According to the 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, more than 8.6 million U.S. women-owned businesses account for nearly 7.8 million jobs and over $1.3 trillion in revenue. Despite the tremendous opportunities created by women entrepreneurs, there is still doubt over the impact that female leaders are capable of. “When women start businesses, the term ‘small business’ is automatically applied,” says Peggy Wallace, managing director at Golden Seeds. The first annual WomanCon event held last week in New York City addressed these challenges with real-life lessons from established women entrepreneurs. The presentations covered a range of topics including how to start a business, pitching the media, raising funds, building stronger brands, and balancing work and family life.
Identify your competitors
Growing entrepreneurs may find it hard to admit that their business concepts are not entirely unique. “Anything you can think of has been thought of by at least 5 other people in the world” says Yao Huang, founder of The Hatchery, “Ideas are useless, execution is key.” Compare your business model with competitors and identify your competitive advantage. Think about what you do that is more effective or cost efficient.
Customize your pitch to the media
“Pitches aren’t one size fits all,” advises JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC’s It’s Your Business and founder of Goodsearch, “Think about your audience and who you are pitching to.” Find out what reporters are interested in and tip specifically to them. Colleen Debaise, director of digital media at the StoryExchange suggests that writers are typically “drawn to the challenges of building your business and how you overcame them.” However, Christine Lagorio, senior writer at Inc.com, adds that business owners should remember that some journalists write features while others create product guides.
Find investors by networking with friends and family
“The human capital network is priceless no matter where you are in the change of development” says Kay Koplovitz, CEO, Koplovitz & Co. and founder of USA Network. Seeking out friends and family to raise money for your venture puts less pressure on how you choose to manage your business. Be sure to formalize the agreement in writing and do not take out debt unless you can pay it back.
Define a powerful brand promise
BrandTwist founder Julie Cottineau believes that entrepreneurs often neglect their most valuable business asset, which is the brand itself. “Brands are a consistent promise you deliver that makes people loyal” she says, “If you don’t have a promise, you are leaving potential revenue behind.” This promise defines what the fundamental role and purpose of your business is and how you are able to empower your customers.
Hire based on personality
Your employees are essentially your brand ambassadors and should be hired not only based on experience, but also on how they embody your company’s culture. “Hire for personality, not skills,” recommends Ms. Ramberg, “Skills can be taught, perseverance and ambition cannot.”
Make business decisions based on customer needs
“Every business decision you make needs to benefit the customer in some way” says Janine Popick, CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. Business partnerships may not always be successful. Do what is best for your clients, even if it means dissolving a partnership.
Be flexible between business and personal life
“One thing that is important for me to realize is that not every family looks like mine,” says Pamela O’Hara, co-founder of Batchbook Software. Ms. O’Hara requires each of her employees to take a 5-week vacation to ensure that there is a proper balance between business and personal life. Implementing policies that recognize family diversity can create a healthier and happier environment for employees.
The presentations at WomanCon 2013 highlighted a shifting paradigm in the way businesses are established and maintained. Today’s age of big data means that aspiring entrepreneurs have more opportunity to focus their brands and build stronger relationships with stakeholders based on greater access to competitive research. New communication technologies like social media allow for open dialogue between business-owners, clients, employees, investors, and the media. Therefore, it is imperative to create promises with each stakeholder and follow through in order to establish loyalty. With an astounding 59% rise in women-owned businesses over the last 16 years, it is clear that female entrepreneurs will continue to break barriers.
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