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Female entrepreneurs and the 'lifestyle business'

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Photo illustration/Con Tanasiuk/Design Pics/Newscom

(Read caption) A woman works on her laptop and talks on the phone. Many women who start businesses don't try to grow the business past a certain size.

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Over the past couple of decades we have seen a steady increase in the number of women becoming entrepreneurs. At Belmont University, for example, 45 percent of students studying entrepreneurship are women.

Across the country, women now make up more than 40 percent of all entrepreneurs as well.

While the number of women choosing an entrepreneurial career path is approaching that of their male counterparts, the factors that motivate or drive female entrepreneurs are often quite different.

Erin Albert, who is both an entrepreneur and a teacher of entrepreneurs, explores the question of what motivates female entrepreneurs in her newly published book, Single. Women. Entrepreneurs.

"Women, especially Generations X and Y, want to make their business and personal lives and aspirations work more in harmony," Albert said. Because of this, they choose to limit the size of their businesses and not pursue outside funding from investors or loans to fuel more growth.

This approach to entrepreneurship is referred to as pursuing "a lifestyle business."

However, every business should be viewed as a lifestyle business. If you choose a business deliberately based on your goals, aspirations and values, you can create a business that is an intentional reflection of the lifestyle you'd like to live.

Albert's research suggests that this is exactly what a growing number of women are choosing to do.

Many female entrepreneurs -- and, in fact, a growing number of young male entrepreneurs -- deliberately limit the growth of their businesses to allow themselves time to pursue interests beyond the office. They want to spend time with their family, church or in their community, or pursue other personal interests such as hobbies or travel.

For example, a former Belmont student I'm familiar with started a business that had potential for significant growth. She easily could have added employees and moved into other markets.

But she had no interest in expanding beyond the scope of a business that she could take care of by herself. She didn't ever want to add employees or face the complexities that arise when an owner expands payroll. Success to her was meeting her basic lifestyle needs through the income she could generate while keeping her life a simple one.

Some entrepreneurs choose an entrepreneurial lifestyle of pursuing high growth and chasing after high returns. While high-growth ventures offer the potential of more income and wealth, this choice comes with its own lifestyle choices. The owners' families will likely see much less of them, and any other outside interests will certainly take a back seat.

The key thing is to recognize that every business you start will have an effect on your lifestyle. Be honest with yourself. Know what lifestyle you truly want, and then engineer that lifestyle into the business model you pursue.

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