As a small business owner, it can be challenging to keep the pace of business during a crisis that has now shut-down about 1/4 of the country. Many companies are struggling to maintain momentum, or worse, closed completely as we strive to flatten the curve through social distancing.
While even large businesses are bearing the burden of this shut down, small companies have the additional challenge of having a smaller footprint, and a lower budget for marketing activities.
So how can a small business maintain a customer relationship and prepare to ramp up again when the "stay at home" orders are lifted?
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By Andrea Sarow, Denver-area Small Business Banker with Bank of America
As we celebrate women this month, it’s an ideal time to focus on the outlook for women in small business. Denver was recently ranked as the top metro area for women looking to start a business, ranking above 49 other cities across the country. With 29% of business being woman-owned and operated and an unemployment rate of 4.2% for women, Denver is leading in economic and business mobility for women in business.
To better understand this thriving community of business owners, Bank of America surveyed more than 500 women across the country to gain insights into their aspirations and concerns, as well as similarities and differences with their male peers.
Bank of America’s 2019 Women Business Owner Spotlight found that women entrepreneurs are increasingly confident in future revenue growth (with that confidence reaching a four-year high), and 73 percent of women business owners plan to expand their business in the next 12 months. Additionally, 25 percent are planning to hire, compared to 21 percent in the fall of 2018. Women entrepreneurs are taking action, but not without facing difficulties in several areas.
This year’s report examined women’s perspectives on barriers to establishing and financing a small business – including the extent to which gender bias may play a role. More than half of women entrepreneurs say they don’t have the same access to capital as their male counterparts and approximately a third say it will take some time — about 14 years on average — to achieve equal access to capital. Nearly a quarter say they believe women will never have equal access. Business.org found that while women on average make $10,000 less a year than men in Denver, this is “one of the better pay gaps across metros in the country.”
When reflecting upon positive influences on their business, more than half of women business owners identified external factors like experiencing adversity, obtaining a college degree and having a mentor have helped them achieve success. When asked for the single character trait that has had the greatest impact on their business success, women entrepreneurs identified integrity (23 percent) as the top personality attribute, closely followed by perseverance (22 percent).
When looking to factors that could have the greatest impact on women business owners over the next five years, strong majorities of both women and men business owners believe achieving work-life balance, pay equality and equal access to capital will be important milestones to achieve at a national scale. Looking to the future, business owners agree that having more women in positions of influence would be the most impactful in paving the way for the next generation of women in business. At Bank of America, we recognize that women play a vital role in driving economic growth and we have formed partnerships to connect women entrepreneurs to mentoring, capital and other tools that will help them have the power to advance their businesses and make significant contributions to our economy.
For more research findings on the 2019 Women Business Owner Spotlight, please click here.
By Mimi Roberson, CEO, PIVOT
The Center for Creative Leadership recently surveyed more than 500 female leaders about ways to attract and retain top-notch women. As someone who currently leads a nonprofit but has been president and CEO of a hospital system with 2,500 employees and 1,000 medical staffers, the top answer hit home. The women surveyed tended to be motivated by opportunities to make a difference in the world. They saw their careers as a calling, one that they wanted to be meaningful and enjoyable.
My experience in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds (in addition to my current role at PIVOT, I’ve served on many nonprofit boards over the years) has been that women’s innate tendencies and acquired skills lend themselves to success in both. But many of us don’t quite appreciate that the nonprofit world a great place to find a career that’s a calling – if only we let ourselves make the leap.
Women excel across all industries and job functions. We have great female software engineers, construction workers, pilots, doctors, lawyers, and, yes, hospital executives. But it’s also true that women are drawn to certain professions in large numbers – particularly professions involved with caring for and nurturing others. That nine in 10 nurses and more than three-quarters of U.S. public school teachers are women (and nearly 90 percent of primary school teachers) is no accident.
Nonprofits fit those same molds. A nonprofit’s calling is to make a difference in the world. Nonprofits run after-school programs for disadvantaged kids, they feed the hungry, they protect animals, they preserve the natural environment – they engage in all sorts of areas of need in their quests to do what they can to make the world a more just, safer, healthier place. But for diverse reasons, the sorts of women who can do so much for nonprofits are often hesitant to join and lead them.
I earned a law degree and wanted to use it. As my career progressed, what drove me was to do meaningful work, do it well, and to include others by being a part of – and, later, creating and leading – teams of people who aspired to do good things. I always kept a toe in philanthropic endeavors. But I wasn’t alone in associating my success as a human being to my success along a career path that fit neatly along societal expectations. That is, if you have an accounting degree, you become a CPA; if you have a law degree, you practice law; if you have an MBA, you go into corporate management; and so on. Such expectations can give rise to the belief that you’re somehow shortchanging yourself if you dedicate business hours to work not directly related to your hard-earned educational and professional qualifications.
My time at PIVOT has taught me otherwise. I have learned that the skills successful professional women have honed indeed apply wonderfully to nonprofit work. What kinds of skills do I mean? Pretty much all of them: communication and networking skills, skills in managing people and relationships, strategic planning skills, money-management and budgeting skills, data-management skills, strategic planning skills, and on and on. If a skill is valued in corporate America, it’s valued in nonprofit America.
I think what’s holding some of us back from making the leap to an immensely rewarding career in nonprofit leadership is that we feel that doing so would mean sacrificing the career we had envisioned. My sense, though, is that idealized career paths exist mostly in one’s imagination, and my experience has been that doing something deeply meaningful to me and of great benefit to children and young people in need – as is the case with my work at PIVOT – quickly washes away lingering doubts.
And you don’t need a law degree, an MBA, or even a paid job to flourish in the nonprofit sector. Women who have dedicated themselves to raising families have quietly developed many of the competencies that nonprofits covet. Managing a home involves bargaining, budgeting, managing, planning, communicating, relationship-building, empathizing – and, lord knows, multitasking. It takes a ton of energy and an ability to deal with stress triggered by everything from “what’s-for-dinner-Mom?” to medical and veterinary emergencies. These are qualities that nonprofits thirst for.
Pivot certainly does. We connect existing nonprofits to help them achieve together a greater good than might be possible on their own. Our need to empathize, build relationships, and communicate among organizations with apparently divergent – but upon closer inspection shared – goals makes ours one of many nonprofits particularly suited to a woman’s perspective and capabilities.
As the nest empties, a “stay-at-home” mom (they do leave the house) can make a huge difference as a part-time or full-time contributor to the sorts of nonprofits they often volunteer for anyway. For such women, the challenge is to have the self-awareness to recognize all you can bring to a nonprofit and the self-confidence to just go for it. The nonprofit world will welcome you with open arms.
Whether you’re a corporate warrior or one who has dedicated your life to your children or your parents or others, I invite you to join me in the nonprofit world. We women have the chops; it’s really just a matter of marshalling the courage to dive into a true calling.
By Mimi Roberson, CEO, PIVOT
PIVOT (a 501c3) was founded by John Elway, Larry Mueller, and George Solich to harness the power of doers and dollars to help Colorado’s NextGen succeed.
TCBY franchisee and Fort Collins resident Jenny Brynteson has an unusual marketing tactic that has helped her two TCBY stores (FoCo and Greeley) rank #3 and #4 in sales nationwide – kids.
Instead of textbook marketing strategies like newsletter campaigns and local ads, Jenny has tapped into the local schools through field days, class parties, and fairs to reach young frozen yogurt fans. She says that by helping kids write cards or play games on free TCBY coupons for Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, foot traffic and awareness of the store has spread steadily helping launch her to the top of TCBY’s sales charts. Meanwhile, kiddos have the freedom to make their own treat with TCBY’s self-serve machines and compare orders after school with their friends.
Below, Jenny discusses how her unique approach to marketing has helped her corner her own share of the frozen yogurt market, while continuing to give back to the community that has helped her thrive.
Q: Tell us a little about your background in business. How did you become an entrepreneur and what education or experiences helped you get here?
A: I grew up in a family of car dealers, with my great-grandfather, grandfather, and father owning and running a dealership that was started in 1922. After we married, my husband joined the team as General Manager while I was occupied raising our four children. I was involved in the dealership on a minimum level during my childhood, but very much enjoyed the competitive nature of the car business. In my primary years, I went to a fledgling school that required a bit of fundraising to support the extra programs required to keep the school running. I was a natural when it came to raising money, and loved the idea of being #1 in sales or fundraising. I cold called to raise money for jog-a-thons, called friends and family on land lines to sell Christmas wreaths during the holidays, and thrived on the idea of being at the top, and often was. I went to college, received a degree in Health and Exercise Science, and loved the aspect of my education that focused on helping people to be their best while building teams.
Q: What inspired you to go the franchise route and why TCBY? What did you have to invest to get started in this business? How did you acquire the necessary capital?
A: I stumbled upon TCBY, and owning a franchise, when we sold our car dealership in 2005 after 85 years. My father was in the habit of taking my children for an evening treat and one evening he brought the kids home from a visit to TCBY, only to give my family devastating news that our local shop would be closing their doors. We were so sad, as the location we took for granted for so many years would no longer be there. As it happened, we had a little money that we could invest from the sale of the car dealership. Over the next year the idea came to us that we should reopen TCBY. My children were nearly out of the house, the market was right, and the self-serve frozen yogurt concept was new and fresh for our area.
Q: Tell us about the marketing strategy that's led you to your current success. How does it work and how did you come up with the idea?
A: Our target market is families, women between the ages of 20-45, and their children. We have chosen to connect to our community by becoming involved in various school functions such as field days, fun runs, back to school events, and run teacher appreciation weeks. We feel that by expressing genuine appreciation and interest in our teachers and the children of our community, we gain an invaluable relationship that builds friendship and trust. These relationships are what we believe are key to our success.
Q: Are there any local resources that helped you in gaining funding, learning to run your business, or getting support and advice?
A: I’ve chosen to be on the Franchisee Board of Directors over the last three to four years and have benefited greatly as I’ve listened and learned from the other members, as well as the women at Famous Brands who work tirelessly at the corporate level to build our company and make the Franchise owners around the country more profitable. My store manager, Shannon, and I have learned together over the past eight years by trial and error, and have gained confidence through our experiences to risk making mistakes and go with our instincts sometimes.
Q: Do you have a support group of women?
A: I have several small groups of women who encourage and support me, and I draw a lot of support from Shannon (my store manger), my wonderful ladies at Famous Brands, and my husband who keeps our books running smoothly when he isn’t working on his own career as an attorney.
Q: What's next for you as you continue to grow as a business owner?
A: I am looking forward to cultivating my relationship with both the Fort Collins and Greeley communities.
Q: What advice can you share for those considering a franchise or starting their own business?
A: We have learned that by giving, we receive. By that, I mean that there is a benefit in being generous. We donate product, give coupons, and are not afraid to delight our customers with special days like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and National Frozen Yogurt Day when we give things away, and show honor and appreciation to our customer base. It always comes back to us when we are genuine and personable with people. If you don’t love people, hire a staff who does to be the face of your business. I’ve met business owners who don’t participate in these national events and are afraid to give too much. I believe it limits their success.
Our Success begins and ends essentially with maintaining a clean shop and training (and raising) a friendly and reliable staff. I credit Shannon for hiring and training a staff who are loyal to us and each other, and who have become a good team while welcoming new employees into the mix. Our retention rate is very good when you consider that we hire mostly high school and college age people. We have had quite a few over the years who start with us at 16 and have stayed right through college! We have a reputation for being a positive work environment and are a coveted place to work.
by Kristen Blessman President and CEO Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce www.cwcc.org
There are a few statements I hear more often than I’d like when talking to people about the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CWCC). “There are too many women’s organizations in Denver. What’s the difference between all of you?” and, “You should partner more, merge and figure out who’s doing what.” While I agree we should work together to meet our market’s needs, I absolutely disagree that there are too many organizations serving women in Colorado.
The latest McKinsey and Company study shows it will take 107 years for women to catch up to where men are in the workplace. As staggering as that statistic is, this means the landscape for women in the workplace is actually getting worse! According to Catalyst, a nonprofit working to build better workplaces for women, only about 5% of CEOs in corporate America and only 26.5% of executives in the S&P 500 are women. For women of color, the numbers are even more dismal.
To top it off, in almost 10 years, the number of women in senior roles in the United States has only increased by 1%. If you ask me, there aren’t enough organizations serving women because if there were, we wouldn’t be seeing these numbers. I started to ponder … nonprofit organizations are often encouraged to partner more, but when it comes to a for-profit organization, they are encouraged to be competitive, develop the best product and let the consumer choose. The company that is the most successful at this ends up on top.
I wonder why, as nonprofits, we don’t think this way. Is it because we’re ultimately serving people and working towards a mission? I believe a competitive marketplace can lead to development of strong programming and be a pathway to innovation. Don’t get me wrong, we still need to partner because the need is so very great, especially when it comes to improving the work landscape for women. But, by introducing some aspects of the for-profit culture into our nonprofit organizations, we can serve more individuals better.
My Experience During the course of my career as the previous CMO of Goodwill and the current President and CEO of the CWCC, I’ve faced the challenge of blending a competitive business culture with cause-based culture and have learned a few lessons along the way.
Lesson 1: An organization whose ultimate goal is to create real and lasting systematic change in a community can have a competitive edge over an organization that lacks a mission of this type.
Lesson 2: In many industries, the more competition you have in a close proximity, the more successful the industry is as a whole. More choices equals more engagement.
The Takeaway While it’s true there have been many positive changes over the past 30 years for women in the workplace, the McKinsey and Company study shows that there’s still change needed. My vision is to place the CWCC at the forefront of this change. We are the place where conversations start and learning and collaboration occur.
I don’t think anyone has the secret sauce yet, but I do believe if we have the conversations, promote the education and get like-minded individuals together, we will begin to see better results. I believe the more organizations we have in our community trying to make lasting change for the advancement of women in business, government, life or any particular cause, the more we’ll chip away at the statistics for women in the workplace.
by Krystal Covington, MBA
The company sales team is the life source of the business, pumping resources into every aspect of operations. Effective sales teams provide the resources to lead a powerful enterprise, scale to reach new markets, and sustain the business for years to come, but building and sustaining a successful team is easier said than achieved. Businesses spend thousands on sales training seminars, conferences, and events with the hope that inspiring their people will result in more money in the door, but these types of programs often result in a temporary lift that doesn’t justify the cost. Woman-led SalesBQ takes a systematic approach to sales training, helping companies at the $1-10 million mark build and train their sales teams to improve long term results. To learn more about how the company was formed, we interviewed company Founder Mary Grothe about her journey and the team’s approach to sales development.
How did you discover your talent for sales? Years ago after becoming frustrated with bad part-time jobs and late hours I ran across an administrative position for a Fortune 1000 company called Paychex. At the time, I didn’t even know what sales was, but was offered a role that required me to support a sales team of eight along with the sales manager as well. That sales manager ended up being an incredible mentor, teaching me everything about sales infrastructure, process, methodology, and what a life in sales could look like. He helped me create a sales training curriculum comprised of books, classroom education, and hands-on learning by slowly taking over critical functions from the sales team members.
I led projects such as telemarketing, following up with leads, picking up paperwork for closed sales, acting as an account executive and performing many other operational tasks for the sales team. Eventually I decided to make a career change and pursue a role as a mid-market sales leader and within 30 days I became the #1 rep, bringing in millions in revenue.
Sales has a reputation for being a male-dominated field. Do you feel this is an accurate assessment, and if so how have you been able to thrive in sales as a woman? Sales is a male dominated field, however, many women are taking on sales careers now. Early on, it was difficult for me to fit in and feel like “one of the guys,” which resulted in me bending who I was and acting more like my male counterparts. It took several years for me to become secure in my own identity as a woman in a sales role.
It took even longer to have the confidence to pursue a sales leadership role. Now in my 30s, my confidence is high, and I consciously work to help inspire, motivate, and train other women in sales to excel in their careers and pursue a path to sales leadership if that’s a path they want.
What’s the #1 problem facing sales teams, and how can they overcome it? The #1 problem facing sales teams is lack of infrastructure. All teams should have a sales playbook, congruent sales approach, sales enablement tools, achievable activity plan, clearly understood expectations, and a high-accountability culture that includes coaching and training embedded in weekly job duties. To overcome this, a sales leader or executive should meet with the team and conduct a strategy planning session together where everyone has an opportunity to share and, most importantly, feel heard.
In those sessions it’s important to pull experiences from the role that work, consolidate the data into an easy playbook, and rewrite expectations for activity and quotas that the team can agree they’re willing to work to achieve. Create a buy-in culture by leveraging the knowledge and expertise from everyone in the sales department. If the sales leader is not a sales coach or trainer by trade, hire one. Embed weekly sales coaching and training into the culture. Allow each person to grow and develop new skills. Work together as a team, communicate, and grow sales.
Tell us about your team and the philosophy you use to select those who work with you. My team is extremely important to my business, so it’s imperative that I only surround myself with the best. I always believe in the concept of showing humility by hiring people who are better, faster and smarter than me. I’ll never let my ego get in the way of a great hire.
The people on my team have grit written in their DNA and the role they’re in comes naturally to them without being draining. They also have a passion for learning and take regular action to continue building their skills to be more effective in their roles. I also believe it’s my job to continue developing them, so they can achieve greater career heights. That’s what my mentor did for me, and I expect no less from myself as a leader.
Do you have a special philosophy for leading your business and serving clients? As a Christian business woman, I follow the principles laid out in the book “Business by the Book” by Larry Burkett. Our core principles are to love our team members, our clients, our competitors, our vendors, and our partners. We are to serve first. Always. We are in business to do right by others. We picked CEOs and sales reps as our “somebody.” We choose to develop them and provide profitable sales growth so they can have the business and careers of their dreams. We are here to serve. If we serve first and lead with love, we will all live a life of joy and bountiful provision.
Why do you do this work? What’s in it for you when a sales team you’ve worked with starts to see exponential growth? I do this work because I was put on this planet to do it. It comes naturally, and I seem to have nearly endless energy to run this company and lead a team of 8. I get overly excited and passionate every time I lead a sales training or meet with our CEO clients to develop their plans for growth. I am honored this life was chosen for me and I get the opportunity to help grow sales for so many front range companies.
By Joce Blake
Thanks to Christine Rector, Arvada resident and Broomfield business owner, another Colorado business remained open. She decided to celebrate her survival of breast cancer by becoming the new owner of Broomfield's Sylvan Learning. After Christine's son told her it was going to close, she knew she wanted to save it. Christine told 1851 Franchise, “My son, Chris, is a math and science tutor for Sylvan in Broomfield. He came to me distressed, telling me the Sylvan location was planning on closing and he was going to be losing his job. Over the years, I’ve grown a passion for learning and watching others grow. I couldn’t sit back and watch such a great resource close its doors.” She wanted nothing more than to continue providing the community with Sylvan’s outstanding programs.
Christine's love for helping others isn’t a new advancement. For eight years, she served as the Assistant Director of the Family Ministry at Broomfield United Methodist Church and has had a passion for early childhood education. The Colorado resident recalls, “I wanted the children to enjoy learning and discover that learning about God is FUN. It was here that I discovered a passion for helping and teaching children. I started to dress up as characters, added a puppet or two and painted backgrounds that would enhance the Bible story.” She even parlayed the passion into her own storytelling event business, CTales, LLC. Christine provides an interactive learning experience for preschoolers by creating a curriculum that is aligned with what they are already learning. She fully commits to the educational adventure of CTales as she dresses up in costume and explores different worlds with her puppets and props. The breast cancer survivor shared, “Though storytelling is my love and passion I needed to earn a living. I added a day of wedding coordinator and event coordinator to help pay the bills. Then the opportunity of taking over the Sylvan learning center in Broomfield emerged.” Christine and the Sylvan enterprise are perfectly suited for one another.
Christine said, “I am constantly inspired by the kids. You don’t realize how much of an impact you have on a child at such a young age. I’ve always had a desire to help children reach their fullest potential and to succeed in life. When volunteering at my children's schools over the years, I had always loved mentoring and spending time with children – especially those who needed a little extra attention. Owning these businesses allows me to do just that.” She also painstakingly understands what it means to have educational resources; Christine struggled with ADD and a speech impediment as a child. From attending remedial classes to speech courses, she received the support she needed to finish high school, go on to college and study accounting technology and bookkeeping.
Because of her experiences, Christine believes Broomfield is the perfect market for the Sylvan brand so much so that she self-funded 100% of the startup costs equaling $24,000. Christine told us that she projects that the revenue in the first year will be approximately $120,000. “With a good marketing plan and hard work, my goal is to expand the business in the future. Helping children attain academic success and ultimately be successful in life is, in my mind, one of the most worthwhile goals I can think of. I believe with all my heart that young children are the future of our country and education is the key,” Christine shared.
Written by Krystal Covington, MBA
Career change isn’t just for twenty-somethings. According to AARP, 40 percent of people working at age 62 had changed their careers since they turned 55. Baby boomers are the first generation to break the norm and routinely change careers after 50.
Jonna Tellinghuisen is no stranger to switching careers.
Launching her own company at just 24, she began a career offering customized accounting software during a time when corporations had begun making the switch from manual bookkeeping to automated computer software. As a legacy entrepreneur, Jonna used her skills and business savvy to eventually build a team of eight who provided accounting software training to large corporations.
After becoming a wife and mother, Jonna joined her husband as the owner and operator of a 5000+ herd, family-run dairy farm in Iowa where they managed a team of 37 employees. She took the lead on maintaining employee files, payroll, loans and anything related to accounting for the business. At 49, Jonna and her husband made the decision to retire and sell the farm.
After just 3 years in retirement, Jonna felt the itch again and was led to start a new business. With 6 daughters, finding the right business was easy.
“Our daughters always loved shopping at the different Plato’s Closet locations. Plato’s Closet is the buying and selling of name brand, gently used apparel and accessories for teens and twenty-something girls and guys. However, we were introduced to Style Encore, the sister brand at Discovery Day and we were instantly hooked.”
Jonna opened her Style Encore franchise location in Centennial Colorado and added a philanthropic mission to support Hope’s Promise, an adoption and orphan agency. Her daughters have taken on roles in store management, marketing, customer service and personal styling. Her hope is that they will one day own their own stores in the future and become successful entrepreneurs themselves.
When asked about the journey of entrepreneurship, Jonna told us, “Being self-employed is hard work and might not be the best route for everyone, but if you’re motivated and dedicated, it’s a path that can lead to great success and financial independence.”
Jonna’s Style Encore store is located at 8223 S Quebec St, Centennial, CO 80112.
by Krystal Covington
For startups, gaining the capital to scale through hiring great talent, investing in marketing, and revving up development efforts can be the difference between a 3-year stint or becoming the next Uber.
Equity funding has been instrumental in helping many great companies succeed in their growth efforts because it offers owners an influx of cash to invest in the business in exchange for ownership rather than a debt + interest relationship. This means the investors financing the business get paid only if the company does well, so they have an interest in the company's success and often play a supportive role in helping that company success.
Today, men receive about 9 times more equity funding than women do, which means they are more likely to get the cash they need to scale a business and reach a high level of financial success.
In honor of our upcoming Denver Startup Week Panel event we asked our panelists to share what they think was their #1 key to there success. Here's what they shared.
Jaclyn Fu, Co-Founder and CEO of Pepper (Currently closing her pre-seed round) - Being passionate and infectious with our mission.
Amy Baglan, CEO & Founder of MeetMindful ($8mm) - My commitment to authentic communication, no matter who I’m talking to.
Jennifer McMillen, Co-Founder of Tripcents ($550k) - Honesty - in all aspects - being honest with myself when something's not working, being honest with celebrating both the small and big wins even when others have doubts, and most of all, being honest with my co-founders and team by making transparency a priority
Investors on our panel also shared their insights on how women can start earning a greater share of the capital.
Emily Winslow, CEO of Peak Impact Consulting (Investor) - Female-founded and led companies are more capital efficient and in the long term have more success with less capital. Women tend to be more conservative than men in their “ask," seeking only as much financing as they currently need. Such restraint has pros and cons for both individual female-run businesses and for the investment ecosystem. As women continue to build good businesses for their customers and employees while achieving high returns on investment, more capital will be attracted to their ventures. Moreover, when over $30 trillion is conveyed during coming years to women and millennials in “the great wealth transfer,” our current economic system will experience a dramatic shake-up, resulting in women investors gaining the capacity to direct more capital towards female entrepreneurs.
Heather Mackenzie, SheEO U.S. Launch Team (Investor) - I think one way is networking - strategically, not just a shotgun blast approach, or throwing noodles at the wall and seeing what sticks - but truly learning about the networks they wish to enter, finding allies in them and strategically building alliances. I firmly believe we need good men in the mix to help build those bridges to the men who just don't get it - so finding male allies with strong connections into investor networks is one way, and of course I believe in the power of women too, so start looking at all the female VC networks popping up
To hear from these women in person, visit our upcoming Denver Startup Week Panel on Thursday, September 27 from 4-5 p.m. at Capital One Cafe (1550 Wewatta Street) Register online here.
By Shauna Armitage
I knew what I wanted to do from a young age. I wanted to be a teacher. I went to college right out of high school because that’s “how things were done.” And then two years into my education, I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore. So I got another degree … but no job interviews.
I wanted to work for a paycheck and have someone else worry about how that money would get into my pocket. However, when I graduated from college in 2008 and then again in 2011, the economy was down and those fancy pieces of paper I had worked so hard for—and will still be paying off 20 years from today—weren’t worth anything.
I had no job, no prospects, and a considerable amount of debt.
I became a freelancer … then a business owner
Until that point, I had never considered being a freelancer. But I felt frustrated and stuck, so I did what I could to get some experience and income. Turns out, I was really good at it.
I started out doing assistant work, keeping the execs organized. I wrote copy for blogs, landing pages, and lead magnets. I managed social media accounts and envisioned new campaigns. Over time I discovered that I was a marketer. Finding the right fit for my personal brand, however, was a square peg/round hole situation.
And that’s when I realized…. I didn’t want to be a freelancer. I wanted to handle business the way that felt most authentic and effective for me. I wanted to be a business owner.
3 things I learned as I built my business
As a high schooler, I thought everyone had 9-5s. People didn’t own businesses, corporations did! When being dumped unceremoniously into the job market after graduation, I discovered that wasn’t true. More and more people are taking this path into entrepreneurship today as they are discovering that the road they thought they had to travel is blocked—or not a desirable road to go down.
While it’s common in our culture for more and more professionals to turn to entrepreneurship, it’s not an easy thing to do. And these are the three essential lessons I took from this crazy experience:
1. Owning a business means that YOU are responsible for finding your next source of revenue, building the brand, and creating positive outcomes. Responsibility can be scary, and you will fail. Learn from it. Each failure—no matter how big or small—will shape you into the the kind of leader and business woman you want to be.
2. Regardless of whether you work for that paycheck or you work for yourself, you still need to have a deep understanding of your personal values. No matter what your business is, you’ll have to interact with other people, so communication and flexibility are important. However, there should be some things you will never compromise on. Identify what those things are, and they will become the north star that guides you in growing your company.
3. There are a lot of things you don’t know that you don’t know. How can you find solutions to problems you don’t know exist? You can’t. You’re going to make some mistakes, and that’s ok, but the best things you can give yourself as a new business owner are the gifts of knowledge, mentorship, and community.
There’s always someone who has already been where you are, and there’s always someone who is willing to support you. Find those people and learn everything you can from them! Build a community around yourself and your business that will be the foundation upon which you can build real success.
Shauna Armitage is a freelance marketing strategist, as well as founder of the Making Moxie podcast and challenges.
This article was originally published in Women of Denver magazine.