It’s a good time to start a business —especially if you’re a female entrepreneur. Over the past three decades, the number of women-owned companies increased 31 times, from 402,000 in 1972 to 12.3 million in 2018, according to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express. Today, four out of every 10 businesses in the U.S. is women-owned.
In honor of Small Business Saturday, Know Your Value reached out to five successful women who started their own companies and asked them to share their best advice to those who want to follow in their footsteps. From speaking up, to being resourceful to being able to communicate effectively, here's what they believe it takes to launch a successful business in today’s challenging, yet opportunistic, economic environment.
Speak up, loudly and often
“Many of us grew up in corporate America or at the very least in male-dominated industries,” said Orion Brown, founder of The Black Travel Box, an e-commerce site based out of Denver that sells travel personal care items, including body and lip balms for women of color.
“From that experience, we're often told that boldness doesn't add up to success for women. But in running your own company, the best thing you can do for yourself is toot your own horn,” Brown added. She encouraged entrepreneurs to talk to as many people as they can about their business idea and what it will take to turn their dream into reality.
“Some of the best connections have come from casual conversations where I’ve taken the initiative to talk about what I’m building with The Black Travel Box,” Brown said. “Family, friends, acquaintances, the folks sitting next to you on the plane … They’re all fair game and could lead to solutions to business challenges and strategic partnerships you hadn’t even thought to ask for.”
Embrace your passion
For Stacey Tyler, founder of Interactive Intelligence Corporation, a Mount Laurel, N.J.-based transportation and security consulting firm, her perseverance and passion have been her compass for success. “Once you step out onto your journey, you have to be completely dedicated in order to even get the business off the ground,” she said.
Tyler added, “There will be naysayers who will doubt you, and if you don’t have a good team around you it could be hard to push through — but most of this perseverance will come from within. You’ll know in your heart that you’ll have something good and that you want to change the world.”
Solve an unmet need
It's crucial to know your market, said Liz Sara, founder of Washington, D.C.-based Best Marketing, LLC, where she consults more than 90 small businesses in the high-tech sector. “Figure out how your product or service will fill an economic need and solve a problem or pain point that the target market faces.” It’s equally important to be able to communicate that need to others, added Sara, who is also chairperson of the National Women’s Business Council.
Seek out other business owners (especially female owners!) as resources
Tara Saltzburg started Westyn Baby, a line of pajamas for babies with sensitive skin, after she couldn't to find quality pajamas for her son who struggled with eczema. She credits much of her success to the guidance and mentorship from fellow business owners.
“I've learned a tremendous amount just by reaching out to other small business owners to hear about their experiences — successes, failures, lessons learned,” said Saltzburg, who lives in Hollidaysburg, Penn. “For a long time, I thought I'd be burdening someone by asking to take a few minutes of their time, but I've learned that most people are more than willing, even eager, to share their experiences.” Since her business is primarily online, she has also become friendly with other small business owners through email and social media.
“We swap stories, idea and experiences. I think it's beneficial to both parties,” she added.
Keep overhead costs down
“Keep overhead costs low by utilizing free resources to start your business,” advised Angela Monter, founder of LadiesofLux, an e-commerce business based in Medford, N.J. that specializes in the resale of women’s luxury goods.
She explained that there are many free online resources, such as SCORE.org, which offers business advice, including plans and marketing ideas. The website will also match you with a mentor in your area to help guide you. “Utilize what you already have and get creative,” she said. That includes testing out the market from your home office before paying rent on an office space, reusing and recycling any items you have laying around that could be used to grow your business and even checking ads like Craigslist for free supplies.
“Reach out to friends and family for help,” she added. “They might want to donate items as well.” Monter also encouraged business owners to avoid any reoccurring expenses in the very beginning. “Although software accounting programs like QuickBooks might be necessary in the future, free programs like Excel can work just as well to get your started,” she said.