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Lessons From a Woman Entrepreneur: How to Make Your Startup Stand Out in a Saturated Market

In today’s entrepreneurial landscape, we are seeing more women make their way to C-level positions but there are still not enough women at the top. Though venture capital funding has increased over the past few years, women-funded companies have only secured 2% of that capital. It’s no secret that women have their challenges in starting a business – from a woman’s perspective, being aware of these challenges and holding ourselves accountable to sustain what we started is how we push through to the top.   

That is what I did when I decided to stray away from the corporate world and into the land of entrepreneurship. Tired of having to prove myself in a corporate setting, I took the step towards entrepreneurship, believing that I was going to take the world by its horns and implement change. I did not realize how difficult it would be. Being a first-time minority woman entrepreneur in FinTech came with its own set of challenges. It took much longer to build the network that I needed to be in this industry and I spent more time looking for the right resources to take my company to the next level. I educated myself in sales because as an accountant-turned entrepreneur, I had zero sales skills. Not to mention, we are competing against billion-dollar businesses that were started by men. On top of that, I have a fully remote team working from Chennai, India, where my co-founder also currently resides, which makes it incredibly difficult to pass jokes when there is absolutely no one sitting next to me. At times, it feels like a rat race that we are at the tail end of, and that journey can feel incredibly lonely. However, coming from a family of immigrants who possessed strong values and let nothing get in the way of building a happy life helped me in building the skillset and determination to overcome these challenges. Eventually, I landed where I needed to be and I met investors who truly believed in what we are building. 

For those looking to go through an entrepreneurship route, getting the right resources in place and knowing how to fundraise is essential. Understanding what investors are looking for is critical to the early stages of business. Pepperdine Graziadio’s MBA program with a concentration in Entrepreneurship really taught me that. I learned the skills required to pitch to investors and what it takes to be the best CEO for my company. 

Part of pitching to investors requires preparing a pitch deck, knowing your market, the problem you are solving for your ideal customer, and how much money you really need in the beginning to make it work. Understanding product-market fit is crucial. Before you even begin building the product, it would be wise to understand whether the customer actually needs it. Of course, you need money to move the business forward. Starting with smaller checks is a great way to gauge what is necessary to run your business. 

Taking the first step to educating yourself on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, combined with persistence and confidence, will help you get through your journey in starting a business. While an entrepreneur's path is not an easy one, there are mentors and professors that can help you in the process. I had amazing professors at Pepperdine Graziadio that helped pave the way for me to launch my business and support me to this day. 

Shiv Patel (MBA '19)

About the Author

Name: Shiv Patel

Program: MBA in Entrepreneurship, 2019

Position: Co-Founder and CEO of Cratoflow

Industry: Entrepreneurship and Information Technology