I’m an entrepreneur?

Last night, I had a chance to see the wonderful documentary Dream, Girl, all about female entrepreneurs. It was great to see these stories of successful female businesswomen, now CEO’s of their own companies, who had a dream, and made it happen, regardless of the risks. A few things resonated with me – stories of women being glanced over at business meetings in favour of the male partner, unreasonable expectations for women with families that make it so difficult to succeed, and discussions of how the business world needs to change to value and accept women CEO’s and business owners more. We are valuable. We have important contributions to make. Why should having a family stop this?

Until last night, I had never considered this. I am a woman. A sister, a daughter, an auntie. I am a scientist. And I am also an entrepreneur. I am also a business owner. 

I’ve been a small-business owner for nearly 2 years now, since my husband and I started a partnership selling components he designed during his PhD. We sell different products for experimentation in photonics research. This is quite the departure from my area of expertise, and it’s been an interesting, and exhilarating road.

I never thought I would own a business. I never considered myself an entrepreneur. I never expected any of this to happen. I’m a research palaeontologist. Nothing I do is marketable, nor will it ever be. Our company spun out of my husband’s research, but more importantly, his interest and essentially his hobby with a background in electrical engineering. During his PhD, he noticed a hole in what was available to do the kind of research he was doing, so he made his own. People liked it, and we decided to market it.

Since completing my PhD, since I haven’t had a permanent or full-time job, I’ve been putting more of my time and effort into the company, securing new clients, doing some of the more technical aspects (I recently learned how to solder components!), and putting together orders. In the last few months, our business has significantly picked up, having several new clients contact us, which has been really exciting. We’re now dealing with companies on a global scale, collaborating with companies to sell and design products together, and constantly developing new products based on feedback from our customers.

While Josh is responsible for most of the technical side, my responsibility lies in finance and organisation, since I’m not a physicist… I make sure we get paid, and have the money to do what we need to do, an important part of any business. I also deal with sending out quotations and shipping the products once they are ready (something I still find very stressful).

We are extremely lucky that my husband’s hobby and what he enjoys doing in his spare time has also turned out to be profitable. We hope that our company continues to grow, and it may turn into more than just a hobby, which of course would be wonderful. But the business world is fickle, and we don’t know where this will land us. For now, we are happy that it is doing as well as it is, and hope the growth will continue.

I have 2 nieces, and I’ve always considered how I can be a good role model to them, and to other young girls. I want to try to break the stereotypes of what a scientist looks and acts like, and now I can add business owner to that. I hope that I can show people that you don’t need to be a tall man in a suit to own a successful business. Business owners (and scientists) come in all shapes and sizes!

I am Liz: scientist, sister, auntie, daughter, entrepreneur, and business owner.

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