As a female entrepreneur and CEO, I know all too well what it feels like to be the only woman in the room, to fight to have my voice heard. The year 2020 marks 100 years since women in America won the right to vote, yet we still have challenges and roadblocks to overcome, many of which we impose on ourselves. But as Ayn Rand once said, “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
I believe that for women, there has never been a better moment to be in business, to be a force in our communities, to be entrepreneurs, to run for office, to lift up those around us and to break the barriers of the past. Women today are feeling stronger and dreaming bigger because we are in a safer and more supported place to do so.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m excited to share a few words of advice that I hope will help you feel empowered in your own journey, and equipped to empower other women around you. Because we are so much stronger when we stand together.
1. Perfection is a lie, and failure is a gift.
As women, so often we put this pressure on ourselves to do it all — and to do it perfectly. In my first few years of business, I held myself to that unachievable standard of being the perfect mom and the perfect businesswoman, and it nearly broke me. I was a new mom with one failed business already under her belt, and so often that failure would creep back into my mind, reminding me that I wasn’t perfect.
I’d poured my heart into my first business venture and it didn’t work out. It crushed me, and could have easily convinced me never to open another business again. But at a certain point I realized, this is all about my attitude around this experience. What if I look at this as a learning experience instead of a failure?
I quickly learned the importance (and humility) in letting go of this idea of perfection. You can’t do it all on your own; no one can. I learned to look at failure as a gift, a stepping stone on your way to the next thing — the thing that works.
This concept of perfection is one example of a roadblock we make for ourselves. Sometimes as women we need to believe in ourselves, and silence that voice in our head that tells us we can’t do something. We need to teach the next generation of female leaders that it is much more important to be brave in the face of fear and failure. Teach them to be comfortable with imperfection and encourage them to take risks, not just smile and play it safe.
2. Lead with your values, not your ambition.
My early experiences in business had a profound effect on my leadership style. I saw other leaders, particularly women, who invested in the growth of their team members, who were about lifting everyone up, about being inclusive and building and sharing success together. Those were the leaders I wanted to emulate.
I realized that leadership is also about establishing a set of values that will guide you in building your dream. Family, fashion, and philanthropy — those were my pillars and as a leader, and every day I leaned on those values to drive every decision I made. Your values should not just be a mission statement; it’s the way you run your business and your life, every day.
So to growing leaders, be extremely observant of the tone that is set by other leaders around you, the good and bad. What values do they promote? What environment do they create for their team? Learn from them, and begin to decide what is important to you in your own leadership style.
To this day, my business is founded on those same core values: family, fashion, and philanthropy. And I firmly believe that those core values are what set my business apart and got us to where we are today. When you live your core values, do work that you’re proud of, and lead by example, you will find success.
3. Think like an entrepreneur.
I believe that being an entrepreneur means so much more than simply starting your own business. Thinking like an entrepreneur means seeing yourself as entirely responsible for your success and the achievement of your goals.
Entrepreneurs see possibilities and challenges in a unique way, and find opportunities to make an impact. Once I started to grasp that, it opened up a whole new way of thinking for me. To me, that entrepreneurial mindset is about thinking strategically, letting the ‘no’s’ bounce off you, putting obstacles in perspective as a problem that needs to be solved, not a reason to give up.
Once you start building that skill, you’ll begin to see more opportunities, more ways to get around challenges and you begin to develop a sense of ownership in any given circumstance. An entrepreneurial mindset empowers everyone to be a leader, no matter what your career, your role, or your title may be.
4. Surround yourself with people who build you up.
A word of advice that I often share with the women in my life is, “Do what you love, and then surround yourself with people who believe in you.” Finding your support system is critical, not just for entrepreneurs, but for everyone.
Even when I was going through incredibly hard times in my life or my business, I didn’t let myself give up on my dream. And I was amazed at the support I found from the women around me, women who believed in me, inspired me and equipped me with the tools we needed to make Kendra Scott what it is today.
There isn’t a more unstoppable force than a group of women who are determined to change the world for the better. I hope that this International Women’s Day, we will link arms with each other and continue to make a positive impact on the world around us.