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Katie Elizabeth 2017

“Entrepreneurship is in my blood.” It’s a phrase that is practically cliché, and one that entrepreneurs the world over have likely heard numerous times, or even said themselves. I find myself thinking it often and it currently sits comfortably on the About page of Stella Digital, the company that I founded. Is it imperative to have ‘entrepreneurship in your blood’ in order to be a successful entrepreneur, particularly as a woman in business? I think the more interesting concept is this – is it possible that entrepreneurship runs through everyone’s blood, and it is what we do with it that matters?

To dig deeper into this concept I turned to a female Founder and CEO who has created entrepreneurial success three times over. Chantal Guillon Di Donato, Founder and CEO of Chantal Guillon, shared with me what she feels makes her successful, and what all women who choose the entrepreneurial path can do to succeed.

The youngest of eight, Chantal felt the desire at an early age to create, build and develop something that would allow her to escape the pressure of her large family and feel free to make her own choices and chart her own path. “As a kid, I recall that all of my favorite games were related to entrepreneurship. I would [become] a merchant, [placing] myself on the stairs – the best traffic location, where all of my older siblings would pass – and try to sell them things like matchboxes, jams, and other things that I made.” She enjoyed the concept of sharing with people, the process of giving and receiving, and the pleasure she derived from convincing others to buy items she felt would add value to their lives.

I, too, was always interested in creating and building something that I could then share with those around me. When I was little I dreamed of being a CEO who sat at the head of a huge board room table in a massive, skyscraping office building. I loved visiting my Dad’s office, and would write notes to his colleagues like I was the one in charge. New business ideas were often swirling around in my head (even if the early ones were pretty awful). Straight out of college I attempted the corporate world, and strongly disliked it. So, I prepared to become a full time entrepreneur then made the leap.

Chantal’s passion to become an entrepreneur also grew stronger with each passing year. She started her first company in her native France, building her first successful company in interior design and then her next in hospitality. “My thing is to create, to build, and [to seek out things] that challenge me. Not only with business, but with new adventures and new discoveries, often guided only by my instincts.” Looking for a new adventure, Chantal moved San Francisco, where her children were living. She fell in love with the city, and also noticed what would lead to her latest business venture – a strong demand for luxurious French food experiences and the lack of macarons and pastries. Thus, in 2008, Chantal Guillon Macarons and Teas was born.

Ten years later, her dream has soared higher than she ever expected, but it was not without its complications. Asking her about the challenges she faced as a female entrepreneur, she tells me, “[Difficulties] are everywhere. As women and as men, all entrepreneurs have difficulties. [One] that I realize only today is that my children’s father was not involved in parenting and if you wanted kids, you had to be a full-time mother, a full-time housewife, and a full-time entrepreneur. At the time, I did not feel it as a difficulty, it was the same for many women. But having the chance to work and be my own boss was what I wanted, and it was normal for me to balance both the private and the professional. But when I see today, how men are more involved as equal to women in their parenting, I realized that it was not so easy every day. It is a beautiful thing that is happening, for women and men to be able to balance both [work and parenting], for women to aspire to be anything and men to enjoy their fatherhood.”

It was clear from our conversation that Chantal has been able to build three successful businesses by focusing her energy not on the difficulties of being a woman in business, but in her desire to build something greater. “Women should get rid of the ideas that they can’t be considered equal to men. In business, there are no women, there are no men, there are no skin colors – there are only good and bad businesspeople. And only the desire to succeed is what will get you past the everyday difficulties.” Quoting philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca (known to most simply as Seneca), she adds, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”

Her points on the challenges of being a female entrepreneur truly resounded with me. In my journey through entrepreneurship, I have experienced innumerable roadblocks and obstacles I have had to overcome and lessons I’ve had to learn. It has been the insatiable hunger to succeed, and the help of many mentors along the way, that has kept me going.

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Katie Elizabeth 2017

“Entrepreneurship is in my blood.” It’s a phrase that is practically cliché, and one that entrepreneurs the world over have likely heard numerous times, or even said themselves. I find myself thinking it often and it currently sits comfortably on the About page of Stella Digital, the company that I founded. Is it imperative to have ‘entrepreneurship in your blood’ in order to be a successful entrepreneur, particularly as a woman in business? I think the more interesting concept is this – is it possible that entrepreneurship runs through everyone’s blood, and it is what we do with it that matters?

To dig deeper into this concept I turned to a female Founder and CEO who has created entrepreneurial success three times over. Chantal Guillon Di Donato, Founder and CEO of Chantal Guillon, shared with me what she feels makes her successful, and what all women who choose the entrepreneurial path can do to succeed.

The youngest of eight, Chantal felt the desire at an early age to create, build and develop something that would allow her to escape the pressure of her large family and feel free to make her own choices and chart her own path. “As a kid, I recall that all of my favorite games were related to entrepreneurship. I would [become] a merchant, [placing] myself on the stairs – the best traffic location, where all of my older siblings would pass – and try to sell them things like matchboxes, jams, and other things that I made.” She enjoyed the concept of sharing with people, the process of giving and receiving, and the pleasure she derived from convincing others to buy items she felt would add value to their lives.

I, too, was always interested in creating and building something that I could then share with those around me. When I was little I dreamed of being a CEO who sat at the head of a huge board room table in a massive, skyscraping office building. I loved visiting my Dad’s office, and would write notes to his colleagues like I was the one in charge. New business ideas were often swirling around in my head (even if the early ones were pretty awful). Straight out of college I attempted the corporate world, and strongly disliked it. So, I prepared to become a full time entrepreneur then made the leap.

Chantal’s passion to become an entrepreneur also grew stronger with each passing year. She started her first company in her native France, building her first successful company in interior design and then her next in hospitality. “My thing is to create, to build, and [to seek out things] that challenge me. Not only with business, but with new adventures and new discoveries, often guided only by my instincts.” Looking for a new adventure, Chantal moved San Francisco, where her children were living. She fell in love with the city, and also noticed what would lead to her latest business venture – a strong demand for luxurious French food experiences and the lack of macarons and pastries. Thus, in 2008, Chantal Guillon Macarons and Teas was born.

Ten years later, her dream has soared higher than she ever expected, but it was not without its complications. Asking her about the challenges she faced as a female entrepreneur, she tells me, “[Difficulties] are everywhere. As women and as men, all entrepreneurs have difficulties. [One] that I realize only today is that my children’s father was not involved in parenting and if you wanted kids, you had to be a full-time mother, a full-time housewife, and a full-time entrepreneur. At the time, I did not feel it as a difficulty, it was the same for many women. But having the chance to work and be my own boss was what I wanted, and it was normal for me to balance both the private and the professional. But when I see today, how men are more involved as equal to women in their parenting, I realized that it was not so easy every day. It is a beautiful thing that is happening, for women and men to be able to balance both [work and parenting], for women to aspire to be anything and men to enjoy their fatherhood.”

It was clear from our conversation that Chantal has been able to build three successful businesses by focusing her energy not on the difficulties of being a woman in business, but in her desire to build something greater. “Women should get rid of the ideas that they can’t be considered equal to men. In business, there are no women, there are no men, there are no skin colors – there are only good and bad businesspeople. And only the desire to succeed is what will get you past the everyday difficulties.” Quoting philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca (known to most simply as Seneca), she adds, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”

Her points on the challenges of being a female entrepreneur truly resounded with me. In my journey through entrepreneurship, I have experienced innumerable roadblocks and obstacles I have had to overcome and lessons I’ve had to learn. It has been the insatiable hunger to succeed, and the help of many mentors along the way, that has kept me going.

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