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11 Inspiring Business Books Every Female Founder Should Read

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky
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Business books serve many purposes. They can motivate and inspire. Educate and inform. They can make you happy—or angry. Sometimes reading business books is (almost) as good as having a mentor—or a network of people you can call upon when you need motivation or advice.

I have read a lot of business books in my time, and some have really stuck with me. Especially business books written by women. Here are 11 business books I highly recommend every female founder—or big dreamer—read.

1. Been There, Run That

There’s an extraordinary amount of good advice in this book, curated by the legendary Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks. Been There, Run That is full of insights and actionable advice about transitioning from aspiring to actual entrepreneur, choosing the right market for your product, how to crowdfund, and so much more. Koplovitz provides takeaways in the chapters she didn’t write, which were penned by numerous successful entrepreneurs.

2. Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World

According to this book, written by Joann S. Lublin, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the management news editor of The Wall Street Journal, more than 75% of millennial women say there’s still gender bias in the workplace. Lublin interviewed 52 corporate female leaders who, she writes, “dismantled the old boys’ club, destroyed myths about capabilities of female leaders, and continue to serve as role models.”

Reading about the challenges and triumphs of these women will not only inspire you but inform you as well. It has a lot of lessons about what to do and what not to do for women who are striving to propel their career or business forward.

3. Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur

This book, written by Cara Alwill Leyba, master life coach and blogger, is not a how-to book. This is more of a feel-good book that helps you build confidence and connections, both vital attributes for achieving entrepreneurial success. The book is the #1 new release right now on Amazon in the women & business category.

4. Goats of Anarchy: One Woman’s Quest to Save the World One Goat at A Time

I once read that, according to Japanese research, looking at cute cat pictures online for a few minutes helps you refocus and be more productive. While I can’t swear to that, looking at the pictures of goats in this book, based on author Leanne Lauricella’s Instagram account, offers a welcome respite from a day crammed with business must-dos.

This book is not just a welcome distraction—when Lauricella got married, she moved from Manhattan to the New Jersey countryside (yes, New Jersey has a countryside) and rescued two goats. She quit her corporate job, posted a pic of the goats on Instagram and got over 30,000 followers in a few hours (she’s since garnered hundreds of thousands of followers). Moved by helping the goats, Lauricella started a nonprofit goat-rescue business. Her message is inspirational: “Take a risk if you are feeling unhappy or unfulfilled…. Find what you love, and then do what you love.”

5. Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women

This book, by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, two women entrepreneurs who were once captains in the United States Marine Corps, draws upon the authors’ experience in the male-dominated Marines, which is akin to women who are aspiring to achieve success in business (also male-dominated).

The authors contend many women have never received formal leadership training, and therefore haven’t been taught to be decisive, commanding, and ready to take risks. They argue that it’s never too late to change, and Leading from the Front shows you how to enact that change and transform your life.

6. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg hit the bestseller list with this book—and with good reason. Sandberg’s key argument—that women have to be proactive and take responsibility for their business lives—is, to me, a no-brainer. Sandberg’s book sprung from a TED Talk she gave describing how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers, and she provides ample proof in the book backing up that claim.

Lean In is personal and professional, filled with both personal stories and hard data showing women what they can do. There’s a lot of how-to advice for women here. Sandberg advises women who want to “rise” in their careers to choose their significant others wisely. In other words, you can’t build a corporate career or small business on your own—just as it takes a village to raise a child, you need that village to grow a business.

7. Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers

While directed to corporate women, there’s plenty here for women entrepreneurs as well. Author Lois P. Frankel is the president of Corporate Coaching International. She explains that we need to manage our don’ts as well as our dos. If we fail to do so, we’re inevitably going to make unconscious mistakes that sabotage our path to success. Frankel notes 101 unique behavior patterns women are infused with—from childhood—that can stand in the way of success.

8. Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think

Author Mona Patel is the CEO and founder of Motivate Design, which explains why this book is so beautifully packaged. But Reframe is also an immensely useful book—it’s centered around Patel’s eight-step process, which she calls “Reframework,” that can get you unstuck and out of a rut.

Patel is an innovation and disruption evangelist. That’s how she runs her company—and how she wants you to run yours. One of my favorite chapters is called “Creative Openers to Problem Solving.” Part of the exercise is asking eight “creative openers” that can lead to all sorts of discovery.

Some of the eight you’ve likely asked before, such as “Why?” or “What if?” But have you considered that a question seemingly grounded in negativity like, “What if I can’t?” can lead to positive results? Patel applies a lot of design principles to a broad array of entrepreneurial challenges—and it works here. For instance, she advises, “In design, you try something, and if it doesn’t work, you try something else. There’s no reason to be scared or stuck in analysis paralysis.”

9. She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur

Author Carrie Green started her first business at 20 and is also the founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association. This book is high on motivation and visualization and short on practical, pragmatic advice. But Green is a successful young entrepreneur who is determined to inspire her generation.

10. Shark Tales: How I Turned $1000 into a Billion Dollar Business

By now most people are familiar with Barbara Corcoran, one of the stars of Shark Tank. But Corcoran was a business force to be reckoned with long before she joined the TV show. I saw Corcoran speak to a women’s group several years ago. She has a gutsy story to share and an over-the-top style of telling it. The book, part memoir, part how-to, offers information and laughs.

11. Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You

I first met the book’s author, Betsy Myers, back in the ’90s when she headed the Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, where she, as an entrepreneur herself, educated and advocated for the emerging class of entrepreneurial women. Today, Myers is known as a leadership expert and the founding director of the Center for Women & Business at Bentley University.

Myers believes leadership exists everywhere, and that it begins with ourselves. In order to lead and inspire others and foster collaboration, Myers says we need to be able to lead ourselves. In Take the Lead, she delineates the seven key principles—authenticity, connection, respect, clarity, collaboration, learning, and courage—that enable you to lead.

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky

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