Diversity Woman Magazine

SPR 2019

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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We Mean Business > 22 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N S p r i n g 2 0 1 9 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m need it. But most black women don't try to raise venture capital anymore. You already know that there's a zero percent chance you're going to get it. So how much effort are you going to put toward it when you already have all of the stress- es associated with building a company? ere are individuals who are rightly given the title "angel investors." No one who builds something that has the oppor- tunity to impact so many lives would be able to build it on their own. My investors have been in it to win it. ey've been here for the long haul and to make sure that we've had what we need to survive. Now we're going to be able to move from a place of mere survival to growth and scale, and actually be a thriving corporation. DW: How can we generate more female entrepreneurs and investors? SC: I have some female investors, but the majority are men. e reason that we have a low number of female investors is historical—men built businesses, cor- porations, and factories. ey made the money to invest. For too long, there were no women writing the checks. But the reality is that women are just as smart as men. Women are actually better businesspeople than men. at is not from Star Cunningham; that is from research showing that women build better, more ef- ficient companies than men do. Part of the reason for this is because men have a ten- dency to raise a lot of extra capital that they don't use in a very efficient way, whereas women don't have that luxury. We need more women writing the checks and build- ing the big businesses. DW: What lessons have you learned about entrepreneurship? SC: As an entrepreneur, you're embarking on something that, in many cases, has not been done yet. When you build a company that hasn't been built, you're jumping out of a moving plane and stitching your para- chute together on the way down. Entrepreneurship is about trying to fail in such a way that it doesn't cripple your company so it is unable to move forward. And to learn from every failure, because you learn more from failure than you learn from success. For example, our early presentations were projecting us making $15 million in revenue every month, and we are nowhere near that now. So there were some pivots, some sunk costs. But you keep on moving forward. You don't let the failures define you. DW: What are the main differences between being a corporate leader and being CEO of your own business? SC: It is night and day—it is so different. When you work especially for a large cor- poration like IBM, you operate in some type of an entrepreneurial fashion, but you sometimes struggle with [under- standing] where you fit into the larger picture, say, when you're looking at the annual report. When you're the CEO of the corporation, you are the annual report. You fit all over the place! ere is nothing that doesn't begin and end with you. e biggest transi- tion that you have to make is realizing that the majority of start-ups fail. So now you have to transition everything; you have to transition your mind from a place of scar- city to a place of surplus. You have to stop thinking, "We built this company, it's our baby. We don't want it to walk yet." You have to be ready to drop that baby off on the bus! So it's a huge transition from reporting to a CEO to be- ing a CEO. Until you do it, you will never understand it. DW: What advice do you have for wom- en who want to become entrepreneurs? SC: Just do it! ere is room for all of us. And you're going to find that the community of women entre- preneurs is a very supportive and kind community to be a part of. When I decided to take the leap, a mentor told me, "You can always go back [to a corporate job], but you only have a certain window of opportunity to go for- ward." I think that more women just need to do it. You can't wait for the right time. Also, a lot of being a woman in busi- ness has to do with your network. You have a tendency to feel like you need to go forward on your own. It's okay to have a village around you to help you navigate it, to tell you which way to go. It's okay not to think that you have to stick that one white flag up on top of the mountain by yourself. at's no fun anyway! Everybody wants immediate gratifi- cation. When you're in this space of en- trepreneurship, you're not always going to get that. You can go months without hearing a positive thing. You can't want affirmation so badly that you give up do- ing what you need to do to get the life you really want. DW: What advice would you give to women of color who want to become leaders? SC: As women of color and women from diverse backgrounds, we're told we are not supposed to toot our own horn. We have to let that go. I have to get better at saying, "What an amazing company I've built with this $2.7 million, and what amazing things we do every day." You have to be comfortable selling yourself. Because of our culture or the way we were raised, we are taught not to do that—to let somebody else tell us that. But that's not the way it is for the rest of the world. ey toot their horn! DW Ruchika Tulshyan is a Seattle-based inclu- sion strategist and frequent contributor to Diversity Woman. She was named to the inkers50 2019 Radar, a global list of 30 management thinkers to watch. We need more women writing the checks and building the big businesses.

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