Virág Gulyás is Founder and Chief Editor and Shamim Shahzeb is Editor of MissCareerLess, a down-to-earth magazine dedicated to women of all ages. Its ultimate goal is to create a virtual storytelling platform and be the go-to empowerment site for women. MissCareerless’ uniqueness lies in its exceptionally multicultural content that proves that no matter where we are, we are in the same game together.
This past month, we attended a Career 2.0 and Economic Ventures event in New York City bringing together five women entrepreneurs who shared their startup adventures and encouraged other women to follow their dream and launch their own businesses. Though they came from very different backgrounds, the Power Panel of female founders shared a common characteristic: they all started their journey to success with one idea that happened to be in line with their passion. Today, through determination, hard work, and skill, they are proud owners of their respective businesses:
- Barbara Werner, owner of Musical Pairing Inc., a unique concept of pairing your meal with music.
- Mary Molina, founder of the gluten- and GSA-free Lola Granola.
- Deborah Hernan, founder and CEO of Ottilie and Lulu skincare products for tweens.
- Sumeera Rasul, founder of Madesmith, an online artisanal product marketplace that shares stories of artisans and their products.
- Marlo Scott, the founder and CEO of Sweet Revenge; a popular eatery at West Village, which pairs desserts and savory dishes with wine and beer.
Here are five key take-away messages they shared with the audience:
DO YOUR HOMEWORK – by Marlo Scott
We have all been taught to do a basic business plan before venturing out to establish your own business. Identify the gap in the market, do your research qualitative or quantitative, and have a roadmap ready that will guide you in the initial stages of your entrepreneurial adventure. But write your business plan even if nobody will read it. You are doing it for yourself. And if after writing it, you still love your idea, then do it. The panelists agreed that to have a successful business plan, research is the most important step and, for that, you must think “outside the box.” For instance when Deborah began her qualitative research she went to different department stores and malls but couldn’t find her audience, tweens. So she went outside the box and did her research at a toy store and got the data (and chance) she was looking for. Thus, start by looking at places where you otherwise normally would not.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF – by Deborah Hernan
This one is self-explanatory, but easier said than done. When you have setbacks on the path to your entrepreneurial venture, remember to believe in yourself and your capabilities. “People, who look really confident, might not be as confident as they appear.” There are days when you get up and feel everything is possible. But there are those days when you feel you are in the backseat. That is when you have to believe in yourself even more. Mary, echoed Deborah’s message by saying: “I faced quite many setbacks and troubles in getting the required certification for my granola.” There were days when she would simply cry after talking to people on the phone who refused to give information to her. But she persisted. She believed in herself, her capabilities and, most importantly, her product. This led to her granola bars being picked up by Whole Foods and her business steadily taking off.
JUST JUMP IN – by Sumeera Rasul
We have all been there: sitting at our desk, tired of the same 9-to-5 routine and our challenging (bad) bosses. We keep telling ourselves the calming mantra: “One day I will start my own business with that great idea that has been lurking in my head for a long time.” As reassuring as it sounds, our panelist warns us: that time will never come. So either you jump in or you never ever jump. (“It helps if you are laid off’”– added Marlo with great sense of irony). Do not wait for that “one-day’” to come, make today that day. And how do you motivate yourself to take that plunge? Change your mindset. To become an entrepreneur, you must start thinking like an entrepreneur. Once you have a business plan and the initial ground stone of your company or even just a business idea, start talking about it. Ger the word out. Tell everyone you know and even people you don’t know. You will be surprised how doing this might lead to the next step in your venture. If you get started, other people will lift you up!
SEEK OUT AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE MYRIAD OF RESOURCES – by Mary Molina
As it is so pervasive, we often overlook that we’ve got Google as our primary and free resource to use for research. It allows us to study about our business idea, to gain a sense of awareness from the market we are venturing into, as well as to get to know about competition – if any. Another great tool we have is reaching out to people who might be already in the market. You can ask them to link you with people who might be interested in your new business. The key here is to actively build a network of people who can support you and could be valuable sources of information and help. At the same time, you have to be determined and confident about your idea. As Sumeera intervened: “If you want to know who your friends are, start a business.”
If you find yourself without any support to begin with, you can always reach out to different platforms. Think of SCORE, which brings together a group of retired entrepreneurs who offer guidance and resources to to-be-entrepreneurs or already established business owners who are retiring or selling out. Then there are organizations like the Tory Burch Foundation: Finance for Female Entrepreneurs, which provides economic support. Or Goldman Sachs that provides resources such as 10,000 Small Businesses and 10,000 Women, which help entrepreneurs and women business owners by providing them with the required education, capital, and support.
The multifaceted Barbara is driven by curiosity and believes that everything we learn we will be able to use somewhere along our journey. But how do we know if something is really worth our time to dive in? “You know you more than anybody else do.” So know what you don’t know and commit to learning it! But also – and to establish your business – you need to know your strengths. You need to be able to line them up and build on them. Even the statement: “Well, I’ve been a mother for 15 years’”shows that you are patient, you’ve got great communication skills, and you have determination. Once you established your strengths and know your business plan to the smallest details, collaborate with people and organizations, which have the strengths and skills that you or your company might be lacking. That is how you can start building up your team. Only by preparedness you will be able to anticipate the changes in the market and be ready to react to these changes in your business plans.
Stay posted for more Power Panels organized by Career 2.0 (coming to DC soon) and a follow-up event in NYC with Economic Ventures.