By Jill Krasny
During November, we celebrated “Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.” Here are several pieces of advice for growing businesses from successful women entrepreneurs.
Starting a small business is not easy. And starting a small business as a woman can be even tougher. Thankfully, “women-owned firms have increased as a share of total businesses over the years,” according to the Small Business Administration. However, “their size still remains smaller than national averages,” the SBA noted, and the 7.8 million women-owned firms averaged only US$130,000 in receipts in 2007, the most recent year for which data was available. Credit.com spoke with a handful of seasoned female entrepreneurs for advice on running a firm from a business perspective. Here’s what they told us:
Choose the Right People
“One of your most important achievements will be surrounding yourself with people you trust,” said Cindy Whitehead, former chief executive of Sprout Pharmaceuticals and founder of The Pink Ceiling, a new firm offering strategic consulting and seed investing to startups focused on helping women succeed. “Initial meetings with lawyers, accountants and other critical advisers cost you nothing. Meet with many to find who best fits you.”
Whitehead, who recently helped spearhead the first FDA-approved drug for women’s sexual desire, also recommended establishing an informal advisor network. “Mentors are not only those who’ve done it, they’re folks who are doing it right now,” she said. “Look to your left and right — most everyone has something valuable to teach you. In entrepreneurship, one is the loneliest number.”
Do Your Research
“I feel that many women (myself included) have to learn the business of business the hard way,” said Toni Hacker, a New York City-based handbag and accessory designer, whose minimalist fashion collection, THACKER NYC, debuted this fall. “Do your research, talk to experts, and learn what it takes to run and grow a business successfully.” That can include anything from working with successful investors to choosing the right credit card for your small business.
There are many credit cards aimed at helping small businesses with their financing, so you’ll want to do your homework to see what’s best for you. Chase credit cards, for example, offers a pair of dedicated business cards, the Ink Cash and Ink Plus. Other issuers, like Capital One, offers the Spark line of business credit cards, which are also designed to help businesses put more cash in their pockets.
Take Your Time
“Don’t let your business outgrow you before you are ready,” Hacker warned, citing the all-too-common pitfall of taking on growth you don’t know how to manage. “Growth that is too rapid or poorly planned can really weaken the underpinnings of any successful endeavor,” she said.
Take Calculated Risks
“Take risks, but calculated risks,” said Paige Dellavale Walker, chief executive of Stella Vale, a fashion accessory brand featured on the ABC hit TV show “Shark Tank.” “We never take a risk without weighing the pros, cons and financial aspects to include return on investment. This will confirm and assure you that you are making the right decision once you’ve looked at all the angles and weighed them.”
Walker, who is also a West Point graduate and former Army Officer, added that she always makes sure to be comfortable with any contracts being put in place. “If we are unsure about the contract, then we will seek legal advice from our attorney,” she said. It’s always worth that smaller upfront cost for legal to advise versus being in a bind later on. Protect yourself.”
Jill Krasny is a reporter and editor at Credit.com. Prior to joining the company, she was a senior writer at Esquire and Inc. Magazine, where she covered a range of lifestyle and business topics. Her work has appeared in Mashable, Travel + Leisure and MTV.