Secrets to Running a Successful Woman-Owned Business
Without a doubt, women are excelling in business. According to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Business Report by American Express, there are now more than 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., generating $1.8 trillion in sales as of 2018. In light of all the progress women have made in business, you may be wondering how and why women are excelling in business. We spoke to four women business owners to find out what they believe were the secrets to their success.
SPEAK UP & SAY, “I WANT TO PLAY”
Karie Cowden, Owner, Connect the Dots Promotions
Make no mistake, building a successful business is a lot of hard work. Karie’s business, Connect the Dots Promotions, was not an overnight success, but that was intentional. “My business’ growth was organic and intentional,” says Karie regarding her 10-year-old marketing promotions business. “It was important to me to be able keep my arms around it and not let it get away from me.” She attributes her excellent customer service and retention record to this philosophy.
Family/Work Balance a No-Go
Karie doesn’t believe in balance. She believes family is at the center and you build around that, and you can be successful. But you have to ask for help. Married with two daughters, Karie was able to run her business and have a happy home life. “My girls are awesome and I think I taught them more about life as a working mom than if I had stayed home with them. But I had to ask for help and in doing so, we became a well-oiled machine at home.”
Align Your Resources
Get help from the many resources available, says Karie. Karie belongs to two Mastermind groups:
- The Small Business Development Center that provides a counselor who Karie meets with once a month for business advice
- CEO Mastermind group that offers personal development advice and guidance
Karie is also active in the Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBENC) which helps open the door to larger brands and corporations. It was through WBENC that Karie was accepted in a prestigious training program offered by Arizona Public Service for women business owners. “The APS training really helped me learn how to run a business and how to sell,” says Karie. “I also learned that sometimes, you just have to speak up and say, ‘I want to play’ and you’ll get your chance.”
Find Your Tribe
It takes a strong support system of mentors, family members, business colleagues, and other resources to succeed. “I can’t do this on my own,” says Karie. “I have a lot of people around to support me at home and at work.”
NOT SOMETHING TO TAKE LIGHTLY
Camala Bailey, Founder & President, Camala C. Baily, CPA, PC
Starting a business is something not to be taken lightly, warns Camala. But, it can be very rewarding, she says. Starting her accounting firm in 1998 -- when the industry was pretty much dominated by men -- was a struggle, says Camala. She attributes her success to the support of her family, colleagues, and a ton of hard work. “I was willing to work really hard to get where I am today.”
Confidence is Key
“My biggest challenge as a woman in this male-dominated industry back then was that people didn’t take me seriously,” says Camala. “I decided I needed to gain respect, so I began applying as a presenter at conferences.”
Now, for an introverted accountant, this was not an easy thing to do. But Camala trained hard and prepared by taking public speaking courses to get over her fear of public speaking and gain confidence. “Now I speak at national conferences all the time and have gained respect from people in my industry.”
This technique also helped Camala to “step out of her shell” and build a network and substantially grow her business. “I believe demonstrating confidence is key,” says Camala. “I preach this to many of the younger people who work with me.”
Finding Your Niche
Camala’s firm found great success by specializing in serving the accounting needs of veterinarians. It also allowed her to develop a tight network of colleagues in the veterinary world who share ideas and work together to help each other succeed.
“We work together regularly,” says Camala. “We’re not competing with each other, we don’t have to. There’s enough work in the industry to share.”
RELY ON THOSE YOU TRUST
Malarie Woolf and Lori Price, Co-Owners, Flip Dunk Sports
One of the biggest obstacles Malarie Woolf and Lori Price faced when launching their business, Flip Dunk Sports, was being taken seriously, they say. “In some cases, people just didn’t think we knew what we were talking about, and sometimes, they’d try to take advantage of that,” says Lori.
It took a little extra effort, but they met the challenge, and continue to do so, by showing they know their stuff. They present the facts and prove they know all aspects of running their business, says Malarie.
To ensure they do know all facets of running their trampoline park and gymnastics/cheer center, Malarie and Lori rely on others in business they know they can trust to be honest, and “tell them like it is,” says Malarie.
Need to Be All In
If there’s one bit of advice Malarie and Lori would pass on to others looking to go into business is to know that it’s a lot more than you think. More time, more commitment, more surprises you can’t plan for … it’s just more of everything, they say.
Here are other tips these successful business owners offer:
- Expect the unexpected. You can’t foresee everything that may come your way, the good and the not-so-good.
- Make it simple. Don’t put too many elements into your business model. It can be overwhelming to manage. It takes a village to run a business, and sometimes, you may not be able to afford enough villagers if the business is too complex.
- Try new things. When the time is right, don’t be afraid to try new things. If they fail, that’s OK. But often, you will find success in some unexpected places.
- Hire Key People. Get your core team on board right from the start if possible. And realize you’ll need to pay them appropriately to keep them. But generally, it will be worth it.
- Feed Your Passion. Remember why you started your business in the first place, and keep that top of mind. For Malarie and Lori, that passion is working with kids and the community. Flip Dunk Sports has created a finely-tuned relationship with the local schools and continuously looks for opportunities to give back to the schools and the community with fundraisers and other ways to support them.