Recently, GroundFloor Media hosted a Get Connected event for about 30 local women entrepreneurs. I was joined on a panel by Mindy Gantner from eXplore Communications, Laura Levaas of Yelp, Remy Spreeuw of 5280 and Taylor Woodard of Motive. We spent a few hours in small breakout sessions talking about career experiences, lessons learned and tips for building brands and communicating with media and other key stakeholders. The participants represented owners of multiple businesses including Eat (delicious catering, BTW), MaxLife Therapies, United Martial Arts and Fitness Center, Sticky Fingers Cooking, Studio R Designs and many, many more.
I was inspired by the stories I heard and the willingness of the women to share all of their ‘growth pain’ stories with the larger group– the good, the bad and the ugly. Since I started GroundFloor Media in April 2001, I have relied on my network of women to help guide me and serve as my informal ‘kitchen cabinet’ on issues that face many entrepreneurs – woman or man. How do you juggle work and family life? How do you know when to take on an employee that isn’t billable to a client? How do you purchase real estate and structure contracts with sub tenants? How do you manage the complexities and struggles of a divorce while building a business and raising a young child? While I am grateful to the male advisors I have surrounded myself with primarily through my involvement with EO Colorado, it is generally the women in my life that offer the necessary story telling and the fact giving that provide those coveted words of wisdom. In my experience, women have never been afraid to mix business and personal lives because they tend to know that – for an entrepreneur – the two can’t exist without one another. And women aren’t afraid to tell you just how hard – and rewarding – this life we have chosen can be.
This ability to view situations from both a personal and professional lens is a critical component to owning a business. The grey areas are vast and the inability to recognize that aspect can take down a company. I wonder if this is one of the many reasons that the growth of women-owned firms outpaces those for men – according to a new Department of Commerce survey . In fact, the number of women-owned businesses increased 44% from 1977 to 2007 and added 500,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the number of man-owned businesses increased 22% and lost 2 million jobs. Why? Well, there are probably many reasons. However, if the Get Connected event was any indication, I believe it is because women inspire one other to take chances. Thanks to all of the women in my kitchen cabinet who have inspired me to take a chance or two. It has all been worth it.