Want to Break Through the Glass Wall? Start a New Media Company

Catching up with Daily Muse founder, Kathryn Minshew

According to a new paper released this week by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, women start high-growth companies, like those in high tech, at lower rates than men. But that's not due to women's innate capacity for entrepreneurialism, says the paper, titled “Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers.” So where are women entrepreneurs making headway? New media is one industry where a proportionately higher number of companies are led by women, according to Politics Daily. We believe one reason for this may be the very strengths that make us women lend themselves well to this high-growth industry.

SmartGirls Way spoke with Kathryn Minshew, founder of the new media outlet, The Daily Muse, about why she believes more women are leading successful media companies.

SGW: Women network in a unique and "multi-direction" manner, connecting lots of ideas, people and opportunities. How do you see this playing out in the world of online media?

Minshew: I consider my friends, mentors and network to be my greatest asset to my business, and the value these relationships bring is to me is proven time and time again. Women, in particular, have an advantage here which I think we should be more comfortable expressing.

For example, in the corporate world I was often told never to take a meeting without an agenda or a specific desired outcome. While I agree this is generally good business, I think it falters when applied to networking. Many of my best connections came about because I was genuinely interested in the individual and who they were, what made them tick. I still take many meetings regardless of whether or not I have a specific business angle in mind, because I enjoy meeting new people and I firmly believe you never know who can help you—or who you can help.

SGW: One of the things we've noticed at SGW is there is a strong willingness and capability among women entrepreneurs to help each other—even within the same vertical. This isn't always true in the corporate world where it is sometimes truly a "cat fight" for the one spot at the top. Is it your experience that women entrepreneurs are willing, and happy, to make introductions and keep things positive?

Minshew: Absolutely. My experience with entrepreneurs as a whole has been incredibly positive, particularly when it comes to people helping each other out with introductions, shared experiences, marketing—the whole gamut. I've never met so many individuals who are willing to spend time or social capital freely for others. Being a female entrepreneur, there's also this bond you share with other women in the field, since there are relatively few of us and the path of an entrepreneur can be a lonely road.

I was at a tech event the other night that was maybe 95 percent male, and I started a conversation with a wonderful woman who was just starting a new company on the side. Within minutes, another woman joined. "I saw two women in one place, and had to come over and say hi," she joked.

SGW: How can we encourage more young women to seek the partners they need to grow great businesses rather than spending years and years in traditional patriarchal organizations?

Minshew: I think it's all about taking the leap in a way that fits your appetite for risk. Figure out what you need to feel comfortable, and then make it happen. Some women want three months of savings; some want a year. Find your comfort zone and actively work towards that goal.

I also love to suggest that people work for another startup if they're considering growing their own business, but aren't quite ready to fully take the plunge.

SGW: What's the greatest challenge you've faced since starting your business?

Minshew: This past June, I ran into a situation where I had to start my business over, from day one, after ten months of hard work. I hadn't drawn a salary from my first company, so money was tight, and the thought of beginning a second time at "square zero" seemed unbelievably daunting.

That was when I received some of the best advice I'd ever heard: Start with small steps.  Identify the three to five practical things you would need to feel comfortable in order to take the next step and start there.

For me, those were: (1) knowing my business partners were on board, (2) identifying great technical talent, (3) having at least three months of financial runway, and (4) finding a name for the new company that I was excited about. The last one seems silly now, but I can't overemphasize what a huge emotional and psychological obstacle it was at the time.

Listing those out, and then systematically tackling each one, gave me the confidence I needed to take the next step. At that stage, I started to figure out what I would need to know to take on the next stage. And that made all the difference.

SGW: Anything else you’d like to tell women entrepreneurs?

Minshew: March to the beat of your own drum. Take lots of advice, but be comfortable enough to discard what isn't working for you. When you're starting a business, everyone wants to give you a perspective, and (surprise, surprise) many people are completely sure their point of view is right. But each company (and individual) is different, and ultimately you have to create your own recipe. Don't be afraid to listen well, thank people for their perspective, and move on without guilt if it's not a fit for you.

Kathryn Minshew is the co-founder and CEO of The Daily Muse. Prior to founding the company, she was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and then co-founder, CEO and Editor in Chief of Pretty Young Professional (PYP), named one of Forbes' Top Websites for Women. Say hi on Twitter @KMinshew1

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