Entrepreneurship is in the air. Recently, I spoke to a roomful of women who were willing to take a deep breath and dive into business ownership so they could call the shots and live the dream. The Women’s Entrepreneur Workshop is sponsored by the Coca-Cola 5by20 Initiative. Along with White Castle, 5by20 aims to empower five million women entrepreneurs by the year 2020, to create new sources of income, employ countless numbers of people, and help change their communities. ImpactOdyssey will introduce the 5by20 program around the country by tapping into the spirit of independence that pervades the psyche of so many people today.
About 75 women come out on a rainy Saturday morning to gain some pearls of wisdom that would take their idea, product, or service to the next level. Becky Davis set the stage for the day, inviting women to learn the “6 Cs of Credit: Character, Capacity, Capital, Collateral, Conditions and Cash Flow.” Two break-out sessions followed in which Linda Clemmons demonstrated through “Leadership & Mindset” how your body language could open a door or slam it shut. Delilah Winder shared her personal insights about Access of Capital.
Then it was the panel’s turn. I was joined by Towana Parker, President of Ladies of Destiny and Purpose International, and Milan Kludo, Founder of Green Spirit Farms. For the next 45 minutes, we answered a range of questions about our personal experiences as business people. I focused on three things:
- Write a business plan. This is the roadmap for your success. Every step in running a business is covered, and I learned the most from sections on developing your vision, defining your product and your customer, branding, marketing, and understanding your money. We’ve all heard the statistics about how many businesses succeed and how many fail. There are dozens of free resources available that will help you to plan your work and work the plan. One of them is the Small Business Administration’s Business Learning Center: https://www.sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/search/training/starting-a-business
- Be a leader. One of the most important tenants of leadership is being a role model. Know who you are. Write down your values, beliefs, and accomplishments and make this your branding statement. A business person doesn’t have the luxury to say, “I don’t care what you think,” because customers won’t separate the product from the person. There are lots of people I admire; Oprah is at the top of my list. Find a role model that you admire and keep their lessons close at hand. Are they inspiring, empowering, responsible, and creative problem solvers? I’m not excellent, but I’m constantly working on it.
- Get help. Entrepreneurs by definition are lone wolves. But today’s entrepreneur has to travel in a pack to make the business a success, including a banker, accountant, consultants and employees, all two-legged, of course. It takes a while to turn a profit because of the building blocks that lead to a strong foundation. Who’s in your pack? For me, networking has proven to be invaluable in connecting to people and resources.
My co-panelists and I talked about a lot of other things, but in summary, we agreed that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint at heart. However, with the right planning and attitude, you can become a major player in the business world like so many did before you.