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Through the Roof
Women business owners share their stories, discussing the challenges and successes they’ve experienced in their respective industries over the years. The group also discusses the joys and struggles of being a woman in business, and the importance of mentoring up-and-coming professionals.
We’d like to thank Kate Reddy, co-owner of McKinnon-Mulherin, for moderating the discussion.
Kim Jones, Vérité
Karen Woodbury, Woodbury Technologies
Jill Grammer-Williams, American Name Services
Debbie Jacketta, Jacketta Sweeping Services
Kate Reddy, McKinnon-Mulherin
Susan Rice, Cavanaugh Services Group
Marilyn Beck, Recruiting Connection
Cathy Keen, Wells Fargo
Adrienne Akers, Dynamic Screening Solutions
Sue Johnson, Futura Industries
Elizabeth Terry Dunning, Holland & Hart
Maxine Turner, Cuisine Unlimited
Michelle McCullough, Startup Princess
Natalie Kaddas, Kaddas Enterprises
What advice would you give to someone just starting out? Is there anything you would have done differently if you were to start today?
RICE: I have been in business 10 years this year and my advice to someone starting out is to think big and bold. We, as women, tend to sit back and not be aggressive and say, “Hey, I am equal. I can be at the table, too.” Sit at the table and say, “I belong at the table.”
A friend of mine does some teaching at Georgetown University. She did an experiment in her class, which had three young men and probably 15 women. She put three hundred-dollar bills out and said,“That’s there for anyone to take,” when the class started. The women didn’t budge. The men killed themselves to pick up the free hundred-dollar bills and they got to keep it. That is an example of how we are not as aggressive and not as bold. We should think that we earned that and that we belong at the table. That’s what I would say: Think bigger and bolder because you can get there and you belong there.
JACKETTA: I always tell my kids that if you don’t plan what you are going to do, you will end up in the family business, which is how I got there. It hasn’t been bad, but I wish I had made that decision earlier, learned a little bit more about business and managing people. Every time I do learn something or I figure something out, I always wish I had learned it sooner. And it has taken me a while to be more aggressive and to step up and go after things.
AKERS: Having come from the university, it feels like we are sort of putting ourselves down a little bit here. The principles of adult learning say you learn stuff when you need it. So even though you may not have learned it in your secondary education at the time many of us got it—because many of us probably went back to school at different times—it’s important to recognize that learning is a continuous process.
RICE: Having a mentor is critical, or an advisory board. Like Jill said, understand and learn about where you are going to get financing. Align yourself with investors and bankers so you have a plan to scale and know how you are going to get where you want to be and meet your growth plan. If I had to do it over, I’d learn about the financing and how to align yourself with the people, private equity firms, venture capitalists to reach your goals.
GRAMMER-WILLIAMS: Just a statistic to support what you said about females not being as aggressive in getting the capital—out of all the businesses across the country, only about 5 percent do over a million dollars; of that, 1.8 percent are women owned. And so you are absolutely right—we are just not as aggressive in pursuing those capital options.
Cathy, as a banker, what are the funding opportunities for women?
KEEN: Definitely the way the funding is now administered has changed quite a bit, with everything that is happening in our country and economy. But I am proud to say that many banks, including Wells Fargo, are definitely lending. As of March 31, 2012, we have extended over $766 billion of credit, and $43 billion of that was to women-owned and diverse businesses.
Definitely times are tough. It takes going in, finding the right person, working with the right people and then finding that support structure. But there are a lot of funds available to support women and to support these businesses.
What advice would you give a woman who was going into a male-dominated field?
KADDAS: Be a risk taker and be bold. You just have to assert yourself and not be bullied, because I think they are used to that. Just assert yourself and you definitely gain respect from them.