It's National Women's Equality Day* and as you may or may not know, I'm the CEO and co-founder of Outlaw, and I'm a woman. It seemed appropriate to say a word about being a woman entrepreneur, and, in particular, about being a woman entrepreneur of a business that lots of folks think is "for men."
"I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it." - Mae West
"If a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one." - Calamity Jane
I've quoted those two witty women many times in this blog. Those words give me a lot of strength on the particularly grind-filled days of being a business owner.
The truth is that until I started fundraising, I never really was aware of any particular challenges of being a "woman in business."
Being a small business owner is very difficult, no matter what your gender is. I know lots of men entrepreneurs, and this is hard stuff for them, too. It's stressful and scary. People (both strangers and folks you trust) tell you mean things, specifically, to your face and online. Money is always tight. Sales are always too slow. Employees are always human beings, being humans.
I've struggled with my power and my voice in the workplace.
As a woman, I probably tend to avoid conflict more than men. In the interest of being "nice," I've shied away from being straightforward. This has not served me well in the past, and I've been working to fix it.
Since I've got a great husband and partner (that'd be Russ, for those of y'all who don't know our arrangement), he helps be my voice when I need to get a message across. I also am really grateful for the strong guiding forces in our business, both men and women.
But we're a long way from being equal.
For most of our business, my gender hasn't mattered much (in terms of the business). I think between me and Russ, we balance each other out and make the business better. But as we talk with investors, sexism has indeed reared its ugly head. Less than 3% of the venture funds out there go to women-owned businesses, and a lot of that is just institutional bias. It's invisible, but I do feel it.
Thankfully, we've met amazing people who are open minded enough to believe in Outlaw and our leadership... chromosomes notwithstanding. Our fundraising has been great, and honestly, if people don't want to invest in Outlaw because there's a woman at the helm, I probably don't want 'em on the ship anyways.
Many people think our products are just for men, but guess what: they're not! Women use 'em and love 'em! We made scents that smell like things Russ and I love, not because they're "manly," but because they're real.
Yes, most of our customers are men. But I think that's just because these scents are traditionally bolder and more male-focused.
But c'mon. Women can smell like leather and campfire and gunpowder. And that's why we don't specify the gender on most of our products. Because frankly, we don't care if you're a manly man or a womanly woman or anything in between.
We just want you to feel good about yourself and how you smell.
And this is what Outlaw means to me... We don't have to play by everyone's rules, we just get to be ourselves and like what we like.
And on that happy note, I'm going to go break open this fresh bottle of Badlands Cologne.
Thanks for being part of this little Outlaw gang!
* As well as National Dog Day, but I'm fine with this coexistence.