BIRTHING THE ELEPHANT by Karin Abarbanel


Birthing the Elephant was inspired by the incredible surge of women into small business. The figures are astounding: Every 60 seconds, 5 more women launch new ventures in the United States – that’s 200,000 a month and 2.5 million a year. Looking at these numbers and at the explosion of small-business start-ups on the Internet, my co-author and I realized that there was a real need for a book that would help women negotiate the rocky emotional terrain of the critical first 22 months of a venture, when every decision counts and every mistake is magnified.

While there are dozens of start-up guides crowding the business shelves, Birthing the Elephant is different. Most guides focus on the 3 Ms: money, marketing, and management. But there’s a 4th M: motivation – emotional stamina and staying power – and it’s at the heart of small-business success. We call Birthing the Elephant a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” for aspiring women entrepreneurs. We wanted to write an action guide that would take women by the hand and lead them step by step through the launch cycle and show them smart moves to make and pitfalls to avoid. With interviews from Bobbi Brown, Liz Lange, and a host of entrepreneurs in many different fields, Birthing the Elephant is packed with road-tested advice and inspiring stories.

With my background in writing and women’s issues and Bruce Freeman’s small-business expertise, we built a solid proposal with a strong marketing platform. Our agent sent the book out to a number of major publishers; many were intrigued, but timing was an issue: in some cases, they had just published a woman’s business book or felt that the small-business market was overexposed.

Ultimately, Ten Speed Press found our concept appealing and saw its “evergreen” potential: with some 2.5 million women launching new ventures every year, from home-based businesses to moonlighting enterprises, there’s a vast and ever-renewing audience for the book. Having published the career classic, What Color Is Your Parachute, Ten Speed Press is attracted to books with enduring themes and that’s why they published Birthing the Elephant. Ten Speed is also very entrepreneurial, which is ideal for us.

Writing the Birthing the Elephant was very inspiring for me. The women we spoke with really loved the idea of a book that focused on the emotional aspects of reshaping your identity when you make the move from employee to entrepreneur – and winning what we call the “small-business” mind game. They also felt that there was a tremendous need for an action guide that identified predictable problems and pitfalls to avoid during a small-business start-up. Everyone we spoke with had great war stories to tell, advice to share, and cautionary tales about mistakes to avoid. Women entrepreneurs are also incredibly innovative – especially when it comes to substituting brains for bucks, which is an absolute must when you’re in launch mode.

In Birthing the Elephant, we talked with both “light bulb” entrepreneurs who had a riveting idea and just ran with it and what we call “emerging entrepreneurs” – female small-business owners whose ideas “found” them or took time to evolve and ripen.

We found that there are many paths through the entrepreneurial gate – that’s one of the most hopeful messages we convey. We also interviewed many midlife launchers who made the move from corporate jobs to small business with great courage and nerve.

With lay offs surging and job security disappearing, more and more women will either be inspired or impelled to embrace entrepreneurship. The small-business market is expanding rapidly – and this growth trend will continue to be shaped and driven by the Internet. That’s why the time is so ripe for Birthing the Elephant – and why we’re so excited about the supportive, can-do advice that it offers. Our goal is to help women deliver on their dreams – and design their own destinies.

Karin Abarbanel is the co-author of Birthing the Elephant.  You can visit her website at www.birthingtheelephant.com.

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