blog » October 18, 2019 by Elisa Schmitz

The Basics of Entrepreneurship With "Tech Biz Gurl" Jessica Williams by Elisa Schmitz

Blog Entrepreneurs
4 years ago
The Basics of Entrepreneurship With "Tech Biz Gurl" Jessica Williams

Have you ever wanted to start your own business? So many women – and men! – would like to start their own businesses but don't know how. Maybe you have a great idea but don't know where to begin. Maybe you want to turn your side hustle into a full-time thing but are afraid to take the leap. So many questions, but where do you go for answers?

Jessica Williams, aka Tech Biz Gurl, is a proponent of women in business and a "side hustle heroine." I first met Jessica through the WiSTEM female founder accelerator program at 1871 Chicago, home of the city's tech ecosystem. At WiSTEM, she helped more than 80 women-owned startups get liftoff. Jessica is the force behind Tech Biz Gurl, a blog that inspires people to become successful side hustlers.

Jessica has received numerous accolades for her work, including winning the For Women & Diversity Award in 2019, being highlighted as one of  9 Black Women Leaders Dedicated To Empowering Others, being named one of 200 Black Women in Tech to Follow on Twitter in 2018 and more. Jessica shared a basic foundation of what's involved in becoming an entrepreneur. Read on to learn more...

Q: What are the first things to think about when starting a business?

First, I would get really clear on why you want to start a business. Is it to make more money or have more freedom in your schedule? Do you want to solve a problem you see in the world? All of the above? Whatever that reason is, it will be important to keep in your back pocket on the hard days. And trust me, there will be hard days.

Once you have your why figured out, think about your idea. What will your service or product be? Is there a market for it? Hint: if there is competition out there, that means there is demand. Think about how you can do it better, faster, easier to stand out.

Do you have funding? How much money will you need upfront? If you are offering services, you can probably start out by posting on social media. But at some point, you will need to invest in a website, business cards, etc.

If it is a product or software, think through how you can start it at its simplest stage. How can you create an MVP or minimum viable product? This may be creating application screens using PowerPoint. Or creating a prototype of your physical product.

Then you’ll need to figure out your business model. How you will make money. This may take some iterations as pricing may take some research and experimentation to figure out. Once you have these elements figured out, you can get to work on a plan.

Q: What resources are out there to help founders and entrepreneurs?

Google is a great resource! I would research any questions you have. There are so many resources out there now for founders including Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, online programs.

For aspiring women entrepreneurs, Chicago-specific resources include  1871 Chicago’s WiSTEM program, DePaul University's Women Entrepreneurship Institute, WBDCWomen Tech Founders and others highlighted on Bond Street's list at

Other organizations include the National Association of Women Business Owners, Startup Nation, Entrepreneur, SCORE Mentors, SBA and Freelancers Union.

Twitter accounts to follow include @forbes, @Inc, @sivers, @jkhoey, @TheSharkDaymond, @WhenIGroUpCoach, @heyshenee, @Fizzle, @jasonfried and @chrisguillebeau.

Q: Tell us about some of the skills that are helpful when starting your own business?

  • No. 1 skill is networking and relationship building. Get comfortable putting yourself out there. Let people know what you are up to. You never know who they could be, how they could help, or who they might be connected to.
  • Realize that you don’t have to be an expert. Sometimes this can be crippling. You may think “Well, I’m not an expert at ____” so I can’t be an entrepreneur.” BUT you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to know a little more than the next person.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable. There will be new skills, experiences and oftentimes a lot of “impostor syndrome” that comes with being an entrepreneur. You will find that it is a muscle you’ll have to continually exercise by moving forward and taking action.
  • Other skills include technology, courage, community, time and energy management (huge!), understanding your finances, marketing and personal branding.

Q: What are some ways to "dip your toes in the water" without leaving your job, etc., and do you recommend this?

My best advice for dipping your toes in the water is to start it as a side hustle. It's a way to pursue a biz idea in a low-risk way. Before you do that, check with your HR department to get clear on whether you can start something and what those requirements might be. Most often, HR will ask for you to disclose the side hustle and document the hours you’ll be working on the business to make sure that it is something that will not happen on company time or a conflict of interest.

Then take a look at your calendar and your commitments. Be honest with yourself here. One thing that helps me is blocking all my commitments on a calendar: work, sleep, gym, etc. Take a look at what's left over and figure out the times you can work on your biz.

I love side hustles because they create time to experiment. Your basic needs like rent and bills are covered by your day job, so your focus does not have to be on getting rich with your business right away. Use this time to get clear and figure things out. Then you can decide what will make you feel most comfortable to take the leap to full-time entrepreneurship (if that’s something you want to do). This will be different for everyone, but it could be having a certain number of clients or months of income at the bank.

Q: What are your top three tips for women who want to start a business?

  • Build your community. It can get lonely as an entrepreneur. You will want to surround yourself with others on your journey so that you are able to share what you are struggling with, challenges you are facing and the wins as well.
  • Do not be afraid to fail. Think of this journey as an experiment. Try different things. As my fave coach Michelle Ward says, “Put your Nancy Drew hat on.” You may also discover through this process that entrepreneurship is not for you, and that’s totally OK.
  • Ask for help. This has been really hard for me as an entrepreneur, and as a woman in general. People want to help, they just need to know how. If you need help getting the word out or just someone to brainstorm with, ask. Most often the answer will be yes.

Q: How can women be sure to take care of themselves and not burn out in business?

The good thing about being an entrepreneur is that you have a bit of freedom and flexibility in your schedule. So definitely try to schedule it in. But also think about what you need to recharge and how often? Put that time in your calendar and protect it.

As women, we often prioritize everyone else other than ourselves (guilty!), but taking the time for self-care will help us do even more for others, and ultimately be better business owners.

Self-care does not have to be big items either. I make some time to read before bed every night and start my mornings with Shine, which goes a long way toward my recharge. If you are looking for inspiration, check out this post.

Q: Great tips! How can people stay in touch with you?

You can definitely give me a follow on Twitter at @techbizgurl. But also, I’d love it if you could subscribe to my weekly newsletter, #jesspicks. It includes curated tips and resources for side hustlers, and it’s helpful for entrepreneurs.

Take 30 seconds and join the 30Seconds community. Inspire and be inspired.

Gwen Johnson
Always been a dream of mine to be a business owner. Looking forward to learning from you, Jessica L. Williams .
Elisa Schmitz
Yaaaas! Can't wait to chat with you about entrepreneurship, Jessica L. Williams . Your advice is invaluable and will help so many who want to start their own businesses, thank you!
Sounds like a fun and informational talk! 🍁
Meredith Schneider
So exciting! Can't wait to hear what Jessica L. Williams has to share with us! See everyone Wednesday.
Timothy Vallianatos
Looking forward to the conversation #loveandstuff to everyone
Holly Budde
See you all Wednesday !! Eager to hear Jessica’s informative chat !!
Donna John
Learned so much tonight, Jessica L. Williams ! My husband and I opened up a business this year, and it is a woman-owned business. It's been very exciting ... and scary. I am going to check out all the links you provided above. Thanks for all your insights!

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