Women entrepreneurs have definitely made their mark in the business world. Yet challenges still exist for women, especially for women looking to expand their business internationally.
While more women are starting businesses than ever before, relatively few of them take the next step of taking their business global. This is mainly due to the challenges women face when it comes to expanding internationally. However, some of the challenges are common to all entrepreneurs regardless of their gender.
Women entrepreneurs often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing markets, resources, and networking opportunities. There are also disparities when it comes to women having access to capital. In some countries, cultural and social norms also restrict women from exploring international business opportunities. For some women, family life does not allow for extensive travel abroad to exploit business opportunities.
One of the biggest challenges for women looking to take their business global is knowing where to start. The prospect of doing business in a foreign country can be overwhelming and somewhat intimidating. Australia based entrepreneur Tracy Tully, Founder and CEO of Motivation and Resilience for Women, says she didn’t know where to go, who to approach or what to say. She also says that the mindset of moving locally to internationally becomes a barrier.
Networking is key to knowing where to start. By connecting with other women who are doing business internationally, you can learn from their journey including the challenges they faced and mistakes made along the way and how they overcame them. Attending trade events is a great way to meet and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs. Also, social media groups with a focus on women entrepreneurs and international business are a great place to network, connect, and learn from women with similar interest.
Lack of access to information and resources are other barriers keeping women entrepreneurs from going global. For Kenya based entrepreneur Ivy Syovata, Founder and CEO of Incubator Nest, her greatest obstacle is the lack of awareness of what the international market offers and the rules of engagement in that particular market.
Joining professional organizations can help provide you with the various resources available to women looking to expand internationally. These organizations can provide you with market research and help you identify potential partners overseas. The Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) is a professional organization that supports the advancement of women in international trade by providing networking and educational opportunities. The International Trade Council, although not specific to just women, offers a wealth of resources to help business owners develop the skills necessary to overcome trade barriers and compete in global markets.
Another resource is SHEconomy, the world’s first E-commerce platform for women entrepreneurs and business owners worldwide for goods and services. SHEconomy enables women entrepreneurs to connect with customers and clients globally. Additionally, if you have a target country in mind for your global expansion, it’s a good idea to connect with the local Chamber of Commerce in that country.
Another challenge is knowing how to navigate differences in culture and language. Dr. Anita Davis-DeFoe, CEO of Upshift Global, says her biggest challenges were building relationships, fostering trust and creating collaborative partnerships. She also says this coupled with learning the “culture of business” which varies from place to place was a significant barrier to taking her business global. Headquartered in the United States, Upshift Global now operates in countries across the globe.
More of Anita’s journey to becoming a global entrepreneur will be shared in my forthcoming book Women Going Global: Real-Life Stories of Women Doing Business Across Borders, which shares inspiring true stories of 14 remarkable women from countries around the world who have overcome the odds, turned barriers into opportunities, and are successfully doing business beyond their country’s borders.
There are plenty of opportunities for women entrepreneurs to grow their business beyond their local borders. And although taking your business global can be challenging, with the right networks and resources, you can build a successful global enterprise.