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10 tips from successful female founders

At the start of the nationwide start-up week, KölnBusiness Wirtschaftsförderung gave five successful entrepreneurs the chance to speak in a live talk, who reported on their experiences: From sparkling ideas, from passion, but also from hurdles, setbacks and fears. And above all about the things, the people and the organizations that helped them in the start-up phase and are still helping.

Only 15.7 percent of all startups are founded by women. A quota that initiatives like the Macherinnen_CGN want to raise significantly. Dr. Marie-Christine Frank, herself an entrepreneur and founder of the makers, is committed to this goal. With KölnBusiness she initiated the talk entitled “Start up like a boss - power formulas for female founders”, which she hosted on November 16 in a live stream.

Marie-Christine Frank and her fellow campaigners get support from the very top: Mayor Henriette Reker wants to promote start-ups by women, she said in a greeting to the start-up week: "We want to put strong women in the front row!"

Some of the five entrepreneurs at Talk are still very young in the business, some have been successful for years:

Anna Yona founded the company Wildling Shoes together with her husband in 2015 and has been selling shoes that are designed to promote natural, healthy walking in children since 2016. Both were completely alien to the industry, financed the start with a loan and a crowdfunding campaign and now employ around 180 people.

Madeleine Heuts is the founder of the company Raketenstart, which aims to make the initial phase easier for other startups with targeted legal advice that is affordable for founders. The lawyer only finished her studies last year.

Mirjam Peters developed the idea for the UMA app, which supports women during pregnancy, and then has the company of the same name together with Elena Kirschner which she found via an ad.

Parul Madan has already founded a number of startups and is now among other things CEO of DueDash, which helps other startups to take the right development steps in order to become interesting for investors.

All five women share a lot of experiences, and they all agree that female founders do not need “role models” in the sense that they orientate themselves towards well-known female entrepreneurs. "The same names are mentioned over and over again," says Madeleine Heuts. Much more important, however, is always to be open and to learn from everyone you meet - whether woman or man. They give budding women entrepreneurs these 10 tips:

Use competent help

Parul Madan is the most experienced founder of the group, started as an entrepreneur 14 years ago and knows that the offers to support startups are far more diverse today than they were in the past. The entrepreneurs name the starter centers run by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which are located in Cologne at KölnBusiness, at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and at the Chamber of Crafts, as important and helpful points of contact. Participation in business plan competitions such as that of the New Entrepreneurship Association Rhineland (NUK) also offers valuable experience.

Don't lose focus

Taking the important things seriously, not the other - Anna Yona advises from her experience to concentrate on the focus: “Concentrate on what you are really good at. Then do that with a lot of passion. "

Develop your own brand

Branding follows from the focus. “You have to know what you stand for,” says Madeleine Heuts. Anna Yona puts it this way: “You have to find your unique selling point, sharpen your profile.” Madeleine Heuts recommends defining three topics with which the founders identify one hundred percent. In her case that was: she founds alone, she offers the “digital legal department for founders”, and she relies on the startup community. Then develop your own brand from this and use the appropriate social media channels for the company to achieve visibility.

Networks

All founders at the talk name the community of startups and young companies as the most important network. The exchange with others who have to master similar challenges is particularly valuable, and that works best in coworking spaces like the Cologne “Startplatz”. Madeleine Heuts advises that not every founder should do it as intensely as she does herself, who offers services specifically for startups and has therefore already attended around 100 relevant events: “You can't get lost in networking either.” Keyword: keep focus.

Dealing with fears

Consider setbacks and insecurities as completely normal! Parul Madan sums it up like this: “There are difficulties every day. You can't get on with fear. You have to have a plan, but you also have to be ready to change it at any time. ”A pragmatism that Anna Yona emphasizes:“ What helps is not to think too far ahead. You have to write a business plan, but nobody knows what will be in three or five years. It always turns out differently. ”Madeleine Heuts gives the tip to talk to the team intensively. If the team believes in the idea and is convinced, that can allay their own fears. A piece of advice that Parul Madan confirms from her many years of experience: “You don't have to have all the answers yourself. Many good ideas come from the team. Therefore: Talk a lot and be open! "

Don't be too humble

Madeleine Heuts has made the experience that women are often reluctant to present their ideas to the public, “Women in particular use the possibilities of social media too little because they are often too modest, repeatedly questioning themselves and doubting whether they are are really that far. ”She particularly advises women who do not like to be the center of attention to practice appearances at pitches, for example in exchange with other startups. "At some point every sentence fits."

have patience

Parul Madan knows that patience is one of the most important virtues of female founders. “A startup doesn't work like instant coffee. A success story takes five to ten years! "

Share values ​​and vision with co-founders

Parul Madan and Anna Yona built their businesses together with their husbands. The big advantage lies in the fact that both share certain values ​​and have a common vision. “Then you get through difficult phases well. We didn't even have to discuss many things, ”says Anna Yona about the founding phase of Wildling Shoes with her husband. If you don't want to start a business alone, you can look for someone who shares values ​​and visions.

Mirjam Peters did just that and found her co-founder Elena Kirschner through an advertisement. “It is important to get to know each other first and to see whether you share goals and values,” says Mirjam Peters. The same applies to the subject of willingness to make sacrifices, adds Elena Kirschner: “I have given up a permanent position for the company. You have to be ready for that first. "

Find the right financing

Many startups use pitches and other network events to get in touch with investors. But venture capital is not necessarily the best way of financing, says Anna Yona, because that also limits an entrepreneur in her freedom of choice - not least in the freedom not to rely exclusively on maximum profit. Crowdfunding is therefore definitely a good way, which also serves as a “proof of concept”: a stress test for the business idea.

If you are looking for the best possible financing, you can also contact the starter center mentioned at the beginning, which gives an overview of the various models and the possibilities of public funding.

And always remember: The company is not everything ...

Focus, passion, commitment, all of this is undeniably important. Mirjam Peters, however, has another important piece of advice: Don't forget about life outside the company: "It's not true that I'm only a good founder if I've been at my desk until eleven o'clock in the evening!"