MSS: Tell us about the inspiration behind The Smart Girl’s Way. What changed in your life to help you to first seek to learn a smarter way to do things?
Around five years ago, I became obsessed with the idea that women could make a huge impact on the way that businesses and the world were run if we could only embrace the ways in which we are different from men and bring those significant differences to scale. Traits like passion, collaboration and weaving are critical for our success as society on planet earth. At the time, I—and many of the other women I knew—were being called upon to intervene in the largely negative paradigms impacting the triple bottom line—planet, people, and profit. After spending 17 years in the field of sustainability, I also came to realize that we weren’t going to change the existing culture from within. If we are going to restore equilibrium to the planet and sustain viable societies that work for people and business, we need to bring many more women into the conversation. We need to give assure economic and political parity to create a culture that not only embraces the benefits and contributions of diversity, but reaps the benefits of that diversity.
Around that time I began interviewing successful women, looking for the common set of
attributes that had helped them succeed, and in particular, looking for the “slip” factor—the point at which women give up their feminine approaches to problems because of the pressure of the more dominant, patriarchal win/lose culture we have today. It was this research that led me to uncover the unique strengths that women bring to business. I also saw the growing trend of entrepreneurship as the fastest, and most interesting, path towards that future.
MSS: Tell us about your personality traits. What is it that you believe you developed that has led you toward becoming a teacher of success?
All entrepreneurs have a sense of fearlessness and drive—at least when we find something we feel passionate about. For many women, our personality isn’t the driver; it is our sense of Integrity that leads us towards entrepreneurship. A burning desire to solve a problem and build something we can be proud of. When we have this we can leverage our Creativity… follow our Intuition…and feel simultaneously challenged and fulfilled. For me this manifested in the idea
of championing the cause of women—and in particular individual entrepreneurs. Ultimately I am a very pragmatic person. I’m action oriented and believe in doing something about injustice or what’s not working. When I was in high school in a very, very small town in eastern Oregon, I started a group that was focused on helping disabled teens. I did that because these kids were being marginalized and hurt through no fault of their own. It wasn’t fair. At the heart of my heart is a strong belief that justice can and should prevail. So now my beliefs translate into this work for women entrepreneurs. I believe that women are the key to a balanced future and I want to ignite the strengths and alliances we need to create to build a sustainable future.
Trust is something that is both freely given and also earned. I am an entrepreneur like everyone else and face the same obstacles that all other entrepreneurs face. I have learned some things along the way and it is my passion to share that experience with other women and celebrate the attributes we bring to every business, every day. I’m also a tireless seeker of truth. The research that I commissioned at the beginning of my company and the interviews we have done for the 100×100 are directly related to seeking that truth.
MSS: At the end of the day, we all want to work for ourselves. What sets the women who WILL apart from the women who WON’T?
What an interesting concept. I suppose that everyone who is reading and engaging here—your audience at Savvy Sisters—does want to work for herself. But entrepreneurship is clearly not for everybody. But I do think all women want to work for someone or something that makes a difference—so even the women who are not here looking to be entrepreneurs are seeking meaning in the work they do and the lives they live.
Every entrepreneurial story begins with a Vision-inspired Big Idea, a ViBI™. The challenge for any entrepreneur (man or woman) is turning that ViBI into a viable business. We created the SmartGirls Mirror as a means to help women discover and grow their ViBI. The biggest hurdles facing women entrepreneurs is a lack of confidence and a lack of access to the people, capital and community they need to be successful. We call our tool the SmartGirls Mirror to take the confidence issue head-on. We want women to not only like what they see in the mirror but to understand that what they see in the mirror is defined self-defined. The SG Mirror is a tool that helps them see and focus on their STRENGTHS and helps them tap into the skills they need to be successful.
MSS: Can you offer a gunshot start up advice for women who need that one last push to move toward becoming an entrepreneur?
The 2011 100×100 Project had a lot of goals, but one of them was to understand what helped women entrepreneurs take the leap. We just don’t believe that so few women entrepreneurs want financially successful business. While the statistic of women owning 34% of the non-publically held companies but only representing 4% of the GNP is alarming, we wanted to know for sure what this means—do women really not want financial success? Do we not care? Or are there other things in our way.
Time and time again, the successful (and sometimes still struggling) women entrepreneurs told us three things: Don’t take no for an answer; Surround yourself with people who know more than you do; Stay the course!
What’s the greater risk: Not following your vision and living a life of regret? Or, taking a risk and building the business you’ve dreamed of?
MSS: What has been your biggest obstacle so far in achieving your goal of teaching women and how did you overcome it?
Probably time and resources: Time in that everything takes more time (and money) than you think it will; Resources in that building a business requires more than one person. It takes time to build the relationships with the team, investors and customers you need to achieve success. It really is a relationship building process. Fortunately, most women are very good at building relationships.
MSS: What hopes do you have for your own future and the future of Smart Girls Way?
We are laser focused at SmartGirls Way on uniting the women’s entrepreneurial movement. This includes the investors and organizations that support women entrepreneurs, as well as connecting women entrepreneurs with other women like them. We have some great ideas for assuring that the creation of a constellation—a network of stars—can happen quickly efficiently and intuitively, building powerful global connections that will assure that women entrepreneurs have the opportunity and access they need to build the future we want—for ourselves, our children and their children.
For more information about Jean Brittingham’s life changing book, visit www.smartgirlsway.com