This is a guest post by Nicole Rash Cook, founder of Royal Transformations.

It’s a common misconception that pageant girls are weak and unintelligent, but the truth is, women entrepreneurs can learn quite a bit from them. Continuously being subjected to criticism is difficult, teaming up with other women you’re in competition with isn’t easy, and it takes a strong and confident woman to rise above. Here are five things you can learn from a pageant competitor-turned-entrepreneur.

Be Confident

Confidence is a key characteristic of a successful entrepreneur. The first step to becoming a confident woman is to stop looking at, comparing yourself to, brooding over, hating on, or wishing you were another woman. Be happy with yourself, and relish what makes you unique. Be nice to other women along the way, too. Joining or starting a women’s group can be a great way to build more positive female relationships. You can also involve yourself in activities that boost your self-confidence and self-worth, and find other female entrepreneurs in your community to bond with. Confidence comes easier when affirmative people surround you, and you’ll most likely be surprised by the relationships you form.

Keep Your Competitive Drive

Any woman with a problem-solving idea can start a business, but with that great idea, you’ll need a competitive drive. Every market comes with competition, so think about how you can differentiate yourself from others through your work ethic, customer service, and willingness to go the extra mile for your business and customer. Personally, I started a pageant coaching company, but instead of just trying to help people win, I chose to educate women on the true value and purpose of pageants, and how women can support one another through participation. You just have to see a problem and find the drive to pursue it.

Maintain Resilience

Establishing yourself as an entrepreneur is tough work, but don’t let rejection and other setbacks bring you down. Since it might take a while to get your business off the ground, perseverance is key. Most importantly, stick to what you know because you’re more likely to be prosperous if you have a passion for what you’re doing and are truly helping your customers in the best way possible. For example, throughout my young professional life, I continued trying different types of careers because other people thought they were the right choices for me, or the financial potential was high. Eventually, I realized that my path was right in front of me — I had just been ignoring the potential and my own passions.

Live Life to the Fullest

Don’t pass up interesting or unique opportunities, such as pageants, studying abroad, interning in a different city, living on your own, experimenting with different career paths, learning another language, or whatever else may come your way. I went to three different colleges, have lived in two foreign countries, speak another language fluently, and grew up on a farm. Diverse life experiences like these can help you relate to different people in a way that most can’t, and they can help you gain a larger, more diverse customer base.

Learn as You Go

Since nothing can truly prepare you for entrepreneurship, it’s important to have a “learn as you go” attitude. You may have a great idea, but you need to know how to implement that idea, get it off the ground, manage your money properly, and keep everything in order so you don’t get into trouble. Taking business, finance, and money management courses is never a bad idea, and it’s smart to set up a corporation or LLC to protect your business.

Overall, it’s important to be competitive, but don’t let that entrepreneurial drive get in the way of forming meaningful relationships with other women. Seek out female leaders, learn from each other, and help women in business continue to break down barriers and thrive. This will help you stay confident and learn how to surround yourself with positive people, creating a constructive environment that can only lead to success.

Nicole (Rash) Cook is the founder of Royal Transformations, a company designed to help young women become more successful in pageants and in life. Nicole is a 28-year-old model, actress, spokesperson, and the current Ms. America 2012. Having gone from a small-town girl in Indiana to multi-pageant winner, Nicole is on a mission to help young women realize their dreams and be proud of their valuable pageantry experience. She welcomes anyone to reach out to her @BecomeRoyalT.