From the second you shake Francie Hinrichsen’s hand, you can tell she’s an impact player. So far, she’s established three businesses, written a book touted as the “how to build a business guide for female entrepreneurs,” and started the Central Illinois Empowerment event.
For all that, she is the recipient of the Turner Center’s Women in Business Leadership Award. Yet she’s incredibly humble about her accomplishments.
“What I’ve figured out is that entrepreneurship is just figuring out, it’s just being willing to take that one step forward,” said Hinrichsen. “It’s not having a certain business acumen. It’s not having a certain degree under your belt. It’s not having a certain background.”
Instead, it’s about being “a little brave and willing to be uncomfortable because what that leads to is some beautiful outcomes. I realized if I can do this, anyone can do this. There’s nothing about me. It’s the willingness to step forward and try something different.”
Hinrichsen’s businesses began with her need to pivot. Her original plan was to own and operate a spa business, but after working in the industry a short time, she found it wasn’t a good fit. Quickly switching gears, she founded Simply Integrated, a web design and search engine optimization company that helps e-commerce companies turn leads into customers.
As Simply Integrated flourished, Hinrichsen felt the itch to pursue retail.
“That really opened my eyes to a lot of lessons in the business world. And as I was doing these things and talking about these things, I started to collide with other women who were running businesses, too. And this message of encouragement — you can do this … has become the glue that has set the precedent for Founding Females.”
Founding Females is a subscription-based organization that connects female entrepreneurs. Hinrichsen has created an ecosystem where women feel safe enough to talk about the challenges they face and encouraged enough to push through those challenges. The community is inclusive, uplifting and positive, working to propel everyone forward regardless of differences in age, race, socioeconomic background, education or industry. At its core, Founding Females connects businesswomen with others at their level.
Hinrichsen believes that there are three types of businesswomen. The first she calls DIY Dolly, a woman with a dream who is doing her research to start building a business of her own. In this stage, many women lack confidence because they don’t trust their own knowledge and need help taking the leap into building something of their own.
Founding Females offers these women a six-week boot camp to help lay the foundation for a solid business plan beyond just financial projections. The goal is to make sure the business idea fits the person’s goals, personality and lifestyle.
Once DIY Dolly starts getting regular customers, she becomes what Hinrichsen calls a Passionate Pearl. In this stage, the entrepreneur is filling lots of roles in the company, working out efficiency processes, and thinking strategically about growth.
The final stage is Fullscale Fiona, a businesswoman who has learned from her mistakes. At this point, the entrepreneur has a business that she can sell or that can survive without her. Hinrichsen says this is the stage where many women feel most uneasy.
“I think in a lot of ways, the business world feels like the boys’ club to women. Our brains are wired in such a way that women often set out in business for very different reasons than men do,” she said. “In Founding Females, we want to validate that, because women often start businesses as a mission to change something about their immediate ecosystem or something about the world. And it’s no wonder it feels foreign for women to step into that world because women have very different priorities.”
Hinrichsen wrote her book Dream Build Grow so she could help women progress through each of these business stages on their own terms. She explains that men and women approach business ventures differently. For that reason, business manuals focused on male entrepreneurs talk about how to arrive at business solutions. Most women, on the other hand, need to know why they go through certain processes to achieve those solutions, said Hinrichsen.
“The book is my answer to build a business that doesn’t need me, to impact the most number of people without having to be on a one-on-one call with them or them having to be in our membership,” she said. It’s a way “to pass on the lessons that have been poured into me from mentors, from bosses, from my dad, who’s my own entrepreneurial hero.”
Hinrichsen believes that nobody can change the trajectory of their own futures without a few allies. Those allies helped her validate her worth when others tried to downplay her expertise. That sense of value is what she wants to give others.
“The impetus is wanting to clear the path for women who are starting businesses, to educate them on being able to stand up for themselves, really planting seeds early for them to be able to thrive sooner.”
To learn more about Founding Females, visit foundingfemalesco.com.