{Business Cents} Habits of Successful Business Women

I was going through some old papers when I came across my notes from the Spring 2006 Career Night hosted by my alma mater, Spelman College. The theme for the evening was “To, Work, To Live, To Love: A Conversation about Finding Passion and Balance in a Chaotic World”. In the midst of my note taking style, which looks like a cool info graph, was valuable information. Then I was absorbing information with the mindset that I would be an attorney in a large firm. Now, I can see how the advice from panelist Yolanda Bivens, Andrea Brown, and the ever inspiring Allegra Lawrence can apply to most industries.

Check out their tips!

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{Business Cents} Every Woman Should Have a Professional Mentor

I know that  everyone can benefit from an mentor-mentee relationship; however, I believe it’s even more imperative that every woman have a professional mentor…and a good one at that!   While I know it is easy to assign that “role” to a public figure like Oprah, it is likely more beneficial to you and your career if you find someone who is actually willing to spend time with you.  It was about four years ago when I realized for myself how important this type of mentorship can be.  As I was transitioning careers, I decided to form a “dream team” of coincidentally women mentors.    My theory was that alone, each of them had an ability or network that the other did not, but together they formed a diverse and complete dream team.

Professional Mentor.jpg

Things to Consider When Finding Your Mentor

  • Does your mentor have the time to spend with you? This in my opinion is the most important.  I had a great dream team of movers and shakers, but  it was also so very hard for some of them to squeeze me in to their schedules.  Although the intentions are good, you aren’t gaining anything from this relationship if you aren’t even spending time with them.

  • Is this someone who will  hold you accountable? For you to truly succeed, you need to have someone who is so concerned about your goals and career path, that they aren’t afraid to be bluntly honest, call you on your “stuff”, and maybe even kick your butt, if needed. 

  • Are you learning tools that will help you get to where you want to be? The lessons may not always be explicit or intentional, but you have to be able to decipher how you can use what you are learning to thrive without compromising your character or integrity.

  • Are they respected in their field/company/community?  I learned the importance of this when I was conducting a cattle call of interviews with a panel of dancers and choreographers in Atlanta.  A number of the young dancers assumed that their relationships their mentors would help give them the extra edge.  So dancer after dancer took the “opportunity” to name drop not truly understanding the reputation of their mentors in their field.  The lesson I learned: Just because your mentor is known, doesn’t mean that they are respected. 

What Traits Do You Look For in a Mentor?

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{Business Cents} 25 Killer Tips from 25 Powerful Women Business Owners

Do You Have “Business” About Yourself?

She Makes Cents

From O Magazine Interviews Over The Past Decade

Be Open to Anything “A friend asked if I wanted to do a food trade show with her. I brought a few products with me, not expecting to sell or anything—and suddenly we got all these orders! I had no idea how we were going to package or prepare so much so quickly, but I never say no unless I completely understand why it can’t be done. I think how you approach obstacles is a big part of being successful—you can’t give up.” —Alisa Barry, Chef and Owner, Bella Cucina Artful Food

Make an Announcement “I sent out an email to everybody I knew, announcing what we were doing. For me, the act of saying ‘I’m starting a literary magazine’ was as brave as actually doing it. When I said it with confidence, people believed me—andI believed me.” —Maribeth Batcha, Publisher, One Story,a literary magazine

Build Your Own Board “I had to learn so much. I took classes at the local center for nonprofit management and read everything I could get my hands on. I realized the smartest thing I could do would be to surround myself with an advisory board of people who knew more than I did.” —Meredith Blake, Founder Break the Cycle, a domestic violence prevention program
Take Ownership “There’s no store without the concept, so from the very beginning, we trademarked every single thing involved in the look of the store.” —Ninel Pompushko, Founder, T-Shirt Deli, a custom t-shirt store in Chicago. Read her story

Hone Your Business Skills “There’s a perception out there that you can’t be an artist and a businessperson at the same time. Artists are told ‘Don’t bother with math.’ But you have to balance passion and analytical skills. Knowing the business side of my job gives me the ability to take risks in every aspect—from dealing with banks to new designs—and I love that.” —Annie Morhauser, Owner and Creative Director, AnnieGlass, which produces luxury, handmade glass table art
Do It Yourself “When we opened, we used our savings and did all the renovation work ourselves—stripping the floors, sanding them, plastering and painting.” —Miko Branch, Co-Founder, Miss Jessie’s Salon Read her story

Be Prepared for the Unexpected “A good thing to remember is that once you open your door to the public, you never know who’s going to walk through. I’ve had people bring in shopping bags of every shape and size imaginable, overflowing with pictures. At first I panicked, but now those are my favorite projects. They let me puzzle the pieces of someone’s life together.” —Anne Goldenthal, Owner, Album Arts

Don’t Quit Your Day Job “It was pretty obvious that I would have to find a way to support my music habit. So I went to work as an assistant at a Wall Street investment bank and wound up as a VP and business manager of corporate research. I would do the radio show on Saturdays and tuck whatever gigs I had as a musician into whatever time was left.” —Laura Cantrell, Musician Read her story

Ask Around “I put ads in the paper, went online, and went to decorators, but I had no luck. One day I went to a fabric store and asked the owner if she knew anyone. She did, and now that person is our lead seamstress.” —Nan Barbera, Founder, Prince & Company, a luxury bassinet maker

Educate Yourself “To get the full picture of how to run a retail business, I applied to the Gap’s retail management training program. Essentially, the company paid me to learn design, marketing (which is how to get publicity for your products), planning (meaning, have enough money on hand to pay the bills), and production (how to buy zippers from one factory and buttons from another and ship them to a third where they make the garment).” —Jordan Veatch-Goffi, Founder, Doce Vida Fitness
Take Charge When the 735-room, filthy, decrepit Times Square Hotel (a.k.a. Homeless Hell) went bankrupt in the late 1980s, I wanted someone to turn it into quality supportive housing—with employment services, a clinic, and caseworkers right in the building. Not a shelter but permanent, dignified housing. Because I’d been development coordinator for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn, I knew what questions financiers, tenants, and the city would need answered, and I wrote up a plan. Everyone I talked to was too overcommitted to take it on. They all agreed, though, that someone really ought to do it. Finally, I thought, ‘Oh, someone is me.'” —Rosanne Haggerty, Founder, Common Ground, a nonprofit that aims to end homelessness Read her story

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different “I didn’t have a showroom. I was totally freaked out about that: I live above a restaurant, and buyers had to walk through a side door near the dining room to get to my tiny apartment. But people loved coming over. I’d serve cookies and have a fire going. They said it was a relief from the other showings they’d been to. Sometimes when you’re forced into doing things in an unexpected way, you make a big impression. And with so many people out there, being yourself is the only way to stand out.” —Lana Bilzerian, Knitwear Designer

Ask for Help “I couldn’t make all the cookies in my own kitchen, and I didn’t want to pay for an expensive industrial mixer, so I called a local restaurant that served only lunch and dinner and asked if I could use their mixer in the mornings. They said, ‘yes.'” —Debbie Godowsky, Owner, Cookies Direct, which sells care packages to send to kids in college Read her story

Split Your Time “I couldn’t quit my job, but I did take a lower-paying position that had more flexible hours. Then I signed up for night courses in flower arranging at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and at Parsons School of Design. I started taking orders out of my house.” —Katrina Parris, Founder, Katrina Parris Flowers Read her story

Take Rejection in Stride “I knew how to make up a business plan. Much more daunting was the idea of getting a bank to lend me $1.5 million. I was turned down 32 times by male bankers. My 33rd presentation was to a female banker in New York. She didn’t even let me finish my pitch before agreeing to give me the money.” —Catherine Hughes, Founder and Chairperson,Radio One
Get Feedback “We wanted to see if our cakes would sell, so for months we held tasting parties for friends and family. We asked guests to write comments anonymously on cards. Mostly, people said nice things, but they also said ‘too moist,’ ‘too sweet,’ and ‘needs to be more pineapple-y’—which sort of got my mom’s back up. My mom worked on the recipes until people thought the cakes had just the right amount of moistness, sweetness, and flavor.” —Norrinda Brown, Co-Owner, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique Read her story

Build a Network “I’ve participated in a number of stationery shows, and along the way I’ve struck up informal relationships with other entrepreneurs. We compare notes across the aisle; it’s good to talk to others who are going through the same thing, and together you can brainstorm ways to partner on future projects.” —Kim See, Founder, Kemse & Company, which specializes in multicultural stationery design

Follow Your Customers My taste wasn’t completely resonating with my suburban customers. My sales weren’t as good as they could be, and the people who were buying had come up from the city. Obviously, I needed to move downtown, but rents aren’t cheap. Still, in 2005, I did it. My sales went right up.” —Chandra Greer, Owner, Greer, a Chicago stationery store Read her story

Mentor Others “I didn’t have a lot of money to pay assistants, so I called the youth employment service at my son’s high school and advertised for art students. They sent me two great girls.” —Pam Older, Founder of the jewelry firm Pam Older Designs”

Toot Your Own Horn “Women, especially Southern women, are taught to be demure. When I first opened, I didn’t want to be a show-off and name my company after myself. Instead I called it WSG (Wilson Services Group) Consulting. Huge mistake. No one could remember it. Plus, my expertise and talent are what clients are buying. We rebranded this year as Robin Wilson Home. Business is booming.” —Robin Wilson, Renovation and Design Manager, Robin Wilson Home Read her story
Negotiate with Your Employer “I left [my] job and started doing freelance production work—party decorating, floral and production design, trying to figure out where I wanted to be in the business. Then I got a job with Formica Corporation. I made a deal that they would pay for me to go back to school for interior design.” —Courtney Sloane, Founder, Alternative Design Read her story

Stay Calm “You can’t allow yourself the luxury of being overwhelmed, because then you can’t do anything.” —Kathe Padilla, Founder of Zambian Children’s Fund, which supports an orphanage and a school in Africa Read her story

Be Creative “Putting together the financial structure [was the hardest thing]. It was the part I knew and cared the least about; no bank would help me. One day I woke up and said, ‘I have to make this a creative project, too.’ I developed my own alternative bank, borrowing small amounts from people who believed in me. I was able to pay them back in four years, and by that time I was bankable.” —Stephanie Odegard, President, Odegard Inc., a rug design and import company Read her story

Enjoy the Rewards “Now a business trip is to wine country or a food festival. I love it all. You can’t serve ad copy at a dinner party, but a beautiful cheese tray is always a big hit.” —Sara Vivenzio, Founder, Cheese School of San Francisco Read her story

Have Faith in Yourself “First, take it easy. Because it’s your passion, you can get carried away and burn out. Second, take small steps. I’ve seen a lot of people with great vision who don’t go anywhere because they want the end result immediately. Third, don’t try to figure out what sells. You are the one thing other businesses can’t duplicate.” —Teresa Chang, Founder, Teresa Chang Ceramics Read her story

What’s Your Best Business Advice?

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Negative Job Growth for the Millennials….

I can’t say that I agree with HOW the information is presented.  “The Best Generation Ever” statement is one that leaves quite a few to disagree. I always hear people talking about how this generation is so different…and they don’t mean it in a good way.  While some may consider the Millenials the “Best Generation Ever” others are also quick to add that there seems to be disconnect between the work ethic of previous generations and the habits and work product of this 21st century generation.  Advances in technology make almost everything easier which only fuels proponents to the idea of the new “lazy generation” point. What I did find interesting is that this study found the job growth for millennials is in the negative percentile.  Pinned Image

Talk to me! What do you think?

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