Entrepreneurship not glamorous, say business owners at US conference

PALO ATLO, CALIFORNIA - The start-up boom has elevated entrepreneurship to cult-like status but starting your own business is actually far from glamorous, according to a panel at a major entrepreneurship conference on Wednesday (June 22).

Three business owners on a panel at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit reminded the audience that being an entrepreneur requires a great deal of resilience and can take a significant toll on one's personal life.

The Summit is being held over three days (June 22 to 24) on the Stanford University campus in California. More than 700 entrepreneurs and 300 investors from around the world are taking part in the summit, including at least seven representatives from Singapore.

"I don't think you can have it all at the same time," said Ms Leila Janah, founder and chief executive of San Francisco-based social enterprise Sama, who was part of a panel during the Summit's opening plenary session. Her company helps move people out of poverty by providing training and Internet-based work that pays a sustainable living wage.

Women, in particular, face significant obstacles in balancing their personal and professional goals, she noted.

"(For women), their prime reproductive years tend to coincide with their prime professional productivity years… It's a challenging thing to face and I don't think we talk about that enough.

"This is a hard road that requires more resilience than anything I could imagine, physically or emotionally."

Ms Janah is also the founder of Laxmi, a fair-trade luxury beauty brand.

Fellow panellists Oren Yakobovich, the founder of human rights organisation Videre, and Ooshma Garg, founder of gourmet food delivery service Gobble, agreed with Ms Janah.

"Any overnight success you hear about… all these companies started two to three years before they say they started, whether it was under a different name or different company," said Ms Garg.

Panellists also spoke about a wide range of topics surrounding their start-up experiences, such as raising money to finance non-traditional businesses, and the role of the Silicon Valley ecosystem in their success.