¡Viva! 2011 Celebrated Women Entrepreneurs

This week, about 50 women of all shapes, sizes, colors and ages gathered at the Los Angeles Fed for a heavy dose of inspiration and insightful advice. As Forescee Hogan-Rowles, (bio) the C.E.O. of Community Financial Resource Center, summed it up: Be informed; Be relentless; Have a Plan (yes with a capital ‘P’); Write your own Plan; Don’t do it on your own. You’ve probably seen/heard this advice before, but the energy and camaraderie in the room really hammered it into the heart. Here are my notes from the symposium and if you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll find related resources and research.

Advice from Sheila Brooks:

  • If the U.S. women-owned firms were a country, it would have the 5th largest GDP.
  • The earning power of women in 2014 is projected to be $18 trillion.

Women’s economic power necessitates a change in the conversation at they policy level.

Businesses owned by women of color

  • Grew five times faster than other business
  • 2.3 million businesses
  • 1.7 million employees
  • $235 billion a year in revenue

So it makes sense to foster knowledge and skills, but women of color are under-served and at worst ignored. Very little research exists.

What prevents women of color from growing their businesses? Race and ethnicity are unique obstacles that must be overcome. Five obstacles

  • Human resources – finding the right talent
  • Cash flow and capital
  • Market scope and customer relations
  • Access to decision makers – strategic partnerships, networking and relationship building
  • Growth and sustainability

The change in the economy means a shift in paradigm from business as usual to re-inventing your business over and over.
We tend to chase the vision, not the money.
If we invest in employees and clients, they will invest in us.

How to overcome obstacles: innovation, creativity and strategic planning.

  • Don’t sell what you have, sell what clients want
  • PLAN d- 42% of business don’t have a plan
  • Re-write the plan every quarter
  • Write your own plan
  • Be able to respond to change- it’s a competitive advantage to be able to be flexible.
  • Continue to be a risk taker.
  • Connect – women are good at it – but need to think about bridging, not just bonding to close the deal

Donyielle Holley does visualization exercises with her clients to transition to the proper mind set and visualize success. She says don’t let obstacles define who you are. Traditional entrepreneurship training needs to be tweaked to fit non-traditional clients.

Q: How can women of color widen networks to key into decision makers
Shelia: for government contracts (and good advice regardless)

  • Go to every business fair, every government event in your target area
  • Engage the small business liaison – state and municipal government employees are paid to advocate for you and do want to help
  • Stay in touch week alternating with a call and an email to keep your company front and center
  • Be memorable – it’s the little details that matter
  • Be knowledgeable about government contracting – know who is awarding what to whom and what kinds of contracts.
  • Schedule relationship building!

Gail Lara wanted more connection after she graduated from the VEDC entrepreneurship training program so she started a mentor program called The Valley Girls Grew Up. The group started with sharing what was going on with their businesses and now includes a 30-minute test marketing session, speakers, networking, goal setting, mind mapping and brainstorming. The meetings became so popular that there are now two. The collaboration resulted in Made in the Valley catalog.

Other advice:
*Mentorships are uber-valuable
*Get a Board
*Twice a year do a survey on what the customer needs
*Give everyone the incentive to be part of the solution
*Most businesses fail because of a lack of execution
*Find a partner

Resources related to ¡Viva! objectives:

Feel free to submit additional resources to CAMEO.

If you would like to be on the Viva! committee, email Shufina.

View photos from the event on our facebook page, tag yourself if you attended the symposium and “like” us while you’re there.