Despite little or no start-up experience, select entrepreneurs are pushing through.
Sarah LaFleur, who worked for management firm Bain Capital and investment firm Starwood Capital Group, wanted to follow her passion: women's business attire. LaFleur eventually launched M.M. LAFLEUR IN 2011.
"I wanted to go do something on my own, and there was a real need for professional wear," LaFleur said. "If you had asked me when I was 25 if I was going to start a fashion line two years later, I never would have said 'yes.'"
LaFleur and other young entrepreneurs say pitching repeatedly, and hearing a lot of "nos" before getting a "yes" is part of the process.
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Vanessa Hurst worked for research data firm S&P Capital IQ when she began volunteering her data skills at smaller firms. She started her first venture, Girl Develop It, in 2010. The international non-profit is focused on promoting code education among girls. In 2012, she founded CodeMontage, separate for-profit venture that encourages programmers and coders to pursue socially-conscious projects.
"I've lost track of the number of times that I've heard that tech is already such a level playing field, and if women wanted to be involved they would," Hurst said. But tech's gender gap suggests there are challenges, she added.
Plus, only 7 percent of venture capital funding is won by female-led businesses, according to a 2013 study by Fiona Murray, professor of entrepreneurship at MIT's Sloan School of Management.
And across the meeting tables, potential investors often are men.
"The fact is, 98 percent of investors we meet with are male," said apparel company founder LaFleur.