A Nod to Women Entrepreneurs and a Little Advice
Ayn Rand once said:
“[t]he question isn’t who is going to let me;
it’s who is going to stop me.”
Considering myself a “Can Do Anything” kind of gal*, I relate with these words of wisdom and to Ayn, a woman who left her stamp in history as a best-selling, provocative novelist and a leader in the self-esteem movement.
* For accuracy purposes, I must note that it was my mother who credits herself for my inherent “Anything is Possible" disposition. She claims it manifested itself within me the day she gave me my Wonder Woman pajamas- complete with the royal blue suit, knee-high plastic boots, and empowering red cape. From that day forward, I was positive I could fly.
Nevertheless, in honor of Ayn, Wonder Woman, and the Calvert County 11th Annual Business Appreciation Week (starting Monday, May 2nd), which aims to celebrate Calvert County women entrepreneurs, I offer to you a bit of inspiration, a few stories and a side of unsolicited advice:
You are not alone.
According to a 2012 survey by the National Women’s Business Council, 40.1% of the businesses in Maryland are women-owned. A statistic that will mean absolutely nothing to you when you find yourself working double-shifts or you realize you are required to have insurance to operate legally (after you are already 3 months into operations) or when 97 out of 98 phone calls to your office this month are sales calls (the 98th phone call being from your mother).
When you find yourself discouraged, try to remember, you are not alone. I promise there are 40% of us out there enduring the same humbling learning process – 40% of us Googling: “How do I design a website?” then immediately following: “What is the difference between a domain and a web host?” There are 40% of us teetering constantly between the feeling of greatness (when you get your first client who isn’t a relative) to the feeling of absolute failure (when that same client decides to go in another direction). But, before you decide to end the day early, think of me and the other 40% of us, taking deep breathes, shrugging it off, laughing at (and then promptly rectifying) our mistakes and forcing ourselves to work at it for another day.
Help is only available to those who ask. If you are anything like me, you would have to find yourself deserted in a monsoon, shoeless, with nothing in your pocket aside from a nickel and the cap to your chapstick before you would call for help.**
** This rule of course excludes phone calls to my mother to whom I have no qualms about calling to discuss my problem of the day. Besides that’s what mothers are for – being there for you no matter what, patiently listening and then strategically advising. No matter how insignificant, if I’m calling to sob to my mother about the pair of panty hose I just clawed through, in a barely audible, tear soaked voice, my mother is answering my call, sighing with relief that it’s not a real crisis (this time) and gently instructing me to simply toss them out and wear pants for the day. But, aside from my mother (thanks mom!), I am not someone who asks for help.
Starting a business is not the time to be stubborn. There is an abundance of organizations that offer guidance and support (often for free) to new business owners. The Calvert County Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start and with Business Appreciation Week coming up, there’s no better time than now.
Start by attending the Panel Discussion on the importance of business succession planning hosted by the Calvert County Minority Business Alliance scheduled for Tuesday, May 3rd. My advice as an Estate Planning attorney (shameless plug #1) is: it is never too soon to start planning for the future of your business.
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, try attending the Women’s Business Roundtable Networking Event on Wednesday, May 4th, where established female professionals will share their experiences and give their insight and advice as to what it takes to make a business successful.
If networking isn’t your thing, a good place to start instead would be the Southern Maryland Small Business Development Center, which offers free one-on-one counseling services for new business owners on topics such as how to structure your business or where to start with accounting. If you are looking for a more comprehensive business plan, Starkey Law, LLC offers individualized business services and is only a phone call away (shameless plug #2).
Celebrate your Successes.
Lastly, but certainly not least, don’t forget to celebrate your successes. No matter how small (you got your panty hose on today without calling your mother), make sure to take the time to rejoice. Because, the failures will come, some all at once, and you’ll be glad you took the time to pat yourself on the back. So, go ahead and pull out that special occasion wine, put on your Wonder Woman cape, and celebrate you.