The number of women choosing to pursue a career as a business owner continues to grow, but despite the increasing number of female entrepreneurs, there are still formidable barriers which, if women let them, can hold them back. One of the most pervasive is a lack of confidence – something that is so important for entrepreneurial success. But as women, where does this lack of confidence come from and what can we do about it? In this blog post, we will explore just that, and identify how to build confidence as a business owner.

Where does the lack of confidence come from?

We all remember what it was like to be young girls. Most of us went through childhood with a sense of free abandon, that allowed us to be unapologetically ourselves. It didn’t matter if our clothes didn’t match. It didn’t matter if we chose to sing our favourite songs as we walked down the street with our parents. The world felt like our oyster, and we were unstoppable.

So what happened? And how can we build that confidence back?

One of the first things to note is the effect of expectation. This might be familial expectation – perhaps parents who expected us to pursue a particular career path. Or a partner who expects us to be the one looking after the home and the children. Once these expectations become embedded, veering away from that path can lead to feelings of self-doubt, and we find it more difficult to imagine ourselves achieving the success we dream of.

The second thing that holds us back from knowing how to build confidence as business owners is a fear of failure. There’s no denying that entrepreneurship and risk go hand in hand, but a fear of failing can stop even the most adventurous and innovative of us, in our tracks. When you add this to the weight of expectation mentioned above, the lack of confidence becomes even more pronounced.

A third contributor to a lack of confidence is a lack of representation or relevant connections. Perhaps you are the first female entrepreneur in your family or friendship group and so you have nobody close to you who is further along on their own entrepreneurship journey. Equally, if we don’t find networking easy, and don’t form connections with our peers, we begin to feel very alone, which eventually leads to lack of support and feelings of self-doubt.

But what can we do about it? Where do we start when it comes to how to build confidence as business owners?

How to build confidence: strategies for female entrepreneurs

1) Education and skills

As Kofi Annan said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.” And as such, knowledge is a powerful tool when it comes to how to build confidence. Female entrepreneurs should actively seek out opportunities for education and skill enhancement, and choose to spend time with people who can provide them with mentoring and guidance. All of these activities can provide valuable knowledge which, in turn, boosts confidence in their abilities.

2) Supportive Networks

Ensuring that we are surrounded by people that support and champion us and our efforts works wonders for our confidence. The same is true of spending time with people who have already been there and done whatever we are trying to accomplish. Shared experiences, challenges, and successes with like-minded individuals fosters a sense of belonging and confidence. Groups specifically designed for female entrepreneurs, like WIBN, of which I myself am a member, can be invaluable in this respect.

3) A Growth Mindset

Adopting a growth mindset means viewing challenges (and failures) as opportunities to learn and grow. By reframing failures and setbacks as learning points, and as such, stepping stones to success, we can bolster our confidence in our own abilities and navigate challenges far more effectively.

4) Self-Care and Well-being

There is a clear correlation between confidence and overall well-being. Essentially, when we feel good in ourselves, knowing how to build confidence comes naturally. To support ourselves in this regard, female entrepreneurs should prioritise both mental and physical self-care. Regular exercise, mindfulness practices, and seeking professional help if needed can contribute significantly to building confidence and resilience.

5) Visibility and Role Modeling

When we see other women being successful, it can be hugely inspiring. Visibility is key to breaking stereotypes and instilling confidence in aspiring women. The key though, is to take others’ successes as positive inspiration, and not reasons to allow Imposter Syndrome to creep in. As women we need to work together to share experiences, support each other, and collectively build our confidence as female entrepreneurs.

And now?

How to build confidence as female owners is not just an individual pursuit; it’s a collective responsibility. Society, businesses, and governments need to foster an environment where women are encouraged to dream big, take risks, and pursue entrepreneurial goals with unwavering confidence.

As a society, it’s crucial to recognise the unique challenges women face as entrepreneurs, and provide the necessary support. When we make the effort to build up women’s confidence, we unlock the immense potential for innovation, growth, and positive change, creating a future where every aspiring female business owner can chase her dreams and build a legacy of her own.