Being a business owner is hard but being a women business owner is even harder. From the lack of access to venture capital funding, market saturation, to staying on top of technology and labor laws, all can influence one’s decision to start a venture, business, or start-up for women.
Being a woman-owned small business since 1993 with accreditation from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council since 2007, we at StampMaker can certainly relate to the struggle of owning and operating a small business. Earlier this year, we asked other business owners how they could leverage the global pandemic to reorient and revitalize their businesses, however, that gave us the idea to reach out to specifically women entrepreneurs and business owners and see how their experiences can help other women business leaders, founders, and entrepreneurs navigate the choppy waters of the COVID economy.
We wanted to pick their brains and have them offer any kernels of wisdom on how they have succeeded and are continuing to succeed as a women-owned business in this current climate.
There are 4 keys to thriving during COVID-19 for women in business. The first is to reach out and stay in touch with all current, past and potential clients. Leverage zoom and the phone instead of using mass email and text, it is infinitely more personal, and you’ll read nuances in their tone and expressions that you’d miss otherwise. Do not lead with business, instead lead with caring genuinely about your client and what challenges they face. Listen for opportunities.
The second is to understand that COVID-19 has delivered a lot of new opportunity if you’re willing to pivot to capture it. Seek possibility instead of complaining about circumstances. Your thoughts create your results, never doubt.
Third, get a handle on your finances. If you are used to sticking your head in the sand, now is not the time for that. Understand your receivables, get clear on payables, negotiate with vendors for additional time as needed, stay in control.
And lastly, do not stop marketing, simply refine your strategy to suit today’s climate. It’s not the time to be invisible, stand out as a creative problem solver and trusted expert.”
Melissa Galt is an author, business consultant, and entrepreneur who inspires businesses both big and small to “inspire by design” through authenticity and integrity. You can learn more about Melissa at her self-titled website.
"There's no doubt this is a difficult time to be an entrepreneur or a small business owner. But do not forget that great innovations can emerge from great crises. In need of new ideas for your business? Talk to your customers more - I guarantee, there are a lot of people out there willing to give you feedback on your product. If you listen well, you may just discover the next opportunity to move your business forward."
Emily Bernard is the co-founder of the specialist local travel agency Bernard and Hawkes, which helps those looking to get away, unwind, and reenergize at local spots. With guiding principles oriented around mindfulness, mental health, and redefining they are revolutionizing the idea of just what a “vacation” is all about.
"Invest TIME in tools that will save you TIME in the future. This includes anything that will help you automate and streamline your business such as email marketing, social media scheduling, etc. Anything that you find yourself repeating in your business can more than likely be automated in some way, shape or form, this will allow you to spend your time in the most productive way."
Elaine Rau is more than just a full-time blogger, she is dedicated to empowering women to achieve financial independence through learning how to monetize, grow, and scale-out their online businesses. With advice columns, dedicated courses, and a wealth of knowledge, Lady Boss Blogger is an invaluable resource for women entrepreneurs wondering how to start and grow an online business.
“Times are hard and chaotic for everyone right now. Stop expecting normalcy when the world is in crisis around you. The best thing you can do during this time is to stay focused on your goals and objectives for you and your business. The world is full of distractions and it is easy be distracted by all that is happening. You become so distracted that it can consume you, so stay connected enough to be informed but do not obsess over all the horrific news and craziness around you. We all have endless to do lists. My advice is to pick your top 3 priorities each day and focus on completing those tasks. By narrowing down your to-do list into smaller tasks, you will find that you get more done and start to feel more productive each day.”
LaWann Moses is many things; mother, domestic abuse survivor counselor, business owner, and all around creative. Her website is devoted to empowering people through reflective self-discovery practices, personal transformation, and living a purpose-filled life and utilizing those strategies to become a better person and leader.
Our goal as a company is to make products that help make confidence look effortless. But how can you remain confident in such uncertain times? One of my favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” So I try to inspire people to always find the hope in any given situation. That way, even in the midst of canceled plans and travel bans, we can go forward with confidence and not allow where we are now to dictate where we’re going."
After a vacation to Kenya which resulted in a hair disaster, the result of her chemically straightened hair and constant friction against the headrest, Grace Eleyae dedicated herself to find a solution to the damaging hair protective products she was using. Since 2014, Grace has been reinventing the way one protects their hair by creating modern silk and satin-lined products that lock in moisture, distribute one’s natural hair oils, and eliminate hair-damaging friction.
“As a small business owner and entrepreneur, the pandemic and many other roadblocks have really gotten in the way of our day-to-day lives in 2020. From my perspective, as a marketing company, we lost a couple hospitality clients because that industry was hurt the most during COVID. In order to bounce back and see the light at what seems to be a long and dark tunnel, I had to think fast and really go after businesses that are thriving: the real estate industry.
The real estate market in Coastal South and North Carolina is really hot right now. More and more people are wanting to move away from big cities and escape the traffic, higher taxes and overall cost of living in an environment that a big city brings. I've taken on real estate agents, property management and custom home builder clients and have really focused on that industry.
My advice for any business owner is to focus on that one thing that will generate revenue and really kill it. These are tough times and we have to think outside the box more than ever. Keep your head up and fight like a girl!”
Margaret Geiger is the founder of Twelve31 Media, a full-service marketing agency that specializes in public relations, social media management, and email marketing.
“The most difficult part for most entrepreneurs right now is having to face deep uncertainty. We're used to dealing with uncertainty as small business owners, but this crisis has taken it to a collective level. I realized early on with the pandemic that no matter how many losses we had and how fiercely we were being forced to pivot, that I had to find a place of calm that would allow me to not be reactive.
As a community and team leader, I had to give in to the current situation to place myself in a space of deep listening to truly understand what it is that our community needs right now and how we can show up for them with true intentionality. My advice to any fellow entrepreneur is to ground yourself as much as possible from a space of calm to be able to assess the opportunities in the midst of this crisis. How can this be a moment of listening and building from true intent?”
Ana Flores is the founder of #We All Grow, an annual conference, which is aimed specifically for the creative, entrepreneur, influencer, and career-minded Latina to learn, grow and develop their career path, whatever the level.
“The best thing you can do during this time, is stay connected. Stay connected to your contacts and continue networking through email and social media. You never know what opportunities can come out of reaching out at a time like this.”
Founded by Daryln-Feythe Valentine, L.Woods PR is a boutique public relations firm specializing in the fine jewelry and accessories space that aims to create organic and natural relationships for their clients.
“Resilience and self-belief are two of the most crucial characteristics of successful entrepreneurs… I can speak to this first hand as I feel as if I’ve overcome every entrepreneurial obstacle imaginable and could be the walking poster child for the age-old phrase, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”
Although we’ve been hit by the most disruptive and challenging crisis of our lifetimes, some sort of normalcy will eventually prevail and we must approach these trying times as we would any other roadblock.
This period should not only be used to evaluate your business and it’s current state, but to imagine the opportunity ahead whether that involves a pivot, a full throttle re-launch or simply an intense game plan to bounce back. Most importantly, now is the time to abandon any self-doubt and to surround yourself with positivity as those who endure this treacherous storm, will only come out stronger and the reward will be that much greater in the end.”
Lori Cheek is the founder and CEO of the dating app Cheekd, which leverages Bluetooth technology that fosters hyper local engagement. The app connects people in real-time, versus virtual time.
“As an entrepreneur in the wedding industry, my company has taken a big hit due to the pandemic. The majority of our weddings have been postponed to 2021. For those who have client jobs that can be rescheduled, my best advice would be to stay organized. I’ve always found Google Calendar to be an excellent system for keeping track of jobs, and now, the frequent rescheduling of jobs.
I’ve also found that applying for every loan and grant I come across has been helpful. My thinking has been to get whatever financial assistance I can because although the 2021 wedding season is looking great right now, who knows if the pandemic will affect next season too. I’d rather have a safety net there and if I don’t need it, I’ll pay the loans back early.
The uncertainty of the extent of the impact of COVID-19 on various industries is anxiety-inducing, but staying organized and applying for loans and grants has allowed me to feel more in control of the situation.”
Allison Barbera is an entrepreneur and business owner who offers professional makeup services to weddings, corporate events, TV, and film, as well as lessons since 2008 under the banner of Allison Barbera Beauty.
“I didn’t believe in work/life balance before the pandemic, and I DEFINITELY don’t believe in it now. It feels less like working from home, and more like sleeping at the office. At times, I am 100% focused on work and there are times when my personal life has to take priority. I think being honest with yourself will keep you from feeling constantly disappointed in not being able to achieve balance. And now more than ever, I block my calendar off and schedule personal time- whatever that is, working out, mediating, or watching 90 Day Fiancé… I make it a priority to make time for myself, the way I do for my clients, and it benefits my business the same way it does theirs.”
Jennifer Yousem is the founder of the financial assistance firm, I Heart EBITDA that assists business owners, big and small, in translating their finances into easily understandable language, alongside other financial and book-keeping services.
“As an entrepreneur, often times the list of tasks is endless, especially as a small business owner. When the pandemic hit and my routine was disrupted— schedules changed and the demand on my time when up exponentially between client needs and homeschooling— I had to learn that what I could accomplish in a day was different. Instead of stressing over all the things on my to-do list, I instead focused on what I did accomplish during the day and gave myself permission to take things off my plate without guilt. I work with clients to help them reestablish new expectations and developing self-care practices so they can not only survive but thrive in this new environment.”
Jackie Ghedine is a life coach, a co-host of Make Your Life Magnificentpodcast and the co-founder of The Resting Mind, a life coaching service aimed at Gen-X women who want to truly shift and realign their focus to achieve their life goals.
“One major challenge all business owners are facing right now is connecting with their customers given the safety limitations that have affected opening, hours, services and close contact. To help combat that, I recommend creating instructional, process-focused content that helps you teach your audience something even while you may be apart. As a bonus, this type of content is also search-friendly and evergreen, meaning while there's an increase in searches for "how to," "diy," and "instructions" now, the content will continue to be found and engaged with for a long time to come.”
Melanie Deziel is the founder and Chief Content Officer of StoryFuel, a native advertising and branded content marketing firm that specializes in telling unique and engaging brand stories. Melanie is also the author of “The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas”.
“When I first started my business, I knew that I was entering into a saturated field: hair care. I loved creating handcrafted hair oil formulations and after having done the “big chop” I wanted to celebrate embracing natural textured kinky curly, coarse and coily hair. Sound new? Absolutely, not. Women of color in droves all over the world were no longer chemically straightening their hair and doing a big chop. Many had also turned to natural ingredients as part of their hair care regimen.
So how do I make my business, MicMas ReMiX, stand out? I carved a niche for myself as a Puerto Rican celebrating natural hair, natural hair care with the message, “todo pelo es pelo malo” (all hair is good hair). After much research on starting a small business, I decided on selling online and had an ecommerce website created to avoid overhead brick and mortar costs. This was in 2016… fast forward to 2020 the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects on the economy. Many people shifted to working remotely, many more were laid off and those of us fortunate enough to have ecommerce businesses scrambled to adjust.
Trying to succeed given the current situation definitely has its challenges and you have to be open to re-strategizing. This is very important to try to help keep your business afloat. Shifting my focus on streamlining the best-selling products meant changing my business structure. Before I would charge for shipping and my slower selling products such as the 4 oz. creams were lagging. I realized that if marking down the prices on the least popular items I would be able to phase them out completely while getting rid of inventory faster. Even though there would be a profit loss selling at a discounted price, it would save me money in the long run. Doing so would allow to no longer need to purchase specialized stock for those particular jar supplies used to sell creams. In addition, I would now offer free shipping to help draw more consumers. This was a win-win for my business and customers. I could focus primarily on my best-selling products without worrying about sitting on inventory of the slower selling items.
Taking the marketing bull by the horns, I relied heavily on making creative and effective use of social media to shake up my usual posts and make them more engaging. I started posting more about myself instead of just the products. People began sharing and commenting on my posts more. There was more of a presence on my feed than before and I feel this is because I was putting more of my face behind the brand. During these times, people are being more conscientious about supporting small businesses instead of big box retailers. This helps bring more new potential customers in our direction that are intentionally seeking entrepreneurs to support. There is obviously not a one size fits all guide on how to succeed during these times. However, with a little innovation and utilizing free tools like social media it can help keep you on the path of moving forward.”
Founded in by Adassa Ramirez, MICMAS REMIX was started to create a space and products due to the under-representation and stigmas placed on having certain hair types. Celebrating natural hair, the diversity of Latinas, and Boricua pride, Adassa’s business also supports the larger Puerto Rican community through Operation Backpack providing school supplies to disadvantaged children; contributing to hurricane and earthquake relief aid and supplies; as well as, volunteer work.
“With everything going on in the world right, now more than ever is a really challenging environment to operate a business. With that said, we have used this time to focus on things that we can control. For example, making some much needed changes to our website, implementing new programs and softwares, and improving on our current processes. Focus on the controllable, and everything else will feel much less daunting.”
Ali Kaminetsky is the founder of Modern Picnic, a fashion business that specializes in crafting chic alternatives to lunchboxes that are based upon sustainability, functionality, and size. Their products reflect this commitment with a vegan leather exterior and design philosophy that mirrors handbags more than lunchboxes.
With a wide variety of voices here representing a range of life experiences, the main over-arching point made by all is to be pro-active rather than allowing the circumstance and situation to define the “playing field”. By being pro-active in business, female business owners and entrepreneurs have displayed grace under pressure by not idling standing by, but instead “taking the bull by the horns” and carving their own paths forward regardless of the obstacles that lay before them.
Whether that’s by re-strategizing their marketing efforts, staying mindful and focused on accomplishable tasks, reminding themselves to take a bit of time off for self-care, or leveraging social media to tell their stories rather than simply just another marketing channel. Each approach is valid and useful in their own way but used in conjunction with each other, the combination is a nearly unstoppable one, no matter the circumstance you find yourself in. It is hard enough to be a business owner now but being a women business owner takes a true grit whether it’s the middle of a global viral outbreak or in times that would be considered “normal”.