For us women in college, it is important to know how to navigate our career paths and what to expect from these paths. The National Association of Women Business Owners tells us “Women-owned firms account for 39% of all privately held firms”. To be our own bosses, let alone be in the workplace, was a right that came with generations of fighting. Our spot was earned, not merely handed to us.
Although society is generally progressing, there are questions to be asked about life as a business-owning woman. Depending on the culture you grew up in and the opportunities you are given, every woman’s path will be different. Today, I interviewed my mom, Dr. Hilda Kanon. She immigrated to America from Iraq in 1982 and went to dental school at UCLA. She now owns her own practice in Campbell, California. Here is what she has to say about being a business-owning woman.
Q: When and how did you know what you wanted to pursue as a career?
A: “I basically chose to be a dentist when I finished high school in Baghdad. It was honestly a random choice because where I’m from, we did not have many options for careers. I was a good student with good grades, and I did not want to be a doctor, this was deemed as the ‘next best thing.’. When I came to the states, I continued pursuing dentistry hoping I would like it, which was risky because dental school is a long education. Fortunately for me, I loved it and never regretted it.”
Q: Have you always wanted to own your own business?
A: “When I graduated, I knew it was the way to go. Early in my career, I was a partner in a large group practice and I knew I didn’t like it because I had no freedom of steering the practice one way or another. I have my own methods and intentions for the way I practice dentistry, and I didn’t enjoy being confined to other people’s methods.”
Q: Was being a female business owner something you were ever encouraged or discouraged to do?
A: “I was discouraged by many of the men in my family that believed it would be too much for me to handle too early on. I was warned it may get in the way of the family I wanted to eventually have.”
Q: What are some of the pros and cons of owning your own practice?
A: “The pros are that I have the freedom to shape my business into the model that I like. I set my own ethical standards and get to connect with my patients. The cons are the management of my staff, which I never received training in, as well as understanding the detailed business aspect of running my own practice.”
Q: How has being a woman impacted your life as a business owner?
A: “Being a woman business owner has allowed me to express a more personal approach to dentistry. I attribute a lot of my ability to help my patients to being an understanding woman. It was also a challenge being a mom while running my own practice, but I learned it was not impossible the way I was warned it would be. You can do both with the right support.”
Q: What is something important to know as a woman who wants to run her own business one day?
A: “Take as many business classes as you can and equip yourself with extensive knowledge on how to run a business. I never took any business classes because no one advised me to. Also, it is important to plan around your personal goals. This includes marriage and starting families of your own if that’s part of your future. Finally, if you do get married, find a supportive spouse. Management is difficult, and everyone needs moral support from outside of work.”
I learned from my mom that you don’t have to choose between lifestyles as a woman. Even though we are taught that living traditional, familial lives and being career women are mutually exclusive, my mom is my prime example of how this is simply not true. A lot of the sacrifices we think we have to make as women who want to be successful are in reality not necessary. I encourage any women who are looking down the path of starting their own businesses one day to keep that in mind. We can always find ways to get what we want out of life.
*If you’re ever in need of a kind, hardworking, and ethical dentist, you’ll find Hilda Kanon DDS in Campbell, CA!
Tell us about your local women-owned business by tagging us @HerCampusSJSU!