Lessons from Female Entrepreneurs, for Female Entrepreneurs

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be the moderator for the live screening of the Dream, Girl film at the FreshBooks HQ.

Dream, Girl is a documentary created to tell the stories of amazing female entrepreneurs and to inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurs and leaders.

As the Moderator, I interviewed the Director, Erin Bagwell, after the film and facilitated a panel discussion with 4 successful female Canadian entrepreneurs. As a female entrepreneur myself, I expected this event to teach me a thing or two about running a business, leave me feeling inspired and allow me to make some new connections. But I gained so much more than that.

This event made me think differently about what it means to be a female entrepreneur. It opened my eyes to some of the struggles we face as a group but also educated me on how I can be a better entrepreneur myself as well as set an example for those aspiring to become entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the key takeaways I gleaned from this event and that I hope to keep top of mind on a daily basis throughout my journey as a female entrepreneur.

1. Female Entrepreneurs Need to Embrace Vulnerability

Vulnerability is typically associated with signs of weakness, inferiority and failure… therefore we try to avoid it at all costs. The truth is, so many good things can come from a place of vulnerability.

Stop trying to “fake it till you make it”. It’s OK to not have all the answers.

As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” As female entrepreneurs, we need to shift our mindsets from seeing vulnerability as a sign of failure and to seeing vulnerability as an opportunity for creative problem solving and collaboration.


Stop trying to “fake it till you make it”. It’s OK to not have all the answers. Embrace vulnerability, ask for help and keep an open mind.

2. Know Your Worth and Charge for It

Did you know that female entrepreneurs charge on average 20% less than their male counterparts? It’s time we start to recognize our worth and feel confident charging for it.

In the early stages of starting a business, you’re desperately seeking validation so it’s tempting to take any business that comes your way. I’m guilty of doing this myself. However, the sooner we’re able to recognize our worth and charge for it, the sooner we’ll attract higher quality customers. The knock-on effect is we’ll build a portfolio we’re proud of and our businesses will grow faster.


Identify a price that makes you feel confident about the work that you’re doing, charge that amount right from the beginning and do so with confidence.

Nicole (left) moderating the panel discussion of the Dream, Girl screening at FreshBooks HQ in Toronto.

3. Ladies, Ask For What You Want

Women initiate negotiations 4 times less than men. A Hewlett-Packard study revealed that the women working at HP asked for promotions only when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications necessary for the job. Conversely, the men happily asked for a promotion even if they felt they could meet just 60% of the qualifications.

While the above example references the corporate world, it’s equally relevant for entrepreneurs as well. As females, we are far more likely to rely on people recognizing our efforts and eventually offering us what we want without us having to ask for it. All this does is slow down our success.

Muster up all of your confidence and ask for what you want. Do this early and often.

This is something that has been particularly top of mind for me since attending this event as it made me realize how little I ask for what I want. Putting ourselves out there and asking for what we want will be extremely uncomfortable at first as we’re all afraid of rejection. But the good news is, the more we do it, the easier it’ll get and the more opportunities we’ll create for ourselves.


Muster up all of your confidence and ask for what you want. Do this early and often. If the answer is no, find out why, make the necessary changes and ask again. You’ll be surprised at how often the answer will be “yes”.

4. Decouple Masculine Behavioural Traits with Success

There are certain stereotypical behavioural traits of men that are generally associated with success such as assertiveness, ownership, tenacity and delegation. As females, we tend to shy away from embodying these behaviors due to the fact that they’re perceived as being “aggressive” in women. We need to begin decoupling stereotypical masculine traits from success and start to feel comfortable embodying these behaviors.

Instead of asking yourself “How can I act more like a man to become more successful?”, ask yourself “How can I act more like the successful people I admire?” Simply shifting your mindset in this way will leave you feeling inspired, not defeated.


Make a list of 5 successful people that you admire and write down their behavioural traits that you feel make them successful. You’ll likely see a pattern of common traits emerge amongst these 5 individuals. Challenge yourself to embody these traits in a way that feels comfortable and natural to you.

5. Support Other Female Entrepreneurs, Even Competitors

As an entrepreneur, especially in the early stages, life can often feel incredibly lonely and isolating. As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of internalizing your accomplishments, underestimating yourself and feeling envious of other successful business owners. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this.
The Dream, Girl event reminded me of the power in numbers. I learned that the best way to combat some of those negative feelings that come along with the isolation of entrepreneurship is by finding your tribe and leaning on them for support. The more we support each other, even our competitors, the more successful we’ll all be.

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When you see someone else running the same type of business as our own, turn any negative feelings into positive ones by recognizing that you share the same passion and are working towards the same goal. Instead of seeing them as a competitor, try to find ways to collaborate in an effort to reach your end goal faster. Remember, no two businesses will ever be the same as your personality will always set you apart so don’t let that get in the way of supporting and collaborating with other female entrepreneurs.


Challenge yourself to adapt an abundance mindset; there’s room for all of us to succeed and we’ll get there faster when we support each other and lift each other up.

As female entrepreneurs, we’ve come a long way. But, there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to open the same doors for us as our male counterparts. Embrace vulnerability, recognize your worth and charge for it, ask for what you want, decouple masculine behavioural traits with success and support other female entrepreneurs (even competitors!). By collectively challenging ourselves to take each of these actions, day in and day out, we’ll all become more successful female entrepreneurs, faster.

about the author

Email Marketing Manager, FreshBooks Nicole Murphy is an email marketing expert, entrepreneur and podcaster. As the Email Marketing Manager for FreshBooks and Founder of Learn To Love Email, Nicole is on a mission to help as many small business owners as possible learn how to love email marketing and everything it can do for their business. To learn more about how you can incorporate email marketing into your business, tune into her podcast or check out her blog over at LearntoLoveEmail.com.