Right now in a small town in Indiana, a city in Ohio or a farm in California, young girls are dreaming of their future. Many of those dreams have nothing to do with the boys from One Direction. Creativity is blooming and innovation is blossoming. Some day, these young ladies may find themselves on Fortune’s list of the Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs. Created in 2009, the program honors extraordinary female leaders who have founded companies.
3 past winners of this honor offer insights into the entrepreneurial world that any business could benefit by following.
The Ability to be Strategic
Jody Miller is the co-founder and CEO of the Business Talent Group. She is a proponent of project-based solutions that offer independent professionals the opportunity to take charge of their work-life balance. Her company is on the leading edge of redefining the work place.
“You’ve got to have a sense of where the world is going and how you fit into it. If you need to supplement your existing skills, you need to know what those things you need are and how to get them. It requires a constant ability to understand where your skills are and where the market’s needs are, and then you get the skills you need to supply what’s most in demand.”
To be competitive and relevant in the ever-changing work force, you cannot be content in your skills and wait for the perfect opportunity to knock on your doorbell, buzz on your phone or land in your email. You must keep yourself informed so you can have a battle plan.
The Ability to be Flexible
It could be easy to assume that the world of fitness has exhausted all its possibilities from the Jack LaLanne exercises in the 1940s to the current craze of CrossFit. But Payal Kadakia invented something new when she cofounded ClassPass. Customers pay a monthly fee and gain access to thousands of fitness classes in their area. Kadakia started the company two years ago after trying to find a ballet class in New York City. She just wanted to dance that day and couldn’t. Her innovation has changed fitness. Over 7 million people have subscribed to the service.
“ClassPass has pivoted its business twice, and we’re hoping the third time’s the charm. We started as a search engine, then offered the Passport, but ultimately were able to realize our vision through the ClassPass. Despite the evolution, our mission to help people live happier, active lifestyles has always been the same. To overcome the hurdles we faced, we’ve had to be flexible in our approach in order to keep moving forward. It is better to take a few steps back and change directions than to keep going down the wrong road.”
Technology, business and the vast world of social media form a trifecta that is constantly shifting like the hosts of The View. Flexibility in navigating the market is not an asset but a necessity. As Payal Kadakia opines, the willingness and ability to take a new approach in business can make the difference between a company being relevant or antiquated.
The Ability to be Courageous
The ubiquitous cyber-attack is almost a daily headline. Michelle Zatlyn met this phenomenon head on as the co-founder and head of user experience of CloudFlare, a service that speeds up websites and gives them enhanced protection from cyber-attacks. Websites that sign up with this global network load twice as fast and use 60% less bandwidth than other websites. Today, more than 2,000,000 web properties are faster and safer.
“People don’t take opportunities because the timing is bad, the financial side is unsecure. Too many people are overanalyzing. Sometimes you just need to go for it.”
Zatlyn and her company take on the bullies of the internet every day. Cyber terrorism is real and on the up rise. Her courage has led the way to protect sites. Sometimes the ingredient that makes an entrepreneurial venture succeed is simply the guts to try it. We can all make lists of why we should not take a brave step towards our dreams. The ones who tear up that list and make the leap anyway are the leaders in the entrepreneurial world.
Women like these will continue to inspire and pave the road for young dreamers throughout the country.