As someone who teaches women’s entrepreneurship, I appreciate Anne Cocquyt’s book Dare to Launch: Mini MBA for First-Time Entrepreneurs and her workbook. It is light on theory and heavy on practical advice with plenty of female role models and resources.
Most entrepreneurial books are geared toward a male mindset and the type of business models they create, such as SaaS companies. Many women start B2B companies, but they also launch healthcare, wellness, food, fashion, and beauty companies.
Those male-oriented entrepreneurial books don’t provide female role models or address common challenges women face. These issues include bias, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and more. Dare to Launch is based on Cocquyt’s experience as a serial entrepreneur and two years of experience teaching the eight-week GUILD Academy program to 200 entrepreneurs.
For those of you starting high-growth companies and seeking to raise angel and venture capital, Dare to Launch is great pre-accelerator prep. But it’s also a valuable book for solopreneurs, and you, too, can dare to think big.
Cocquyt is the real deal. She has prototyped new ideas within 48 hours and raised money for them. Yet, she failed to raise capital for another idea, so she understands from first-hand experience what a roller coaster ride entrepreneurship is. She’s invested in startups, including one that doubled her money two months after launch.
This book summarizes the “aha” moments of the entrepreneurs who have gone through the GUILD. It also brings you the collective wisdom of over a hundred investors, best-selling authors, and entrepreneurship experts in Cocquyt’s network.
In reality, men are judged on potential and women on their past experience. Whether it’s how men view women, women view other women, or how you view yourself, bias is baked into our culture. “Women have always had to outperform to get the same rank,” sighed Cocquyt. You had to do this in school, working in the corporate world, and even when you went out on your own and started your own business. Old habits die hard.
“Women have to unlearn this need to be perfect,” said Cocquyt. There are ways to test a not-so-perfect landing page, so it doesn’t damage your reputation. “There are exercises and frameworks in the book that allow you to take a little step to test what’s working and what’s not, enabling you to be nimble.”
Unlearning the way you’ve done things for decades can be emotional. “The only way to do that is by doing it,” said Cocquyt. “You have to put yourself out there.” The book provides exercises to help you move forward. One exercise is to do something uncomfortable every day for 100 days.
“To lower the barrier and not feel ashamed or whatever the emotions are that come with it, you need the support of a community who is there to tell you it’s okay. Many women think they have to do it all by themselves because that’s how they’ve always done it,” she said.
Whether you call your community your crew, tribe, posse, or something else, you need them at your side when taking the entrepreneurial journey. You can meet them in LinkedIn groups, chambers of commerce, women’s associations, mastermind groups, a GUILD course, or somewhere else. Your crew are role models and advisors. They cheer you on when things go well and offer their shoulders to lean on when things go awry. They are sounding boards. And, often have been there and done that.
You may be an aspiring entrepreneur who hasn’t yet fully articulated an idea you want to pursue. In Dare to Launch, Cocquyt suggests using a framework presented by Jonathan Littman, best-selling author of The Art Of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, a design and consulting firm. Cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset by:
- Bringing the curiosity of an anthropologist.
- Extending the empathy of a caregiver.
- Looking for what’s missing.
Screen your ideas by these factors:
- Potential return
Defining your “why” is critical. Your “why” is an expression of your values and enables you to align with others who share those values. Stakeholders include cofounders, employees, vendors, investors, and more. Cocquyt and I both recommend watching Simon Sinek’s popular TED Talk to help you define yours.
Whatever your idea, it has to make an impact on your users. J Li from Prototype Thinking Labs suggests that you “Ask your users how valuable this experience was for them on a scale from 1-10.” The goal is to move your customer at least three steps up on the happiness scale.
Perhaps because I give this advice, too, one of my favorites in Dare to Launch is that unless somebody asks you for one, don’t write a business plan. These days, markets and the economy are changing fast, and as soon as the ink is dry on your plan, it will be outdated.
Being fast and agile is what matters. Use the Lean Startup methodology. It is the process of failing forward by testing and improving your minimum viable products. Use the Business Model Canvas to map out who will buy your product and how you will make money. These tools and others help you take small, calculated risks, learning from them to de-risk your venture.
What is your “why?”
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