In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’ve collaborated with CARE to bring women entrepreneurs insights into starting their own businesses and feeling economically empowered.
For International Women’s Day, CARE, the organization working with women and girls to fight hunger and poverty on a global scale, will launch #WomenKnowHow. It’s a campaign focused on economic empowerment and opportunities for women.
Throughout the month, they’ll amplify the voices of female leaders, celebrities, influencers, and creators. This campaign will also include a day spent advocating on Capitol Hill, a virtual speaker series, and social challenges. Individuals and brands are invited to get involved.
To coincide with International Women’s Day and the #WomenKnowHow campaign, we reached out to ten inspiring women in business. Here, we learned about how they built their brands, what they do on a daily basis to create opportunities for success, and where they go to find support and mentorship.
Define Your “Why”
This was by far the most mentioned tip among the founders we interviewed, including Esther Adeyinka, the Owner of SHADIE BY EA, an ethically-made clothing brand specializing in premium essentials and intimates for all skin tones.
Adeyinka created SHADIE after having trouble finding “nude” clothing in Australia that matched her skin tone. Now, she’s helping to create a more inclusive and sustainable fashion industry.
“In hard times especially, it’s so important to have and know the reason why you started at the forefront,” she tells us. “It’s your ‘why’ that will keep you going.”
The professional kiteboarder Sensi Graves, who created her swimwear brand Sensi Graves Swim to empower women in sports and give back to the environment, is similarly driven by her purpose. One percent of sales from her business go to environmental causes.
“Your purpose should go beyond ‘make money’ or ‘work for myself,’” Graves says. “Perhaps your ‘why’ is to empower women, or it’s to find freedom, but getting to the core of why you want to do this thing will help you ride the waves of entrepreneurship.”
Set Clear Goals
“Make both short- and long-term goals,” Echo Hopkins, the Co-Founder of Ordinary Habit, a collection of artful puzzles and objects, advises. “Sometimes you get bogged down with all of the small (important) details and forget to step back and look at the bigger picture.”
If your long-term goals are to increase profits or build a stronger relationship with your audience, you can support those goals with many shorter-term milestones. Run social media campaigns, host events for the community, or send out a customer survey.
Encourage Feedback from Customers
“Thinking from a service standpoint is an essential step because it keeps us focused on our mission,” Sensi Graves continues. “Rather than taking feedback personally or letting the business mean something about me, I keep our focus on who we’re serving. Constructive feedback is one of the best ways to crowdsource your way to success.”
Connect with Peers
For Shawn Laughlin, the Founder of the tableware and home goods brand Caskata, the ability to listen, absorb, and learn has formed a foundation for success. That meant listening to customer feedback, but it also meant connecting with her peers.
“I listened to more experienced makers once we got our kilns and began decorating our own pieces,” Laughlin explains.
“Then I listened to my ‘competitors’ who were also my friends—because really none of us make the same exact things, even if we work in the same space. I asked them questions about their businesses and their struggles, and I shared ours. Different perspectives from people facing similar challenges are always eye-opening.”
Feel free to reach out to other founders for advice and guidance. Offer some of your own in return.
Learn to Delegate
In the beginning, you might be wearing many hats at once. But, as your business grows, it’s important to accept help from others.
“I’m always focused on the future—what comes next,” Shawn Laughlin says. “In a product business, you need to stay ahead of trends as manufacturing often takes months.
“You also need to anticipate cash flow needs and plan for those before you need it. I try to let others handle the day-to-day while I concentrate on building tomorrow and the next season.”
Keep Branding Fresh and Consistent
Ruby Pope, the Founder of the hand-crafted streetwear brand Ruby Laine, puts her comfortable, expressive sense of style at the forefront of everything she does.
“Your brand should reflect your unique vision and values. It should be consistent across your entire business, from your logo and website, to your packaging and marketing materials,” she explains.
Invest in a strong brand strategy, and work with a designer or branding expert if needed to help bring your brand to life. In addition, hire an amazing photographer.
Start creating your own branded visuals with Shutterstock Create. It’s a suite of intuitive and easy-to-use digital design tools and templates you can use across your website, packaging, and social channels.
Resources for Women in Business
Join a Networking Group
When building her swimwear brand, Sensi Graves found inspiration and motivation through The Tory Burch Foundation. It provides educational resources, access to capital, and fellowship programs for women entrepreneurs.
Apply for Grants
If you’re looking into grants, one place to start is Hello Alice, a free platform that regularly shares opportunities.
“There are so many organizations supporting small business owners and, at some point, many of these organizations have used Hello Alice to reach entrepreneurs,” says Aaliyah Nitoto, the award-winning California Winemaker and Founder of Free Range Flower Winery.
“It’s a great place to find out what the newest opportunities are.”
Consider a Local Accelerator
Sensi Graves is a member of two Oregon-based startup groups, Built Oregon and Starve Ups. Both create opportunities for mentorship and connections between entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, Lyn Lam, the co-owner of Kapa Nui Nails, a body and planet-safe nail polish brand, worked with Mana Up Hawaii.
“This local business accelerator venture provided us with long-lasting relationships with fellow entrepreneurs and was absolutely invaluable,” she says.
Many locations have comparable programs, so check out what’s happening in your area.
Seek Out Mentoring Opportunities
Daniela Kratz, the Founder and Owner of Farmhouse Lab, a sustainable and vegan dressing brand, recommends following Ladies Who Launch. They are a global community offering launch grants, mentor meetups, and free webinars for women and non-binary business owners.
“I’m also a fan of The Hivery Circle, which is now an online membership with endless amounts of exciting content, live monthly and weekly classes with incredible mentors, and a vibrant, caring, and supportive community,” she tells us.
“In an ever-changing environment, you need to build your support system and make sure you have access to multiple resources.”
Attend Events and Conferences
“When we just had an idea but no real product, we attended a conference called Paper Camp that was hosted by Proof to Product and Katie Hunt, who is a coach for creative entrepreneurs,” Sarah Autry, the Co-Founder of Duncan & Stone Paper Co., remembers.
“There, we met so many other creative makers in the stationery world who gave us feedback and encouragement on our ideas. We left that weekend with a clear vision for our brand style, purpose, and direction.”
Take the First Step On Making Your Idea Your Reality
For Mutiara Pino, the Co-Founder of The Speak Collective, a plant-based skincare company, the most important thing is having (and keeping) faith in yourself and your business.
“Especially for women business owners, where we come into what is known traditionally as a ‘man’s world,’ it can get tough,” she says. “You will have naysayers, but if you believe in what you do, that will keep you confident and motivated as you overcome those obstacles.”
As you pursue your goals, don’t forget to make time for self-care and self-reflection.
“Personally, I try to set time aside every day to have proper meals, exercise or meditate, and practice something creative, like reading or drawing,” Pino tells us. “This might seem trivial, but having a healthy mind and body is essential to ensuring the success of my business.”
License this cover image via fizkes.
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