Susan Feniger

No one ever said starting your own company was easy. Daily struggles have done in many budding entrepreneurs. From getting seed funding to finding home/work balance and everything in between, having your own business can be a stressful endeavor, not for the faint of heart. 

But people are able to succeed and thrive every day. How do they look past the naysayers? What inspire them to pick themselves up after a big set back?  Which method do they use to rise above the noise in the vast online landscape? We asked five successful business women to tell us their biggest professional challenges and how they overcame them. If you are down for the count, this may just inspire you to get up for another round.

1. Failure is inevitable so learn to “fall fast forward.” 

Chef Susan Feniger rose to prominence on the 1990s TV show Too Hot Tamales, alongside her partner Mary Sue Milliken. She’s also appeared on Top Chef Masters, Iron Chef and countless cooking shows. She is currently co-owner of LA’s Border Grill with eight locations around Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and is opening a new restaurant in Santa Monica, California this fall. As a restaurateur, Susan’s biggest challenges have been the eateries that didn’t make it.

“Luckily I have a horrible memory, so it’s easy when we have a failure to just be okay and move on,” she conceded. “We’ve closed restaurants and had failures for sure but I don’t find that those set me back in a big way. Sure, at the moment they do but I feel like I’m able to move past that and move on. I don’t know who said it, but there’s that saying ‘fall fast forward.’ So I’m able to do it and move on and not have it scare me and not have it stop me from doing new stuff.” 

2. You have the power to change the things that aren’t working.

Annette Corsino-Blair is the owner of The Knitting Tree L.A. in Inglewood, California. Annette is known not only for the great selection of yarns in her store but for fostering a growing community of knitting enthusiasts. She admitted that as an artist, the business side of things can be daunting but Annette uses her creative mind to view obstacles from a different angle.

“Getting over the terror of running a business has been very challenging,” Annette acknowledged. “I just have the faith that the answers will come. The thing that I realized is if you don’t like the way things are, change them. These numbers aren’t working, so let’s change those numbers. There have been times where I’ve run out of yarn and I just dyed a bunch myself. It’s forced me to have more ingenuity — necessity being the mother of invention — figuring out other ways of looking at things, of coming up with solutions that I wouldn’t have thought of had things been easy. I don’t just sit there and wait. I’m going to go after it, look for a solution.” 

3. Let go of personal baggage for a better professional journey.

Daina Trout is the co-founder of Health-Ade Kombucha, the fastest growing brand in the fermented beverage category. Along with her husband and their friend, she started the company in the closet of their tiny Los Angeles apartment. Now, seven years later, they have 200 employees and are in stores nationwide. But Daina’s biggest professional challenge has been personal.

“There’s a concept that we as [Health-Ade] founders [believe] — that you cannot go professionally where you don’t first go personally,” Daina explained. “So for us, it’s the personal journey that has been the challenge. In a lifetime most people can relate to transformation. You’re not the same person you were when you were 20. And each decade perhaps brings on a new phase of yourself. When you start something from scratch or you’re building something great or you’re doing something new, you’re really challenging yourself. I’m fine with this imperfect self because it’s constantly challenged me to be better at every single aspect of myself. And so the biggest challenge is recognizing that there’s just so much baggage we carry that’s unnecessary. Transformations in general are putting those bags down. I’ve got to keep dropping bags off everywhere I go — building that confidence in myself along the way and being a stronger CEO.”

4. It’s important to have people in your corner.

Elise Dharma is the founder of the marketing agency Canupy and a travel entrepreneur. She offers online courses and one-on-one coaching to aspiring travelpreneurs who seek freedom from their nine to five jobs. To Elise, the toughest hurdle was knowing who to trust when putting herself on display online.

“One of the biggest challenges was actually coming out as a personal brand,” Elise noted. “The funny thing is you fear trolls and comments from strangers on the Internet, but sometimes the things that hurt the most come from your own network, your own family and your friends. Most people were supportive, but sometimes there were odd reactions from friends that would hurt me the most. It took some time to work through that and understand that that reaction they’re having is more about them than me. It did affect and change my personal life. Even though from the outside everyone’s said your business is going so great, but sometimes you might feel lonely. Sometimes you might feel like where are the real life people in your corner? And it’s really important to have those people in your corner to support you when there are really challenging times because there will be.” 

5. Don’t wait around for the big dogs — build a brand with baby steps.

Erika de la Cruz is a host and inspirational speaker in the girl boss movement. She’s also the author of the Amazon #1 bestseller, Passionistas: Tips, Tales and Tweetables from Women Pursuing Their Dreams and creator of the conference, Passion to Paycheck. Rather than waiting for fame to knock on her door, Erika beat the door down a little at a time.

“One of the things you have to overcome when you’re starting your own brand is that no one’s heard of you,” Erika said. “One of the tricks that I share with my clients is getting into your niche. Find the press and media outlets for the people that you’re trying to reach and get features, even if it’s small features, baby features. That’s how I overcame the name recognition. I reached out to Career Contessa, I’m a Girl Boss, all these publications. They might not have the hugest reach, but I know as they grow, if I’m on their docket, I’m going to grow. Then I would take those interviews and press clips and media and I would put them on my own social media tabloids so that my direct community could also start seeing she’s being shouted by a third party. It really matters how people perceive you. You need to build yourself up because people think that once you get to a certain level, ‘The Today Show’ is going to call. I have news for you, unless they’re out there getting the press and media first, ‘The Today Show’ is not going to want to call. So people think, I’ll just do my thing until the big dogs come and knock at my door. But if you’re building a legacy, you have to start building the press and media and interview things on your own.”

Sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington have been inspired by the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp campaign and decided to use their skills as celebrity interviewers to work to tell a different kind of story. Where many podcasters reserve their airtime for the elite, Amy and Nancy are talking to amazing women you probably haven’t heard of, who are making a huge difference by following their passions. From the founder of a successful ice cream company to a volcano scientist running for office to an artist who makes sculptures using melted down nuclear weapons, Amy and Nancy shine a light on the positive stories of women on The Passionistas Project Podcast.