Karin Abarbanel, co-author of Birthing the Elephant.
By Joyce Gannon Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Forget the trying economic times.
Men and women who launch a business during any financial climate face the same challenges: securing money, sticking to a business plan and developing savvy marketing and a competent management team.
But there's a difference between the sexes when it comes to handling some of the raw emotions that can plague entrepreneurs -- feelings such as fear and anxiety -- and women may have an edge in recognizing them and asking for help, said Karin Abarbanel, co-author of a new guide to starting a business.
"There's a difference in how women respond â€¦ and handle the emotional roller coaster of launching a business," said Ms. Abarbanel who is scheduled to appear at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium next week to promote the book and offer tips and advice to women entrepreneurs.
A business how-to book launch at the zoo?
Consider the title, "Birthing the Elephant," and it seems a natural fit to hold it at the Pittsburgh Zoo, where two female elephants were born last year, said Jill Kummer, president of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, which is collaborating on the event.
The NAWBO chapter in Louisville, Ky., held a similar promotion for the book at its local zoo in October and drew a couple hundred people, said Ms. Abarbanel.
She and co-author Bruce Freeman came up with their book's title because the gestation period for an elephant is 22 months -- about the same time required to get a new venture off the ground.
"It's sort of the 'what to expect when you're expecting' for the aspiring entrepreneur," said Ms. Abarbanel of Montclair, N.J., a former senior marketing director who launched her own marketing communications firm in the 1990s. Her clients have included financial firm Morgan Stanley and global consulting business Accenture, and she has been a spokeswoman for cosmetics giant Avon.
Mr. Freeman, of Livingston, N.J., is a syndicated business columnist and teaches marketing and entrepreneurship at Seton Hall and Kean universities.
Among the women they interviewed about their start-up experiences were cosmetics maven Bobbi Brown and Liz Lange, maternity clothes designer.
Ms. Brown was a makeup artist who designed a new line of lipsticks and found a chemist to create them. A buyer for upscale New York store Bergdorf Goodman heard her talking about the lipsticks at a party and agreed to sell them.
Ms. Brown "was doing her own public relations and marketing without knowing a lot about it," said Ms. Abarbanel.
The top three mistakes female entrepreneurs make, she said, are over-romanticizing the realities of being one's own boss, overspending to project a fancy image and underpricing products and services.
The first mistake can be a major pitfall because entrepreneurs frequently imagine that running their own shops will automatically solve child-care issues or give them more free time.
"Talk to other entrepreneurs, and you'll find you'll spend more time launching your business than you did as an employee," she said.
With the economy in the dumps, some would-be entrepreneurs may put plans on hold; but Ms. Abarbanel believes that there are still opportunities to start new enterprises.
Despite dire financial news, women business owners expressed optimism about their 2009 sales in a recent survey by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and the Women Presidents' Organization.
About 58 percent of women business owners surveyed expect revenues to grow this year, while 44 percent don't expect problems in securing credit.
For new entrepreneurs, Ms. Abarbanel said: "You need to proceed with caution, but the flip side is that's it's really tough to find a job right now. So if you have a concept or background to parlay into a consulting service, you can do it in tandem with looking for another position. It gives you another option to pursue.
"Businesses fail in a thriving economy, and businesses succeed in a down economy," she added.
"The real key to beating the odds, which are daunting whether the economy is up or down, is a lean launch strategy that allows you to proceed economically and substitute brains for bucks."
"Birthing the Elephant -- a Celebration of Entrepreneurship" will be held at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. For more information and to register, go to www.nawbopittsburgh.org.
Joyce Gannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1580.