A few days ago, Rico Ngoma from Enter China and Source Find Asia invited me to do my first podcast interview. (Thanks again, Rico. I had the best time). I was pretty surprised when he said that I was the first woman entrepreneur he had interviewed for the show. And it's true. I've entered a world dominated by men. It makes me chuckle when I receive emails or letters addressed, "Dear Mr. Heather Shuster" which assume (wrongly) that I'm a man. Occasionally, I've arrived to meetings to be met with mouths agape because they were obviously expecting a man to show up. When I reflect on those moments, it makes me smile a lot.
One of the questions Rico asked me during the interview was, "Most of the entrepreneurs you meet in China are men. Why do you think that there are so few women?" That really got me thinking. So where are all the ladypreneurs at?
When I go back to the US, I get asked by just about everyone, "Aren't you afraid?" We as women are bombarded with messages that you "shouldn't be alone" because "something bad might happen" and therefore, "never ever talk to strangers". Sure, it's great advice when you're five years old. To confirm these beliefs, we see these random acts of senseless violence splashed all over our television, so surely the world must be a terrible place where "this could happen to you". I wish for everyone to take a moment to recognize how absolutely rare those happenings are. And yes, there are some weirdos out there who should be completely avoided (you know who are are).
I have found that because I'm almost always alone, I'm more approachable. Because of this, I've had overwhelmingly positive experiences. And oh yeah, I always talk to strangers. I'm always amazed at how people I barely know are so willing to help me and offer advice. Sometimes, they turn out to be lifelong friends. I've come to the conclusion that most people do genuinely want you to succeed.
A few years ago, before Olli was a reality, I knew I wanted to build something but I knew nothing about manufacturing. I made it my goal to meet at least two new people a week, so I accepted just about every social invitation. As a result, I made contacts with all kinds of people in packaging, logistics, quality control, sourcing, law, brand development, whatever. Plastic injection molding? Why yes! Bottling? Fascinating! Shipping? Tell me more about how containers are stacked. I happen to love containers! I've met CEOs, diplomats, and other entrepreneurs who were building their businesses just like me. You never know who can give you good advice, who they know, or conversely if you can provide the same for someone else.
So turn off the TV. Grab a stack of business cards. Go to that zombie walk, language club, Santa run, trade show, or art gallery opening. Stop making excuses about all the bad things that will never happen. You never know who is going to change your life. And that's the best part.