(BPT) - Sponsored by Office Depot

According to a report commissioned by American Express in 2019, there are approximately 13 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. One key element to these entrepreneurial accomplishments is having a mentor, according to a recent survey* of 1,013 female small business owners, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Office Depot. The survey also found that 3 out of 4 women entrepreneurs (75%) credited their mentor with the success of their business. And many, especially women of color, understand their importance as role models, with 39% of the women of color surveyed expressing interest in 'inspiring other women' with their business. Eighty-two percent of these women also said they wanted their success to show others it is possible to overcome stigmas and social imbalances in order to be a successful business owner.

Another crucial component to success is having access to funding and other vital resources. Survey respondents cited lacking funds (47%) as one of the toughest hurdles to overcome, along with trying to maintain a work-life balance (38%). Especially for women of color, over half (53%) said there weren't enough resources available to them along their journey.

Fortunately, helping businesses start, manage and grow is at the heart of Office Depot's mission. In addition to offering cash grants and educational opportunities to diverse small business owners through the Elevate Together™ powered by Round It Up America® initiative, they are also partnering with Brit + Co to present Selfmade - a 10-week online course designed to enable women to start and grow their own business. Three sessions are scheduled for spring, summer and fall, hosted by Brit + Co co-founder Brit Morin, with dozens of other female founders, experts and investors enlisted to teach the curriculum with topics on social media, branding, fundraising and more. Office Depot is sponsoring 200 scholarships per session in 2022, focusing on women of color, women from underrepresented communities and women in need of support to help them trailblaze.

Here are five tips to consider when starting a business from recent Selfmade alums:

1. Be willing to adapt to change

'Sometimes you need to pivot from your original direction and use your creative energy to stay the course or find another path,' says Maisa Mumtaz-Cassidy, founder of the sustainable fashion marketplace, Consciously.

Being resilient and adaptable is crucial as a business owner, as you never know what could come your way. Overall, women entrepreneurs exemplify this quality: Of the 417 survey respondents who started a business just in the past two years, 61% said the pandemic played a big factor in their decision. In other words, they were able to make the most of challenging times by turning adversity into positive action.

2. Set micro-goals

'It's easy to become overwhelmed by the never-ending lists of to-dos, so I try to break them down into micro-goals and ensure that my days are set up to work toward achieving them,' observes Jill Apgar, founder of Coco Beans. Apgar began her business by designing a set of silk crib sheets with her daughter's hair and skin in mind.

3. Listen to your customers

Wanting a cleaner beauty routine after giving birth to her child, pharmacist Lily Rostami of Dr. Lily Ros Organics made her own products and shared them with friends. What served as a personal need turned out to help others, too.

'I turned homemade beauty formulas into a thriving business by listening to customer feedback,' Rostami notes.

4. Market your brand

'Be consistent with social media posting and constantly create fresh content,' says Sigal Cohen, the creative force behind Shop Sigal, an ethically crafted resort wear line. 'Constantly create fresh content, telling the story of the brand over and over again.'

5. Network

Founder of MiniAlps Diane Le designed a blanket/backpack combo for her family hikes and picnics, but after testing the concept found it had broader appeal. Not sure where to start the manufacturing process, she asked for help and learned through Selfmade that networking gets you everywhere.

'Networking has been the best strategy for us. Whenever we run into a challenge, we've reached out to our networks to ask, 'Does anyone know someone who knows XYZ?' and we've met many amazing people that way,' says Le. 'I'm a big proponent in paying it forward as well. If there's some help someone is looking for, I'm happy to share any information or potential leads with them.'

For more Selfmade success stories and advice, visit OfficeDepot.com/SelfmadeStories.

*Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 1,013 female small business owners (including 505 who identified as White or Caucasian and 508 who identified as Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American or Alaskan Native or other) was commissioned by Office Depot between February 3 and February 7, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).