By Hanniz Lam

Yesterday I attended the launch of the Cartier Women’s Initiative global entrepreneurship programme 2023.

All the women present (about 50 of us) have a business which are making some form of impact whether through technology or social impact or both.

We didn’t speak about conquering our fears of starting a business as most of us began our businesses at least two or three years ago.

Hanniz Lam with Paris Ashikin of Impact Hub

What we did learn were the different setbacks that we faced as a woman and how we overcame them.

The panel session discussed the topic ““How can we create thriving ecosystems for women entrepreneurs in Malaysia?” and was hosted by Freda Liu with panelists  Dr Melissa Foo of Sunway iLabs, Kim Lim from PichaEats, and Renuka Sena of ScaleUp Malaysia.

Interesting points included :

♦️Challenges faced by women when unconscious bias takes place eg women who don’t get certain roles because their bosses think that they won’t be able to cope with certain tasks when pregnant

♦️There aren’t enough women VC’s to understand the viability of solutions that women are creating to solve problems that exist

♦️ Women entrepreneurs tend to want to do it all and find it harder to delegate because they’re used to doing everything from work to ensuring everything runs smoothly on the home front

♦️Women entrepreneurs tend to lack confidence and very often experience imposter syndrome

♦️Breaking the cycle. If your family isn’t supportive of your entrepreneurial ideas, break this cycle when it comes to your own kids. Support and believe in them

What’s stopping you from starting a business?

Needless to say, every decision you make has its consequences. If you haven’t watched Russian Doll (I found the two first episodes a little annoying but enjoyed the rest of it), you can see how one action results in some bizarre consequence as you find your way to the right path.

Raising funds whether through bootstrapping or through grants and angel investors or VCs is just one aspect of a business.

You need to learn how to manage your team, yourself and your business so that it’s profitable.

So if you are just starting out or planning to leave your full time job to start a business, what fears are stopping you from starting a business?

A common fear is “I don’t have any clue what sort of business I should start.”

A little while ago, Remit Singh, author of “I Will Teach You to be Rich” sent out a survey to hundreds of thousands of readers. He asked if they wanted to start their own businesses.

90%! Nearly everyone.

When he asked what was stopping them:

25% said “I don’t have an idea.”
30% said “I don’t even know where to start.”

Think about that. About HALF of the people who want to start a business and start living their life on their own terms…were blocked before they even start.

Then he asked another question.

“How long have you been thinking about starting a business?” The answers: Many said 2 years, 3 years, even 5+ years.

In summary, 90% want to start a business, but over half have been “thinking about it” for years.

Yo, a month is OK to be stuck. 6 months is OK. Years is too long.

If you’ve wanted to start a business but you don’t have an idea, follow this advice right now.

Here’s what I want you to do. This exercise should take you 1-2 days:

  • Spend at least 20 minutes today writing down possible businesses to start where you have the skills it takes to get if off the ground.
  • Keep this list somewhere handy and go about your regular routine. (What happens is that now that you’ve gotten into the mindset of looking for hidden skills, new ideas will continue to pop out at you. You’ll get them while you’re working, taking a shower, going for a walk, cooking dinner. I get some of my best ideas when I’m walking home from the gym.)
  • Any time a new idea comes up, mark it down.
  • Come back to your list tomorrow with fresh eyes, and see if you can come up with even more.

The #1 rule: Don’t critique yourself, just get them on paper.

It’s very possible that your future business will be in that list.

“Why would anyone buy from me?”

Here’s the fear: There’s already a ton of information out there. Why would anyone choose you over all these other people?

Some of them have had websites for years. They have way more traffic, more connections, more money. Why would someone choose you? How would they even find you?

Or maybe the fear is “I’m not an expert. Other people have been doing this for 10+ years. A lot of them have professional certifications, books, and even TV appearances. Why would anyone listen to me? And if I’m not sure about myself, how can I expect other people to take me seriously?”

Imposter Syndrome is real, and it is crippling. So many of us waste our time chasing mythical credentials, waiting for the right day when we suddenly have a certificate from some random organization giving us permission to go out in the world and do what we’re here to do. And then what? Suddenly we find … uh oh, that degree didn’t matter as much as we thought. Now what are we supposed to do?

Here’s the truth: When you speak directly to your customers’ needs, they stop wondering what your qualifications are and start asking how you can help.

Embrace being small. Embrace mistakes. Get started and move fast.

“I hate selling!”
Do you want someone to apologize to you when you buy your favorite fried rice at your favorite restaurant? Or when you treat yourself to that new laptop you’ve been planning to get for months? NO! You’re happy to pay.

If you have a great product or service that solves a real problem, why would you apologize? Why discount it 50%? Being afraid to sell can actually hurt your sales and make people think less of your product.

Sales doesn’t have to be sleazy. You can build a business around your true self.

And if you’re offering the right product to the right person, price is a triviality.

Be bold. You’re worth it.

Stop making these excuses!

“I’m uncomfortable doing ___”
“I don’t have enough time”
“I don’t have enough money”
“Will this work for me?”
“What if I fail?”

Think about what you want to achieve from your business and go get it!


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