What a Time to Be a Woman Entrepreneur
We have officially entered the era of the ‘Girl Boss’.
Women are starting businesses now more than ever. In the U.S. there are currently over 9.1 million firms owned by women, generating $1.4 trillion in sales and employing nearly 7.9 million people as of 2015.
Women of color own 2.9 million firms, employ 1.4 million people, and generate $226 billion in revenues annually .
Despite this progress, women, especially Black women owned businesses, are highly undercapitalized and many are taking out loans and bootstrapping to build their companies. They do not have the resources to scale. Only 4.2% of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more.
I have been an entrepreneur for 16 years and when I started my first company (The UrbanStarr) it was not an easy path, the biggest challenge I faced was limited resources. I did not have the capital and network need to scale. In 2001 the availability of mentors, advisors, and investors for my business did not exist in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. I had to learn much of what I know about running a business from books, trial and error, and mistakes. I told myself that once I was in a position to support and empower female entrepreneurs I would make it a priority.
Fast forward to 2016 and I am a serial entrepreneur working on company #4 (Flat Out of Heels) and company #5 (Solutions Vending). Leading two start-ups takes up a tremendous amount of my time, however my strong desire to support female entrepreneurs has never escaped the front of my mind. I knew that I could no longer prolong or wait until ‘the right time’ to start my mission of empowering other women. I am not in the position to financially invest in start-ups because my focus is currently on raising capital and growing my own companies for the next few years. However, I identified two key ways that I can have an immediate impact on the success of female entrepreneurs.
- Be a mentor and advisor
- Be a customer
Although I am excited to see all of the current programs, events, resources, support groups and investment funds targeting women…it’s still not enough. The best way to support a start-up, beyond a capital investment, is to be a customer and refer more customers. I purchase from and use the services of female owned businesses as often as possible. I regularly speak and volunteer my time to mentor and advise female entrepreneurs who are in need of direction. Sharing my knowledge and lessons with them is often as valuable as money because what they take away can save them time and costly mistakes.
This summer I decided to take my efforts step further when I launched the Lifestyle Shop on Flat Out of Heels website. This new shopping page features products launched and developed by female entrepreneurs, curated by me, that appeal to the woman who lives the ‘Flat Out’ lifestyle.
‘Flat Out Lifestyle’: active, on-the-go, stylish, appreciates quality and loves affordable luxury.
We opened up shop in August and we have some amazing products and even more amazing female founders. The Shea moisturizer by Jaq’s Organics is a must have. The whipped butter, available in Lavender and Sweet Orange, comes in a 4oz package that is perfect for travel. The product is so good that a little goes a long way and you can use it for your face, hair, and body. I met the founder Barbara Jacques at an entrepreneurship event in Miami and I was so impressed with her that I wanted to support but after trying her products I can’t leave home without a jar in my bag.
I love Nicki Marie Jewelry because it is handmade wearable art and very versatile. You can wear her pieces to compliment a casual or formal look. I met designer and artist Nicki King in middle school in Columbus, Ohio and was super excited when she sent me a few necklaces to try, I love them and they are so affordable! I know other women will appreciate her artistry with these pieces.
I am totally obsessed with The Shoe-B. When I first heard about this clutch purse that expands to fit a pair of heels I knew that I wanted to partner with founder Vicki Sylvain. All Flat Outs come with a bag to carry heels but this is for the purpose of not carrying them in your hand after removal. After you take off your heels, put them in the nylon Flat Out bag and then put both of those into the expandable part of The Shoe-B. Shoe-B comes in several cute styles and colors…now you don’t have to carry your purse AND your Flat Bag. Genius!
For the customers who need arch support in their Flat Out of Heels, Foot Petals Technogel Arches are perfect. These cushions can be inserted into heels or flats for an instant arch. Foot Petals was founded by Tina Aldatz in 2001 and acquired by RG Barry Corp. Although the Foot Petals company is no longer owned by Aldatz, she was a smart founder who was able to get an exit…I am all about that!
I personally think every woman ages 15–30 needs to read the book by entrepreneur Koereyelle DuBose called ‘Werk 101: Get Your Life Together Guide”. It is a short, fun, colorful book that can easily fit in a small purse but full of great tips and information. Grab a copy for yourself, toss in your bag, give as a gift…sit it on the coffee table and watch how many people pick it up.
When I first heard the phrase ‘Don’t Catch Feelings, Catch Flights’ I felt like it was written for me. When I found out Koereyelle put this on a luggage tag, I had to put it in the Lifestyle shop as a cute reminder to stay focused on what’s important.
I am actively seeking more products to feature and I have several more that will be launching soon. Please send me any suggestions that you have about products that would be a good fit, share this article and spread the word. I truly believe that when we support and invest in women we are investing in the future of our nation and the world.