Julia Pimsleur is the Founder and CEO of Little Pim, the leading language teaching method for young children, and author of Million Dollar Women. She writes about entrepreneurship for Forbes and coaches women on raising capital via her in person and on line workshops. Here, we interview her about her new book, published by Simon & Schuster in 2015.
This book seems to mark the start of a seriously ambitious mission for you. Tell us about what that is and why you decided to embark on it.
Building my own company (Little Pim) from scratch into a multi-million dollar business was an exhilarating, often bewildering and wildly challenging climb. I had amazing coaches, peers and mentors along the way, but most of them were men. I was originally a documentary filmmaker and didn’t have a finance or business background; I really wished I could learn from other women who had built successful businesses, and this is part of what inspired my mission. I feel truly privileged to have a chance to help women entrepreneurs go further, faster than I did! I have set an ambitious (yet achievable!) goal of helping one million women get to $1M in revenues by 2020 – I’ll do this through my book, public speaking, online and offline Million Dollar Women courses, and partnering with women’s organizations, corporations and business coaches (see juliapimsleur.com to learn more).
Right now only 3% of all women entrepreneurs in the U.S. get to the $1M mark, which means there is a lot of work to be done to catch up the other 97%! One of the main reasons women aren’t “going big” is that they start their businesses with about six times less capital than men do. They don’t have the runway or resources to scale and they wind up staying small, or worse, shutting down. This is one of the reasons that Million Dollar Women has a whole chapter on teaching women how to fundraise. The book acts as a fundraising primer, and also tackles key issues you need to master to go big, such as confidence, networking, and mastering the art of delegating.
How long do you think it will take to get a million women to the million dollar business mark?
Women need just three key things to get to $1M in revenues: 1) the right mindset, 2) the right skill set and 3) the right network. That sounds simple, but it’s not easy. The hardest one of them all is the mindset. We can sometimes be our own worst enemy as women and often have to work harder than men do to tame the negative voices in our heads. After working with hundreds of women I’ve coached in my fundraising workshops, I believe this issue of negative self talk and “self-limiting beliefs” are the elephants in the room for women entrepreneurs. When we can get those in check, the skill set and network are actually fairly straight-forward.
How on earth do you measure your success?
For me, success is what I call the “Triple Win,” which is Money, Meaning and Mobility. I want to earn significant income, do work that motivates me and which I am passionate about, and have the mobility/ flexibility to go on my child’s field trip or leave early to meet with the board of a non-profit I serve on. I spend a lot of time with male entrepreneurs in the global professional organization I am part of (Entrepreneurs’ Organization) and I have noticed that for a lot of men success = the number of zeros at the end of their revenues or how much they sold their business for. As women we want the financial success, but not at any price, and that alone does not make us feel successful. Most of us need the other two Wins (meaning and mobility) to feel we have truly created a balanced, engaged and successful life.
Who should read this book and why?
This book is for anyone who has a big dream and is not sure how to go about realizing it. She might be a young woman in college who wants to start her own business someday, or who recently launched a business, or a founder who has been running her business for a few years and wants to go to the next level. I wrote Million Dollar Women with female entrepreneurs in mind, but men have been writing to me and saying the book’s messages also speak to them. Here is one I just got today! “The combination of practical recommendations, case examples, and — most importantly— candid, heartfelt insights from your experience made it the most valuable, energizing, and inspiring book on entrepreneurship I’ve read to date.” – PJ Simmons, CEO of TennisCongress
The challenges we face as entrepreneurs – whether male or female – are largely the same, so I’d say 90% of the book works for men or women, but it’s that last 10% that will make all the difference for women seeking insights about how to get to the next level.
Clearly your book focuses on women – we’re curious about what role, if any, men have to play?
We are all reinventing gender roles as universities and graduate schools turn out increasing numbers of women who want to pursue ambitious careers. I agree with Anne Marie Slaughter (author of the recent Unfinished Business) when she posits that the new question we should be asking is not, “How can women have it all?” but how can we create policies that allow both men and women to participate in the care of children, housework and parental care? “Bad work culture is everyone’s problem, for men just as much as for women. It’s a problem for working parents, not just working mothers.”
We need more companies to allow parental leave (not just “maternity leave”) and more weeks than the typical 3-5 common in the U.S. More men are choosing roles traditionally thought of as belonging to women (“stay at home dad” becomes “leading parent”) and this needs to be encouraged and celebrated too. Right now corporate America in the US is not accommodating for anyone engaging in care of any kind (for example, maternity leaves are scandalously short and “parental leaves” are not yet the norm), and this is part of why highly performing women are leaving corporations in droves to become entrepreneurs, where they can be the masters of their own schedules. At a recent Fortune Women Conference the moderator asked the audience of successful women “How many of you have a husband at home who is a leading parent?” and 60% of the hands went up. These men are as much pioneers in gender equality as we are as CEO moms.
Of all the women you interviewed, who stood out most to you, and why?
That is hard, all the women I profiled are so inspiring! I like Denise Wilson’s story because one of my strong beliefs is that you can start from anywhere and become a Million Dollar Woman. Denise really exemplifies that. Denise was a school teacher for years, and then an oboist. In her late 20s she learned how to fly just for fun and found she was really good at it. She worked for a few years as a pilot but lost her job after 9/11 when the airline industry took a big hit. That’s when she decided to start her own private jet company and she started by Googling “How to start a company.” Now she is the CEO of one of the only women-owned private jet companies in the U.S. with $10M+ in annual revenues.
How did you find your interview subjects?
When I was trying to grow my business to $1M in revenues I really wished I could meet more women who had created successful businesses. Not only did I not know any women like that but I never even read about them in the media. The only women who seemed to get featured were mega stars like Oprah, Sarah Blakely and Arianna Huffington. Where were the women just 5-10 years ahead of where I was? In Million Dollar Women I wanted to profile these women. I consider them to be at “Mount Everest Base Camp.” They are not at the summit, but they have made it to 18,000 feet and can show me what pitfalls to avoid and what trails will get me there fastest. So I looked for Base Camp women to profile – they had to be self made, have founded the business on their own (not alongside a spouse, no trust fund), and be making between $1M and $40M in revenues. I also made sure to profile women of different ethnic backgrounds, in different states and a range of industries, from tech to travel to education. They had amazing stories and each one left me inspired and in deep admiration of what they built, many of them while also raising a family, serving on non-profit boards and paying it forward by helping other women.
What’s your favourite business book (other than your own, of course!)?
A great book on how to go big is Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It… and Why the Rest Don’t by business coach Verne Harnish. He has developed some great tools that businesses can use to scale their operations, and a blueprint for creating a high growth
Interested in reading more? Julia’s book is available on Amazon and all good bookstores. Might make a good gift for the ambitious women in your life!