How to Build the Business of Your Dreams

(BPT) - Sponsored by Office Depot

In the last year, more than 2.3 million women have left the workforce, bringing their labor participation rate to levels not seen in over three decades, according to the National Women's Law Center.

Seeing unemployment rates skyrocket and mental health hit record lows, Brit + Co co-founders Brit Morin and Anjelika Temple created Selfmade, a 10-week virtual startup school for women to help start or grow their own business.

To help drive educational change, founding Selfmade sponsor Office Depot is enabling sponsorships for women to attend the course for free, focusing on women of color, women from underserved and underrepresented communities and in need of support to help them trailblaze.

'Office Depot's commitment to empowering education, championing entrepreneurship, and strengthening local communities makes the company a natural fit to team up with Brit + Co for this innovative and empowering virtual startup course to help female entrepreneurs start and grow their business,' said Morin.

Hear from some of the Selfmade alumni and advice they have for female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting their own business:

Justine Pon, The Ponnery

Lesson #1: Define Your Own Success

Everyone has their own definition of success - maybe your goal is to sell your product in a mass retailer or you just want to make enough to cover a short vacation. It's just important that you stay true to why you are starting your business and what you want to do with it. It also really helps to build friendships with other small business owners because community is so important. I've learned so much from people who I met in Selfmade who have been in business longer than I have and it's really awesome to support and learn from each other.

Camille Newman, Pop Up Plus

Lesson #2: Don't Wait

I started my business while still in the industry but I kept thinking I needed MORE experience and MORE this, that - it was an excuse to procrastinate out of fear. Start small. If you want to bake and package cookies, look into your packaging for a month, what will that look like? I think the myth of entrepreneurship surrounding these tech founders launching million-dollar brands can be damaging. That's not the norm. It's really the exception. So just get started as soon as you can to test the product and to begin to learn because you really only learn through experience.

Sruti Bharat, Future Map

Lesson #3: Test & Learn

Don't be paralyzed by some perfect vision. I know I have this vision of what I want my company to be but when I focus on what I can do right now, this week, I can probably do something. That helped me unlock a lot of insecurity. I thought of entrepreneurs as people who dropped out of school to work on their ventures full time, but I have financial needs and responsibilities and that isn't realistic for me. But if you legitimately prioritize your business as a side hustle, it can be the source of so much creativity and future opportunity.

Tracey-Renee Hubbard, Scotchbonnet

Lesson #4: Find Your Niche

One of the things that surprises people the most about my earrings is how lightweight and easy to wear they are and figuring out how to communicate that and connect to people online is challenging. I stopped looking at what is trending and sticking to what gets traction with my brand. I have focused on styling and really defining my brand. I put a lot of thought into curating an aesthetic so people recognize my brand. I also use hand-drawn illustrations and have worked them into my website in a way that is fun and on brand.

Koyun Fan, Sticky Rice Sisters

Lesson #5: Learn as You Go

You will never be 100 percent ready so just start now and learn and improve as you go. You will make mistakes, things won't go as planned, you might not have customers to start, but you will learn. If you keep waiting for the "right moment," or wait until "you're ready," you have already lost time that you could've used to learn on the job or make mistakes. In the beginning, not a lot of people will know you, so it doesn't matter what you do - you can try anything you want and figure out what works and doesn't. As you start to have more customers and followers, you will start to get better and they will help you, encourage you, and support you.

Take Your Business to the Next Level

Whether you are in the start, grow or 'keep business going' phase, Office Depot has a full suite of business solutions to help enable entrepreneurs and businesses of any size to accomplish more.

For more information on Selfmade, and to nominate yourself or someone you know for a scholarship, click here.

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