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With or Without an MBA, Women are Becoming Dominant Solopreneurs

December 5, 2012
Damsels in Design reader Emma Collins writes in today with an article describing how more and more women are breaking out on their own as so-called “solopreneurs.” Though her focus is not exclusive to the design industry, the points made should be very relevant to women currently managing design-based small businesses, or hoping to break into the space soon. Emma is a full-time writer for webzine MBAOnline, and recently edited and helped compile the definitive MBAOnline School Rankings-2012 guide for students.

With or Without an MBA, Women are Becoming Dominant Solopreneurs

by Emma Collins

According to the second annual “State of Independence in America” career study by MBO Partners, “Almost 17 million Americans are now ‘solopreneurs,’ 900,000 more than in 2011 and another 27 million U.S. adults are considering a shift to this form of work.” Experts suggest that this shift is more evident among women as they are leaving the workforce in droves, and opting to work from home not as homemakers but as solopreneurs. But before we discuss this rising trend among women it is important to spell out the meaning of the term “solopreneur.”

A solopreneur can be defined as an entrepreneur who works alone (hence “solo”) and runs his or her business as a one-person-show. A solopreneur may subcontract certain staff members and consultants, yet has full responsibility for the running of the business without an operational team. MBO Partners loosely describe solopreneurs as adults who work at least 15 hours a week as independent contractors, consultants, freelancers or project workers. MBO also includes small-business owners who have fewer than five employees.

Recent years have witnessed an explosion of women solopreneurs. Natalie MacNeil in her article in Forbes says that women have been starting businesses at a higher rate than men for the last 20 years, and increasingly tend to create home-based micro (less than 5 employees) and small businesses. According to the article, women will create over half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs expected to be created by 2018 and more and more are doing this from home offices across the country.

The increase in the number of women solopreneurs may largely be attributed to the fact that many women view corporations today as being fundamentally flawed and limiting in their value structures. The Guardian Life Index, for instance, cites “office politics” as a driving factor for women leaving Corporate America to start businesses. Many women become solopreneurs and start businesses that align with personal values and offers freedom and flexibility when it comes to things like scheduling.

A few prominent women stand out among the crop of recent successful solopreneurs. Highlights include the following:

Olga Vidisheva. A Y-Combinator and Harvard Business School alum, Vidisheva launched Shoptiques with the objective to provide unique boutique clothing online. The site is currently U.S. only, but Vidisheva is working to bring the Shoptiques experience to international consumers.

Tracy Sun. After earning an MBA from Dartmouth and working as the Vice President of Merchandising and Inventory Planning at the Brooklyn Industries, Sun co-founded Est. Today in 2007. Est. Today is a site that allows young girls to design their own fashions and share their creations with friends. In 2010, she launched another company called Poshmark, an iPhone app that lets you browse, buy and sell clothing and accessories in real time.

Christina Wallace.  Harvard Business School graduate Wallace co-founded Quincy at the start of 2012. Quincy is an apparel company designed to flatter any woman’s body type.

Amy Jo Martin. Martin founded Digital Royalty in 2009 to help companies, celebrities, professional sports leagues and athletes strategize, build and monetize their digital universe.

Leslie Bradshaw. Bradshaw is co-founder of JESS3, the agency known for its deep understanding of the digital space. The company specializes in social media marketing, web design, infographics and data visualization.

Anne Raimondi. After an illustrious marketing and product career at companies including eBay, SurveyMonkey, Zazzle, Gymboree and Blue Nile, this Stanford alum founded One Jackson, an e-commerce platform for original kids clothing created by indie designers.

“Solopreneurship” no doubt seems to be the career of choice for women in the post-recession decade. It offers the freedom to be your own boss, create your own business model, and choose your work style. At the same time, though, it can be a huge challenge even for seasoned entrepreneurs. In order to increase revenue and achieve long-term success, solopreneurs need to ask strategic questions and design and develop important tactics.  According to a recent Fox Business article, these include having a written vision, marketing plan, and budget, among other things. In the words of Marla Tabaka, a small-business advisor, “‘Solo’ doesn’t mean small.” Thinking big is often the biggest secret to success.

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