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Risk-taking isn’t just for entrepreneurs. Women need to courageously and creatively take risks in their professional lives, whether they own the business or not.

That was the message delivered by a panel of successful businesswomen during the “Be a Creative Risk Taker” breakout session at NJBIA’s Women Business Leaders Forum on Sept. 23.

“You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to take a risk,” said Bernadine Wu, founder & CEO of Fit for Commerce. “Every role, every step you take in your career you are taking a risk.

“There are studies showing women considering a new role may not check off all 10 boxes and they think, ‘Oh no, I’m not ready for that.’ Whereas men will say, ‘I can do that!’ even when they’ve checked off only two of those 10 boxes,” Wu said.

Miriam Frolow, director of Academic Affairs for the University of Phoenix’s Jersey City campus, said women working within large organizations are sometimes concerned that they are being set up for failure if they say yes to a challenging professional opportunity.

“When you are part of a large organizations sometimes you need to also weigh the risk factors and the organizational culture,” Dr. Frolow said. “If you take the risk, is there going to be a reward? Or are they setting you up for possible failure.”

Dr. Frolow said that because she feels strongly about the supportive culture at the University of Phoenix, she was able to step outside her comfort zone and accept a challenging career opportunity there.

“One of the best moments in my career was saying yes to a promotion that that I knew had a huge learning curve,” Dr. Frolow said. “People believed in me and I wanted to prove that I could do this and I knew that my friends and colleagues had my back – and I succeeded.”

Mayvis Payne, founder of Mayvis Payne Makeup LLC and author of the recently published “The Lipgloss Chronicles: Confessions of a Celebrity Makeup Artist,” said it was scary to for her to leave behind a career at Fortune 500 company to pursue entrepreneurial dreams.

“I’m just really enjoying being in this space I’m in now and discovering new things about myself, as well as meeting new people and working on different projects and adding more diversity to my portfolio,” Payne said, noting that publishing a book was never on her radar before.

“All of things I have done have now come together to give me that ‘Wow I made it’ moment,” Payne said.

Shy Hopkins, a U.S. Air Force veteran and entrepreneur who also manages marketing for the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers state headquarters offices at Rutgers Business School in Newark, said she is a strong believer in following your passion.

“Shoot for the stars and if you land on the moon, it’s all good,” Hopkins said. “Don’t look back.”

Hopkins said it is also important for young women to find a professional mentor to guide them on their career path.

“You’ll need guidance and support on things that aren’t learned in school,” Hopkins said. “I was fortunate to be raised among strong women, and as I got older, I looked for that and gravitated toward that.”