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Entrepreneurial Advice From Five Women Who Are Making It Work

Female founders share their top tips for running a small business.
Image: Businesswomen brainstorming in conference room
Businesswomen brainstorm in a conference room.Hero Images / Getty Images

In spite of the statistics that show women are having a much harder time getting funding than their male counterparts, the number of women-owned businesses jumped by 45 percent between 2007 and 2016, according to a recent report on the state of women-owned businesses.

MSNBC interviewed female founders from across the country to find out the secret to their success:

Tiffany Pham, Founder and CEO, Mogul

“As you begin, listen to your own ideas and insights, but also listen to feedback from others. Then, bring all that information together so you can execute on that collective knowledge. You also have to quickly prototype, rapidly interest and as you finally launch, be resilient and move beyond any "no"s you may receive because you are going to hear it often.

Forget about each "no," in fact, as immediately as possible — you will get to the yeses. After all, most of these "no"s are not even no, they are actually "not right now"s until they become yeses.”

Tiffany Pham is the founder & CEO of MOGUL, an online platform reaching millions of women each month. Tiffany was named one of Forbes' "30 Under 30" in Media, Business Insider’s "30 Most Important Women Under 30" in Technology, and also the Winner of the 2014 Cadillac "Innovator" Award.

Dr. Piraye Yurttas Beim, Founder and CEO, Celmatix

“Even though it's important to be flexible and accommodating with venture capitalists during discussions, know your limits and don't cross them. I could share many anecdotes, but perhaps the worst one was when I once had to endure an hour-long pitch to a very well-known healthcare VC at a top-tier firm who was on his phone doing email the entire time. What made it even more awkward was that he was the only person in the room other than me and my CFO. I kept pausing and asking, "Should I keep going?" and he would look up from his phone and say, yes, yes, and then get back to answering his emails.

I left feeling so deflated from that meeting. When I recounted the story to a friend, who is a serial entrepreneur, he told me I should have cut the pitch short and made a polite but swift exit. Why would I want someone like that on my board? And he was right. It was tremendously empowering to have this "aha" moment where I took myself out of the "victim role."

All of my interactions with prospective outside investors since have been much more efficient and less demoralizing. I should mention as an aside that the investors that we do have on our board are amazingly supportive and respectful, which certainly helps me have the confidence to keep the bar high now and not tolerate disrespectful VC behavior.”

Dr. Piraye Yurttas Beim founded Celmatix in 2009 to empower women to be more proactive and informed about their fertility. She did her doctoral work at MSKCC/Weill Cornell and completed her postdoctoral embryology research training at the University of Cambridge. The company has recently seen 400 percent growth on its analytics platform.

Marlena Stell, Founder, Makeup Geek

"Be your genuine self. It sounds very cliché, but it implies a level of authenticity that staff, customers, and clients all recognize and support. Don't copy other business models simply because they are successful, but follow what you are truly passionate about and what feels authentic to you. I have been a teacher since I was seven years old. With a classroom of teddy bear pupils, I would teach addition and subtraction, music, and baking, using my fancy Easy-Bake Oven. Another favorite student, my life size Barbie doll head, became the perfect canvas for fine-tuning my makeup application skills for my cosmetology class.

During my college career, I pursued a degree in music, avoiding my true passions — education and makeup. After many unhappy years of teaching music, I then started Makeup Geek. My business is built by creating quality makeup, and educating customers on how to use it. If I solely created makeup products, there would be nothing authentic about the brand. However, bringing in the education element helps me to stand out from the competition. I want makeup lovers to know how to apply our high quality products to test out their skills with my help.

If I had stuck with what I "should" have been doing (music) and not following what was true to my authentic self, then Makeup Geek would not be here today."

Marlena Stell left her job as a teacher to start Makeup Geek, now a business doing more than $20 million in revenue and reaching millions via her social media channels.

Denise Blasevick, Founder and CEO, S3 Agency

“Join a peer to peer networking group. The one I’m in is called EO (Entrepreneurs' Organization.) I’ve been a member for more than 10 years and it has changed my business. One of the biggest benefits of a group is that you get an “instant board of directors” (and you are a part of that board for others in the group.) This means you have a team to go to in order to share and tackle business issues with in a confidential setting.

I’ve received tremendous value from this, which has helped me avoid some very costly mistakes. You can do this in a formal way, as I have done with EO, or you can get a group of fellow business owners together and do it more informally. Do not underestimate the power of being able to talk to others who are going through similar situations.”

Denise Blasevick has helped develop groundbreaking communications programs for clients like Aston Martin, BMW, the NBA and Samsung. She was the youngest inductee into the NJ Advertising Hall of Fame.

Nicole Centeno, Founder, Splendid Spoon

“My best piece of entrepreneurial advice is to view failure as a gift. When the business is in pain, it will force you into submission, and if you listen, it will give back to you. For the first two years I was a solo founder, and the business completely broke me. I had two babies under the age of two, a strained marriage, and I was trying to do it all. The business had taken off, but then it stopped. I thought I was growing the Blueprint for soups, but the wholesale market wanted nothing to do with me.

Instead of crying (although there were LOTS of tears) I put one foot in front of the other and opened myself up to the idea of inviting another leader into my realm. Sathish, who is now our CMO and my business partner, with co-founder status, joined in July 2015, and we worked HARD to make a significant pivot in Splendid Spoon: moving the business from a primarily wholesale model to direct to consumer. Within a month of re-launching our business had quadrupled.”

Nicole Centeno left her career in sales to start Splendid Spoon after five years of research on diet and fasting. It is now one of the fastest growing companies in the food space and has been featured widely by the New York Times, Business Insider and others.