What a 14-year-old girl can teach you about business

One of the ways you can make your business work? Make sure you have the same imagination as you did when you were young. 

I recently went to a workshop for female entrepreneurs in the IT industry designed to teach women who want to start a business where and how to seek legal advice.

Before we get too caught up in the advice that was given about women’s networks, I wanted to highlight the advice given by a young entrepreneur named Jenny Brenan.  

Admitting it had been a while since her first venture, Brenan told how after setting up her own business she had handed it over to family when she got “distracted by her degree.”

She was 11 when she taught herself to code, in the days where those with HTML skills had the best MySpace pages and your ability to keep your Neopets happy was a measure of your social standing.

She decided, at 14, to start a business making websites and trained and then hired her dad to help her along the way.

“I started a business because it was better and more fun than a Saturday job, but no one wanted a website from a 14 year old girl.” she said.

Brenan explained this was the best way to be when starting a business: “I didn’t have guts, I was 14, I just had no fear.”

But whenever a client had a question, they would direct it at her dad despite her being the one giving all the answers.

“What a 14 year old shows there, is you might not always come across as the package that people need,” she explains.

“In many ways it’s a marketing problem.”

Unfortunately this is a problem women in the IT industry still face and Brenan admits what she had previously called “a marketing problem” is “also a societal problem.”

Later on this issue was discussed by a panel, featuring Susan McLean from Morrison & Foerster, Maria Shiao, MD of Novus Ordo Capital Ltd, Caroline Ferguson, founder of Living Lawyers, Lu Li, founder of women’s network Blooming Founder and Catherine McClen, CEO of Buddy Hub.

The women stated they do still get underestimated, but you have to own your minority and use it to your advantage.

“We just want our fair share of the whole cake.” Sated Li, who has built an advice network for women entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurship is a level playing ground,” Li stated.

“Women need to believe more in themselves and their own capabilities – just go out there and do your stuff.”

Maria Shiao then highlighted that eventually as long as you can follow up your claims and attitude with affirmative action, people will warm to you and your ideas.

All of the ladies highlighted that at first men in business may ignore woman and direct questions at other men, but if you keep bringing the conversation back to yourself the men will eventually get the message.

They also insisted that women should make use of the networks and tools available to them to keep themselves in the loop, ask other women for help, and eventually make the city and the industry a more diverse community.       

In the end, just as diversity makes teams more productive and innovative, it will be diversity that makes you stand out.

“Take the knocks, be strong with your business and what you’re all about,” summarised Morrison & Foerster’s Susan McClean.

 “They might remember you against five Daves.”