals,” Deb explained. “That means that I have to be firing on all cylinders in my life. I’m personally fulfilled and intellectually stimulated, surrounded by people who fill my heart with love; I’m feeling at the top of my game physically, and ultimately, I’m delivering on my promises to others. That’s how I deliver on my promise to myself.”

Mary blends the two approaches to find her happy medium. “I have always strived for work/life balance. I am a single parent to two sons; I’m their mother and father. I attend all critical events in their lives, and they know that I am only a phone call away when they need me,” Mary said. “My staff know this, as well. They respect my relationship with my sons and have stepped in to assist as needed. I exercise at least five times a week to keep myself sharp and focused. I also use apps for mindful meditation. I set realistic goals at work so that I am not overextended and constantly make lists to ensure I have everything covered. I am very cognizant of burnout―I know when I need to pull back and focus on myself.”

Finding the Path Forward

One thing all three entrepreneurs agree upon is that networking and spending time with other entrepreneurs, especially through EO, is a great way to conquer obstacles in business.

As a longtime member of EO Austin, Deb shares a special and illuminating bond with her chapter that greatly impacts how she finds solutions to her business issues.

“The guys at EO Austin are like a personal board of directors to me. I love the way they challenge and push me. Most importantly, they’re experienced business leaders themselves, so they can grab their big business flashlights and shine them into the dark corners of my mind to show me things I might be missing,” Deb explained. “I can’t say enough how important it is to know people like this who aren’t directly involved in either my personal life or my business. Family members, employees, friends―none of them can present me with an informed and caring point of view that isn’t biased, because they’re also my cheerleaders. It’s liberating to have this kind of support.”

Kim asserts that she’s developed “a circle of amazing businesswomen that I meet with on a semi-regular basis. There’s very little that I have to deal with that one of them hasn’t seen before. Their pragmatism and honesty never fail to help. EO Forum can also be relied on for clarity, and my immediate family is my lifesaver.”

Similarly, Mary views her EO chapter as a sounding board and lifeline in times of hardship. “When I face challenges in business, I turn to my EO peers and ask for experience shares so that I can pick from their wisdom. I do not need someone to tell me what to do. I have developed a wide range of EO peers from being an active member of EO Toronto, attending the Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP), and being a member of the original Gathering of Titans (GOT) class, plus attending EO Universities. I have past Forum mates as well who know my journey and issues,” Mary revealed. “As a result, my EO community has become an ad hoc Board of Directors and Advisory Group that I may call on at any time. I have done so with great success in leveraging my EO brothers and sisters when I needed insights, guidance or help deciding an issue or challenge.”

Encouraging Future WOMENtrepreneurs

Deb Gabor, Kim Parascos, Mary Evelyn—three women from three countries running very different businesses—are all strong examples of the commitment it takes to succeed in entrepreneurial endeavors despite the obstacles society and life in general throw at them.

As we celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day 2017, it is important that we look at ways to encourage the Debs, Kims and Marys of the next generation.

Deb suggests that we “bring young girls into our businesses to show them how business is done. They need to see women leaders in their natural habitats. All of the STEM efforts that empower girls to explore technical options are great, but we don’t do enough as a society to expose young girls to entrepreneurship as not only a career goal but a life choice.”

She continued, “Hands-on experiences are valuable for creating opportunities for girls to test things and iterate in a low-stakes environment. It removes the fear and anxiety around failure and lets them experience first-hand the joy, exhilaration and sometimes despair of failing forward and taking ideas from inception through a bunch of pivots to fruition.”

Mary, Kim and frankly, our entire EO team, echo Deb’s sentiments about empowering the next generation of WOMENtrepreneurs.

How will you inspire and encourage girls and young women to discover the entrepreneur within themselves?



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