It's Small Business Week and more and more women are choosing to start a business as a way to gain more control over their lives.
I often compare starting a business with motherhood. You cope with the same range of emotions -- excitement about the new venture, quickly coupled with total fear that you may not be up for the task in hand, be it running a business or raising a child.
When you are pregnant, you read all the books available, attend the prenatal classes, and ask for advice from anyone who will listen. Likewise, when you are starting a business, you read the books, sign up for workshops, and get conflicting advice from friends and family.
Bottom line -- in either instance, nothing prepares you for the reality.
It is almost as if there is a code of secrecy. No one wants to tell you what it is really like. No one wants to spell out the down times. The sleep deprivation. The sense of rejection when no one calls you. And no one wants to admit that it was less than perfect for her.
Yet, if we were to be honest, in both cases there are some less-than-perfect days -- well, okay, weeks -- when we question our sanity and our ability to manage this new role.
When I was first home with my daughter, I hadn't realized what it would be like to be at home with a baby and no other adults in sight. I feared that a steady dose of solitude would make me forget how to string a sentence together, let alone complete a thought.
Years later when I started my consulting practice from my home, I felt the same pangs of isolation. This time I had my two dogs for company, so the conversation was equally one-sided. And the phone wasn't exactly ringing off the hook either.
Funnily enough, my coping strategy in each instance was the same -- to start a support group, as I was convinced that other women felt the same way as I did.
As a young mom, I joined forces with four other mothers to start a family resource centre, a life-saving place that provided parents and their children with a safe haven where they could explore, learn and grow together. Our first program was called Mothers are People Too, which rather says it all.
As for Company of Women -- it hit the road running, with 165 women turning up for the first event. It was then that I knew I was on to something.
Over the years, I've watched hundreds and hundreds of women business owners grow both personally and professionally. I've observed what works and, perhaps more importantly, what doesn't and I've learned some lessons of my own -- some the hard way.
But I have discovered that regardless of the type of business, the challenges faced are often similar, and as women we can support and help each other if we are prepared to be honest, drop the mask of perfection and find safety in numbers rather than a competitive approach.
The challenge when you are new to anything -- be it motherhood or running a business -- you don't know what you don't know. That's why it is good to connect with your peers, because then you will discover you are not alone, that most of us go through those moments of self-doubt and lack the confidence to take that next bold step forward.
And in case you ever wonder why you decided to enter world of entrepreneurship, you should know that, just as with motherhood, there are many moments of great joy and a true sense of accomplishment.
Those crucial milestones -- when you get your first order, complete a successful project, or pull off a big sale -- are exhilarating. I could never go back to working for someone else. I enjoy my freedom too much, and truth be told, I doubt if I am employable anymore!
Anne Day is the Founder of Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business -- www.companyofwomen.ca. She is the author of "Day by Day - Tales of business, life and everything in between." Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org