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Female entrepreneurship, male- dominated industries, and COVID-19: Part 3

What we can learn from female entrepreneurs and women in leadership charging through male-dominated industries

In parts one and two of our female forward business tips, we shed light on the long road women have traveled to find their voice and rightfully-earned place in business. The insightful and poignant advice was delivered by expert women in leadership at the 2020 Industrious Women’s Summit (IWS), created by Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest. The summit concluded with these lady boss entrepreneurs reminding us to harness the reputation you’ve built, leverage resources to go farther, and to always, always…always ask for what you deserve. 

Maintain your reputation

The current crisis has made it clear to many businesses the importance of keeping up their online reputation. Doing so may help your business survive when customers can only access you and your service through their computer or device. With more people spending time at home, their work, play, connections, and marketplace searches are only a screen away. Because of this, it is imperative that women in leadership have an online presence. But in 2020, the space has become so full it’s hard to stand out. “There has been an increase of 200% in searches on Google throughout COVID-19. You have to stand out,” warned Vrinda Mamundi, Founder & CEO of XN Solutions. A key point Mamundi shared was to make yourself relatable. “Reputation is important to women in leadership, so take time to respond to online comments or reviews whether they are positive or negative because they are your digital walking billboard,” Mamundi reminded us. “People want brands they can trust, so spread positivity by using humor, openly support other businesses and show appreciation.” 

Leverage your financial resources

Coveted PPP loans have come and gone for most businesses. It’s important to remember what we learned in the last six months and apply those strategies to spend money wisely. “Look at spending money as an investment in your company,” shared Stephanie Sims, Founder of Finance-Ability. Our society has really stepped up to help businesses in need, and more funding is still available. “I’ve been in business for longer than I care to admit,” continued Sims, “but I have never seen so much emergency and resource allocation dedicated to helping small businesses survive as we’ve seen through this difficult time. Know that there are many people out who want to see your business succeed.” 

The abundance of state, county, and local grant funding is almost too good to be true. Municipalities, chambers, trade associations, membership, and minority organizations have rallied to offer funding and grants. “Look to your community, talk to your bankers for options,” reminds Frances Ryan, Senior Private Banker of Sunflower Bank and IWS sponsor. “If you don’t qualify for a traditional bank loan, try researching Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) for alternative funding,” advises Amber Cordoba, Manager of Consulting Services, Business Education at Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. Cordoba also reminded us to investigate what your city has chosen to do with the Federal CARES Act dollars, as many are using it to help small businesses. 

If your business resides in BBB’s Pacific Southwest service area, there is still time to apply for the BBB Main St. Matters Grant Program

Ask for what you want, nay, deserve

Perfectionists. They hold themselves to unrealistic expectations which can get in the way of success. And failure is hard, but you can learn from it. “Failing is not something we enjoy doing and I know for myself personally, it’s something I really struggle with – almost a fear of failing – and having to learn that it’s ok and it’s fail fast, fail forward,” said Erica Sietsma, Chief Operating Officer of Digital Air Strike, closing keynote speaker and sponsor. “It’s going to happen, move forward, learn from it, and let it drive you to find a better solution or evolve.” 

As your company grows and you learn from the failures to push farther into the unknown, Alexi Venneri, Co-Founder & CEO of Digital Air Strike cautioned us not to “order from the existing menu,” but to “create your own and negotiate. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” She brilliantly reminded us that when you create your own opportunity, you can also set your own price. “And if you get push back, what’s the worst they’re going to say, no?” commented Venneri. 

Touche. 

Cheers to your successes

The summit concluded with an upbeat happy hour led by Celia Waddington, Principal Owner of Ignite Creative Services, LLC. A quick pivot within her company allowed her to continue her business when the restaurant industry was forced to shut down. Waddington and her team created ready-made cocktail kits that could be purchased online and delivered. She artistically demonstrated how to make an Old Fashioned Cocktail using one of these kits and shared tips on the ingredients used.

Waddington bid us farewell with beautiful words of wisdom: “All of us here today are incredible women, incredible human beings, running incredible businesses. This has been one of the craziest times in every single person’s life. As we gather in summits like these, we remind ourselves how important it is to have unity and strength and a group that we can all depend on. Together we can do anything. Here’s to staying positive and testing negative!”

Save the date for next year’s women in leadership event, the Industrious Women’s Summit, on August 20, 2021. Check back for details at events.bbbcommunity.org