Profile of a Successful Woman Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship is a key driver of the contemporary economy. Most problems witnessed in the current world can be tackled through entrepreneurial activities. Thus, there has been a focus on the need to thrive in this area. Since the dawn of the 21st century, women have risen on corporate scene through innovative activities. As a result, there has been a need to document the profile of such women to ensure the world learns from them. This study focused on documenting the profile of one such woman. After extensive research, Danielle Fong was selected and contacted for an interview. She agreed to be interviewed via Skype. This reduced the cost of the study. The study includes an introduction to the issue with an aim of defining the problem. From the problem definition, the study established the essence of bringing out qualities that have made Danielle Fong an energy technologist mogul. The study highlights a review of the literature on women entrepreneurship before presenting the study findings. From the findings, it emerged that Fong had self-belief, the ability to move ahead in faith, was driven by passion, and focused on a greater cause. The study further established that Fong dreamt big about her company and was willing to learn and be criticized.
Table of Contents
Executive Summary. 1
1.0 Introduction and Problem Definition. 3
1.1 The aim of the study. 3
1.2 Study Methodology. 4
2.0 Literature Review.. 4
3.0 Primary Findings. 6
3.1 Personal Life. 6
3.2 Entrepreneurship Engagement 7
3.3 Entrepreneurial Insights from Fong. 8
3.3.1 Self-belief 9
3.3.2 Moving Ahead In Faith. 9
3.3.3 Women Entrepreneurs are driven by Passion. 10
3.3.4 Humbleness and Willingness to Learn. 10
3.3.5 Ability to Handle Criticism.. 11
3.3.6 Dreaming Big. 11
3.3.7 Focus on a Greater Cause. 12
4.0 Conclusion. 12
5.0 Works Cited. 12
Male dominance is a common phenomenon in almost every sector in the corporate world. Some of the well known and successful entrepreneurs are mostly men including the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who have dominated telecommunication industry through their companies, Apple and Facebook, repectively. Entrepreneurship, being the major vehicle of success in the corporate world, has equally affected by gender imbalance. According to Greene, Hart, Gatewood, Brush, and Carter (3), in 1972, only 4.6% of businesses in the US were owned by women. Nevertheless, entrepreneurship is a spirit and anyone with zeal to succeed can do so irrespective of his or her gender. Greene, Hart, Gatewood, Brush, and Carter (4), state that the number of self-employed women started swelling in 1972 whereby it increased from 1.5 to 3.5 million in 1984.
Women entrepreneurs are increasingly becoming prominent in the US as well as in the corporate world globally. Women are increasingly becoming important customers, employers, suppliers, and competitors in the global community. However, there has been little effort in carrying out researches on women entrepreneurs (Dhaliwal 46). Although their impact on the economic front has been increasing, there is a significant information gap on the dissemination of information on their success. As a result, this study focused on a woman entrepreneur.
The study aims at establishing the profile of a woman entrepreneur. The study will seek to understand her story and how she has coped with the world hitherto been considered male domain. At the same time, the study will establish essential qualities that have made this woman thrive in her business. Information unearthed in this study will be essential for other women climbing the entrepreneurial ladder.
The study employed face-to-face interview with an influential entrepreneurial woman. The woman was selected based on searches in women magazines, as well as business writings. The first three women selected were not available and thus could not be contacted for a face-to-face interview. The fourth woman, Danielle Fong, agreed for a face-to-face interview through Skype. A date was established and interview contacted.
Interview questions were formulated to bring about her profile as a successful entrepreneur. The interview was recorded. At the same time, secondary data on Danielle Fong was sort from the internet and the information presented in this study.
Gertrude Stein, a famous woman entrepreneur, states that an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur (Greene, Hart and Gatewood 5). This means entrepreneurship does not rely on color, sex, size or nationality, but rather on the spirit of one partaking it. Bourne and Marta (427) defines entrepreneurship as the ability to be creative by using the available resources to solve an existing problem. Studies on entrepreneurship have focused on mainly male entrepreneurs with regards to their venture, and entrepreneurial behaviors. Although equality policy may generalize male and female entrepreneurs as being the same, Riebe (242) states that there is a small difference in the way they organize, prepare, access resources, and becomes motivated to attain their goals.
The concept of women entrepreneurship is explored effectively by Chavan (3). Chavan (3) conceptualizes entrepreneurship as an economic undertaking assumed by an individual or a group of people. It involves making a new range or combination of previously existing forces or materials. This means entrepreneurs mainly innovate rather than inventing. Women entrepreneurship thus includes the processes whereby women systematize all factors of production, assume risks, and afford employment to other people. In 1972, only 4.6% of businesses in the US were owned by women (Greene, Hart, Gatewood, Brush, and Carter 2). Nonetheless, entrepreneurship is equated to a spirit and anyone with enthusiasm to prosper can do so notwithstanding of his or her gender. Greene, Hart, Gatewood, Brush, and Carter (4), claim that the number of entrepreneurial women begun swelling in 1972. This number grew by two million between 1972 and 1984.
Women entrepreneurship started growing tremendously in the 1990s. According to Greene, Hart, Gatewood, Brush, and Carter (5), there were about 9.1 million businesses owned by women in the USA in 1999. These businesses had a workforce of 2.7 million employees and racked in $3.6 trillion revenues. The numbers kept growing in the 2000s, whereby the number of women forming businesses grew twice the rate of national growth. The perception of the role of women started changing in the US and was now seen as an important driving force in the business.
Women entrepreneurship was motivated by poor economic situations, divorce catapult, high unemployment rates, and motivation from other women. The economic crisis of the 1980s coupled with economic modernization and commercialization drove many women into urban areas. This gave rise to self-employment micro-managed businesses in non-formal sectors.
Women entrepreneurs are essential in the economy as their input adds to the nation’s GDP. Women have talents arising from their domestic skills which make them suitable to manage time, people, and budget. Such talent is essential in entrepreneurship and makes them an important force in the industry.
Mani (357) states that women entrepreneurs exhibit certain qualities that position them as the best compared to their male counterparts. However, Mani (357) assertions differ with Greene, Hart, Gatewood, Brush, and Carter (2) who says that an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur, meaning that there is no difference. Greene, Hart, Gatewood, Brush, and Carter (4) further claim that entrepreneurs must bear some qualities which must drive them to their success. Some these qualities will be unearthed in this study.
The study established a profile of Danielle Fong. The profile was derived from transcribed information from the audio interview recorded. The study also unearthed essential traits which have made Fong to prosper in entrepreneurship.
Danielle Fong is one of the youngest women business entrepreneurs in the world. In 2014, she was featured in Forbes magazine as one the most achieving entrepreneur in 30 under 30 categories in energy (Metz 37). Fong was born on 30th October 1987. She grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Fong grew up as a bright child in their family but dropped twice in her schooling effort in a bid to pursue her entrepreneurial dream. During the interview, she claimed that life was simple during her schooling age and that her school was not special from other schools.
Although Fong claims to be an ordinary child, the study established that her schooling was extraordinary. At just a tender age of 12, she dropped out of junior high school to enroll in university. The management of Dalhousie University found it incredulous to enroll a 12-year-old girl in a university program, but she proved them wrong in her studies. She worked extra hard and graduated with on top of her class. Her first class honors degree in physics and computer science put her on top of her class. When prodded further, Fong claims that her academic excellence was purely based on hard work rather than purported natural intelligence. Fong joined Princeton University in a PhD program in the Department of Plasma Physics. She worked on the program for some time and later dropped out of the program to pursue personal interests.
Fong claims that she thought severally about her life after dropping out of her PhD program. She says that she knew she needed to do something with her life because education alone was useless if not put into use. She considered several employment opportunities but opted out of them because she considered herself a bad employee. Her short stint in a software company taught her how to network with the right people, and this made her team up with co-founders of LightSail Energy. She started this company with Edwin Berlin and Stephen Crane.
LightSail Energy focused on developing a form of energy that can be packed and stored. Fong based her business proposal on compressed energy air technique. At startup, the regenerative energy technology was based on vehicle technology. However, further development saw a shift to a grid-scale technology.
Fong explained in the interview her journey towards establishing LightSail Energy. She said that someone asked her one day the furthest a solar-powered car could move in the event fossil fuel is depleted. She sorted for an answer and discovered that a car wouldn’t be driven for a long period if it was powered by solar panels. Since solar panels were the only means available to store renewable energy, it means that there was a need for establishing other means for storing renewable energy and utilizing this energy when needed. Fong said that she thought of a rechargeable battery, but found them uneconomic and focused her attention on compressed air since it was cheap. She realized that writing a paper about this idea won’t be enough since no one will consider implementing it. As a result, she started a company that will implement the idea.
At first, Fong did not know how to get funds but teamed with two former colleagues who helped her secure funding. Six years after its establishment, LihtSail Energy had produced a prototype of its first product and had a net worth of $25 million. The focus of LightSail Energy is to establish a commercial pressure vessel using compressed air. Fong expects her product to hit the market by the end of 2016 and will be used mainly in hotel chains and schools among other places.
During interviewing Daniele Fong, it emerged that she had developed certain traits that niched her as an entrepreneur. Traits realized are essential in bringing out the traits of a woman entrepreneur which can be emulated by other women. These insights are discussed in this section.
During the interview, self-belief emerged as a paramount trait in Daniele Fong. During startup years, LightSail Energy was looking for a sponsor. Fong said that they wrote several proposals to the Department of Energy for consideration for a grant. However, their idea was rejected by most people present during the presentation as being impossible. However, Fong believed in her ideas and kept pressing for more funds. She kept presenting her ideas in various conferences until her company received $15 million from Khosla Ventures. Fong believed that she was heading for greatness. She believed in her ideas and did not focus on the negative remarks people were saying about her ideas and her company.
When prodded about the LightSail Energy idea, Fong claims that she started thinking about it in 2005 and believes that she could solve the energy problem. Before even joining Princeton University, she had thought about the biggest challenges facing the America society and realized that energy was on top. She claims that although the US had invented renewable energy initiatives, it had not made a breakthrough in inventing method of storing such energy. As a result, her main focus when joining physics department was to solve the problem of renewable energy. She held that she could do it herself rather than expecting someone else to do it.
Belief is being certain of the inbuilt potential, but faith is being certain of the uncertainties. Business thrives on uncertainties and thus one must have faith in what he or she is doing to thrive in uncertainties. In the interview with Fong, it emerged that her faith in making a breakthrough in energy storage was the driving force behind the establishment of LightSail Energy. Fong claims that she left her PhD program with faith that she will raise enough capital to start her company. Even after being turned down by the US Department of Energy, she had faith that the situation will change in future to pave the way for the establishment of her company. Her faith paid after some time when her proposal got funding from Khosla Ventures. Faith drives an entrepreneurial person. Lack of faith means that one will lack the drive to press on in the situation whereby there seems to be no progress.
It emerged that passion was the drive behind the success of Danielle Fong. Even before she enrolled herself in the degree program, Fong was passionate about solving challenges in the energy sector. Her choice of study subject was in line with the energy sector, and thus her passion saw her graduate on top of her class in Physics. During her time in the graduate program, she saw it as a waste of time since the program was grooming her to be a university professor rather than an entrepreneurial guru in the energy sector. Women have a soft heart and thus can easily develop passion in what they are doing and turn it into a big venture.
Fong stated that entrepreneurial journey is long and can be affected by some changes in the corporate world. The innovation of today can turn out to be obsolete even before being commercialized. As a result, one has to stay on course and keep adapting to cope up with the change. Fong exhibited her humbleness during the interview. Despite the media painting her as an extraordinarily bright student, she claimed that she was just a normal student, and there was nothing superhuman in her schooling program. She claimed that even after leaving her doctorate program, she went to learn how to implement her ideas from other people in the Silicon Valley. Even after successfully growing her company to the current status in six years alone, Fong said that she has no right answers to everything in the company. However, she said that she would learn from other people when the opportunity comes. She claimed that technology moguls such as Steve Jobs were her inspiration.
Fong joked that she was happy women are considered a black sheep when pitted against men in the event of wrongdoing. However, this is not a joke because such attitude has enabled women handle criticism more effectively than men and hence their success in the entrepreneurial activities. She claimed that she had been criticized on many occasions, but that has been her driving force. She says that many people put off her ideas during startup. Even the Department of Energy, which is supposed to encourage entrepreneurial activities, rebuffed her ideas terming them as “nothing new.” She said that listening to other people’s opinions before acting will limit one’s success.
Fong said that she had a dream to revolutionize energy field with big innovations, and this kept her pressing hard to achieve it. She envisioned a world for herself with stored renewable energy. She dreams of driving herself in a car that does not require fossil fuel or battery to run. A dream keeps one’s pressing on amidst some changes.
Fong advised upcoming Entrepreneurs to be driven by the need to solve an existing issue rather than to focus on money. She claimed that she did not start LightSail Energy to become a billionaire, but rather to save the planet. Personal business is not for making personal money but rather for generating money or goods to solve an existing problem.
Entrepreneurship is a driver of the economy in the contemporary world. Most glitches witnessed in the current world can be solved by entrepreneurial activities, and thus, there has been a focus on the need to thrive in this area. Since the emergence of the 21st century, women have risen on corporate scene through innovative activities. As a result, there has been a need to document the profile of such women to ensure the world learns from them. Entrepreneurship is the vehicle that can drive the economy. It has developed and multiplied in the current economy because of the emergence of a large number of people with the quest to innovate. Although women have been sidelined in important matters for a long time, this study has established their importance in the economy by being the driver behind entrepreneurial activities. The study has unearthed the profile of Danielle Fong, whose innovation in the renewable energy sector has seen her become a pioneer in producing vessels to store compressed air. The paper has earthed essential qualities inherent in Fong. Fong had self-belief; the ability to move ahead in faith was driven by passion and focused on a greater cause. The study has further established that Fong dreamt big about her company and was willing to learn and be criticized. These findings are essential as they act as learning points for other women.
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