“Women are a driving force in this nation’s economy. When women do well, this nation does well.” ~ Crystal Arredondo, Immediate Past Chair, NAWBO National Board of Directors
Leadership. Empowerment. Possibility. Those themes resounded throughout the 2016 National Women’s Business Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Hosted by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the annual conference unites hundreds of female entrepreneurs from NAWBO chapters nationwide.
“We are here as women, as leaders in our fields, to talk about what we can do, what we have the power to do,” said brand journalist Mikaela Hunt, the event’s emcee.
There are more than 9 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., with women opening businesses at twice the rate of their male counterparts, said Jill Calabrese Bain of event sponsor Bank of America. She shared results of a recent survey of women small business owners in the U.S., including:
- 54 percent of women small business owners expect their revenue to increase in the next 12 months.
- 60 percent of women small business owners expect to grow their business over the next five years.
- 51 percent of women start their own business because they want to be their own boss.
Compared to men, however, female small business owners feel they have less access to key resources like capital (28 percent), clients (12 percent) and new business opportunities (25 percent). Events such as the NAWBO conference help “bring us to a level playing field,” Jill said. “These are the kinds of events that break the glass ceiling.”
Workshops, resources & the happiness factor
Conference attendees gained a wealth of information via workshops on topics ranging from small business financing to public policy to technology (Office 365, anyone?). In the Exhibit Hall GoDaddy joined the International Coach Federation, U.S. Small Business Administration, Enterprising Women magazine and more than 40 other businesses and organizations that support women in business.
Delivering Happiness CEO Jenn Lim kicked off the keynote speaker lineup. A longtime consultant for Zappos.com, Jenn talked about the happiness equation that ultimately results in a more profitable business. How do you create a happier workplace? Jenn laid out six core steps:
- Commit to building and sustaining a strong, positive company culture.
- Define your core values — and live by them. Make those core values measurable and accountable by pairing them with behaviors.
- Commit to transparency. Be real. Be yourself.
- Define your purpose. What’s the larger vision and greater purpose of your company — a purpose that will inspire employees?
- Build meaningful relationships. It isn’t about networking; it’s about making authentic connections.
- Build the right team. Hire based on shared values.
If you follow the happiness equation to create your company’s culture, Jenn said, “everything else … comes more naturally.”
Many women, many small businesses
Nine-time NAWBO conference attendee Yvonne Graber of Florida used the event as an opportunity to get in-person feedback about her newest venture, TravelEyez. The fashionable carrying case keeps glasses and other small items easily accessible during travels. “I know there’s a demand, but it’s a silent demand,” Yvonne said. “People need to see it. It’s an easy sell once they do.”
“We’re the queens of flashing in and flashing out — but when we actually spend time together, we do business together.” ~ Melinda Garvey, On The Dot
Austin-based publisher Melinda Garvey recently launched an audible newsletter called On The Dot — a perfect way for multitasking small business owners to get a daily dose of inspiration from other female entrepreneurs. She attended the NAWBO conference to spread the word about her new business and to gather the stories she’s dubbed “relatable inspiration” for other women business owners.
For serial entrepreneurs Patti Lee-Hoffmann and Gayle Haworth, the NAWBO conference provided the perfect platform for showcasing their stylish reading glasses. Patti and Gayle launched Flutter three years ago, and sell primarily online. “This is exactly our demographic,” Patti said.
Lessons from NAWBO
The diverse group of female business leaders at the NAWBO conference didn’t hesitate to share some of the lessons they’ve learned along their entrepreneurial journey. That’s a big part of the mentorship that organizations such as NAWBO advocate to help women succeed in their own ventures.
Jenn Mathis, One Degree Capital
“Why try to reinvent the wheel on your own? Get a mentor,” Jenn said. “There are so many women out there who have walked this path before.”
Patti Lee-Hoffmann & Gayle Haworth, Flutter
Starting a new business involves plenty of ups and downs — but it’s important to persevere, said Patti, a Silicon Valley veteran. “A lot of people are going to dissuade you, but false starts are part of the process.”
Tanya R. Allen, Forever Fresh
That’s a lesson Tayna knows well. She’s relaunched Forever Fresh, a company that specializes in disposable undergarments, three times over the last three decades. “Sometimes you just have to keep at it,” Tanya said. She recommends that small businesses take full advantage of the many resources available online to “get started and connect immediately with customers.”
Andrea Nameche, Financial Advisor
Many new business owners try to bootstrap everything and end up in debt. Then they attempt to get a loan. “No one will lend you money if you don’t have any money,” Andrea said. “Don’t quit your [day] job too soon. Take your time.”
Nancy Postle, Sympatico
Surround yourself with a network of professionals you can trust, Nancy advised. “Find a good attorney, a good accountant and a good banker.”
Renay Daigle, Daigle Creative
Go into small business ownership with the understanding that sometimes it will be tough, said Renay. “Expect it to be difficult. Plan for it.”
Tap into the power of NAWBO
If you’re a female entrepreneur, consider tapping into the power of NAWBO. This amazing organization can connect you with the information, resources and, most importantly, other women business owners, that can help you navigate the world of small business ownership.
Also published on Medium.