Women-owned small businesses deserve to succeed

One day in April, I sent a note to a friend on her business email. Instead of the standard out of office reply, I got something unexpected. Something that, a month later, I still have in my “Best Things Ever” folder on my desktop.

The screenshot is below:

Best email reply ever.

In my 19 years of professional life, I’d never received a reply like this one. And certainly not one that made me feel the way it did. It was authentic and it was inspiring, much like the woman who wrote it.

Not too long ago, my friend left the corporate non-profit world, and set out on the path of creating her own business to fill a space where she saw a tremendous hole. This would lead her to deeper connections and more fulfilling work. Her Baltimore-based small business is a venture that makes a real difference not just for the organizations that hire her — but for employees across the nation. It’s a brand and organization that listens, researches, connects and inspires. It’s a brand that gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling in its email replies.

I do not take Small Business Week lightly. It’s a subject that deserves far more attention than a Saturday after Thanksgiving and a week in the middle of the year. I have seen a life’s work destroyed by a local population’s need for convenience over authenticity. And when that happens, it breaks my heart.

As of 2016, out of the 28 million small businesses driving the nation’s economy, it is estimated that there are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people*. I am one of them.

And not only am I employed by an amazing small business owner, I am incredibly lucky to work with and recognize women-owned small businesses every day. Ones that I may not know very well, but send Starbucks gift cards when they can tell I’m in the weeds on Facebook. Ones that start a movement among a group of strong, passionate, educated women. Ones that have been there for life’s biggest events. All of these women are changing the world, one day at a time — not just with their smiles, but with their brains.

Let’s support our women-owned small businesses not just during Small Business Week, but all the time. These are our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our friends. They have a voice that deserves to be heard, and businesses that deserve to be heard about. The great email etiquette is just a bonus.

Nikki James Zellner is a mom to two boys, a Navy wife, a volunteer, a 19-year corporate media veteran, and Senior Marketing Coach for Germono Advertising Company. She can be reached at nikki@germono.com. *Statistic pulled from 2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report commissioned by American Express Open.