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Women in business need to break THIS cycle

Owning a business can be hard enough, but women entrepreneurs can face additional hurdles, especially if they try to go it alone.

"When you're too strong as a business owner, you're a b----. … And if you're too weak, then you're a wimp," said Carolyn DeVito, owner of two Erika Cole Salon & Spa stores on New York's Long Island.

Some of it boils down to respect. "There's a fine line that you can't or you shouldn't or you try hard not to cross so that people will respect you without looking at you like, you know, 'Oh, there goes her hormones again,'" DeVito said.

Sadly, she's not the only woman in business to have heard that.

A 2007 study by women's advocacy organization Catalyst found that 52.7 percent of male and female respondents described this "double-bind dilemma."


Holly Wade, director of Research at the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said there's hope for gender equality in the workplace, especially when women find the right mentor.

Wade sees mentoring and networking among female entrepreneurs as crucial.

"Women are increasingly filling those top roles as business owners, CEOS. I think those stereotypes will become more muted as people see more women in those roles," Wade said.

"I think it's imperative to ask for help when you face challenges in managing your business," Wade said. "Going it alone is a very difficult proposition for business owners regardless of their experience."

Finding a mentor was what turned DeVito's business around.

"A little over a year ago, I was in a very bad way business-sense wise. I was in a lot of debt. I had a company that was failing," DeVito said.

DeVito then reached out to Marcus Lemonis, serial entrepreneur and host of the CNBC series "The Profit," for advice and help. Lemonis taught her how to restructure her salon business.

This experience inspired her to network with and mentor women from aspiring entrepreneurs in high school to women in their 40s, DeVito said.

"I was happy that I told my story because, you know, we as women, are not supposed to show weakness. But sometimes when you show weakness, it helps other people," DeVito said. "Just because you fail, doesn't mean you can't reinvent yourself and become that strong person again. So no matter what, I like to tell women, 'I don't care how many times you're down, the next step is always back up again. So never give up.'"

Jay Directo | AFP | Getty Images

Are you an entrepreneur? Tune in to "The Profit" with Marcus Lemonis on Wednesday, Oct. 28, after the Republican Presidential Debate. Only on CNBC.