In a world full of gender-based biases, it’s always interesting to address notions that stem from those biases. As a woman who has worked with many entrepreneurs, women have had a hand in my growth.
It started with my mum, who fought gender biases every day and kept my sister and me far from having to deal with it. She believed women, just like men, should have the same opportunities to work and be financially secure – an idea still so radical in the 90s.
I then asked Jyoti, Founder, at Skillhus, who her role models were growing up, and she shared, “Beyoncé and my mum. Mum always encouraged me to believe I could achieve anything I wanted as long as I worked hard and put my heart into it.”
As an experienced professional from the HR industry, Hanne, Co-Founder at Skillhus, found herself struggling to be taken
Hanne says, “I was either too young, too determined, too pregnant, or too much of a parent. All those years spent trying to prove myself only shaped me into what I am today. They taught me so much about myself and the world around me.”
Jyoti adds, “Yeah, I wasn’t taken seriously as a teacher either. It was either about my gender, age, or my ethnicity and sometimes just all of it”
So, is this why they took the plunge into entrepreneurship?
“It started with solving a simple problem and finding immigrants jobs. Since my husband
experienced this, I was personally invested. I really wanted to build my own company and make my own decisions”, says Jyoti.
Hanne adds, “I was personally invested too. I thought about all the odds against me
from society when I was younger, against young women, and children. I wanted to prove them wrong. I know my kids need a role model and I want to be one for them.”
Both Hanne and Jyoti had all the support they needed from their family and friends. And though this journey started with financial uncertainties, they found their rhythm and wanted to share all the positives that make entrepreneurship a worthwhile journey.
To start off, Skillhus today is 100% self-sustained and generates all its revenue without any support from investors.
For Hanne, the ability to work on something she’s passionate about and create her schedule has been both satisfying and freeing. Jyoti’s goal to help people make fundamental changes in their lives and the opportunities to connect with incredibly talented people has made this journey exciting.
When women Founders need Co-Founders, they should look for a few core qualities in them.
Hanne says, “I think we have always focused on having open and honest communication. This can sometimes be tough but is necessary and is always rewarding.”
“We managed to build trust at an early stage. We also aligned ourselves with wanting the same for Skillhus and for each other as business partners. It’s been almost two years, and we’ve managed quite well to build on each others’ strengths and learn from each other. Our different backgrounds are also one of our strengths.”
If you’re wondering how clients, partners, or anyone outside of Skillhus react when they see two women at the helm? The answer is: They all love it.
“In all honesty, there are not many eyebrows raised on being a female and founder. If anything, there’s a lot of encouragement and support from companies. The people here do have a more forward-thinking mindset,” says Jyoti.
This fascinating insight comes from both Founders, and it makes complete sense since according to this report by the World Economic Forum, Norway ranks #2 as the most gender-equal country in the world.
“Certain gender-based biases have actually helped us. While making decisions, we many times ask ourselves if a man would do this (ask for a particular price, say yes to something, or think in a certain way)“, adds Hanne.
I asked Jyoti and Hanne to summarize any advice they’d have for women like myself before starting their entrepreneurial journey.
1: Plan well based on your circumstances. Your family and finances play a big part, especially in this post-COVID era.
2: Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support your vision.
3: Learn to filter constructive criticism from all criticism; it can be great for your and your company’s growth.
4: Build a network wherever you are. Connecting with like-minded people in the startup ecosystem could help you find your Co-Founder too.
5: Be comfortable with your mistakes or failures because the good news is you can learn from both.
6: Just do it!
If you’re a woman reading this: let all of us women support each other! In a professional ecosystem that can sometimes underestimate women, we can push each other to be better and take inspiration from each others’ wins and successes.