Forty-two percent of all businesses in the United States are owned by women but only 2% make it to $1 million in revenue or beyond. Yet there’s a reservoir of powerhouse women in business who are eager to network, learn, and expand their way of thinking. I met a lot of them last year at various conferences, including the Enterprising Women Conference in October 2022.
As we jump into 2023, that entrepreneurial spirit of women business owners led me to think about what I believe to be five essentials for women wishing to succeed on their entrepreneurial journey.
The 5 Essentials for Succeeding as a Woman Entrepreneur
1. Shape Your Resource Network
Over the course of one month in 2022 I attended three different conferences, all sponsored by different organizations (Great Lakes Women’s Business Council (GLWBC), National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), and Enterprising Women). It was a crazy busy month after years of dealing with a pandemic.
Here were some commonalities between the experiences:
- The willingness of women to help each other to learn and connect.
- The power of networking effectively. It’s not about being a “business card dispenser” as a friend likes to refer to it. In fact, most attendees are now sharing their LinkedIn QR code rather than passing out business cards.
- Opportunities for women in tech. In addition to hearing about these opportunities I shared ones that I knew of.
The only way we can grow as business owners, is to create a powerful network of resources.
2. Continuous Education
After being in business for more than 20 years, it is easy to think you’ve heard it all. But you’ve got to show up to see what is going on in the world. What stood out for me is the value of the programming Monica Smiley and her team created for the Enterprising Women Conference (Nominations for the 2023 awards are open through Feb. 1, 2023)
First, you’re in a room full of elite women business owners who think and operate at a different level. It inspires thinking and discussion in a different way. Panel discussions were interactive, real-life stories, with experts who were women business owners themselves.
I thought I had heard it all about succession planning and talent retention, but these panels were constructed differently. From a mom-daughter business duo who faced the sudden loss of their husband/father and the value of having a succession plan in place; to a talent panel discussion where one person shared: “Think about working with different generations as visiting another country. You must learn the language, customs, and their values. Don’t expect them to work with your structure.”
To develop into the business owner you want to be, open yourself up to learning opportunities, whether it is a class, conference, or networking event. Education takes several different forms.
3. Hone Your Craft
It’s easy to get busy with our daily business operations. But how do we develop ourselves? For me, it has been enhancing my speaking delivery and getting out of my comfort zone. Last fall at the GLWBC Conference, which took place in Novi, Michigan, I conducted a breakout session on “Demystifying Analytics” and made it to a semi-finalist in the WePitch competition at the conference.
I even made it on a NerdWallet podcast as well as the BBC in 2022. All of these are requiring me to enhance my speaking abilities, which translates into better communication with clients and staff. It’s not always about honing our technical skills. Find the right balance for you and recognize what you want to focus on.
My focus in 2023: Continuing to hone my skills so I can “put myself out there” as I did in 2022.
4. Allow Yourself to Be Uncomfortable
This is often the superpower of entrepreneurs when faced with uncertainty and challenges. The past two years have pushed many of us to act quicker than we ever anticipated. Running a data analytics firm, we see it often with clients: They work off old or inaccurate data, and the decisions are not as effective than if they worked with relevant data.
The successful leaders I’ve seen have built a team of people and resources that help them move forward despite being uncomfortable.
I pushed past being uncomfortable several times in the past year, from getting up on stage in a pitch competition to being a guest on national podcasts.
5. Connect with Other Entrepreneurs
While it is important to be active in your industry and trade groups you should also find ways to stay connected with other entrepreneurs. I’ve connected with business owners through the T.H.R.I.V.E. Emerging Leaders Reimagined, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, and associations like GLWBC and NAWBO Greater Detroit Chapter.
Find a place where you can connect with other entrepreneurs to learn how they think and operate. It is so beneficial to talk with leaders in different industries. So many of my aha moments have come from entrepreneurs in completely unrelated fields (think Mary Kay and glassblowing).
Small businesses are the engine of our economy in the United States. As the largest collective employer, it is in the best interest of all of us to support the growth of small businesses and the courageous, brave leaders who lead them.
Enterprising Women of the Year: The annual award winners will be celebrated at a conference in May 2023; nominations are open through Feb. 1, 2023.
T.H.R.I.V.E. Emerging Leaders Reimagined: An executive-level training series through the U.S. Small Business Administration, T.H.R.I.V.E. stands for Train. Hope. Rise. Innovate. Venture. Elevate. The program is designed to accelerate the growth of high-potential small businesses across the United States.
Great Lakes Women’s Business Council (GLWBC): A nonprofit champion for women and minority businesses.
National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO): A national resource for women-owned businesses.
NAWBO Detroit Chapter: The local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses: An investment to help small businesses create job and grow.