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It’s well known that Utah is a hotbed for emerging companies, especially those fueled by technology. What isn’t well known is the fact that many of Utah’s successful tech companies have been started by women.
A panel of women entrepreneurs who have founded their own tech companies spoke about how they are successfully growing their companies and how other women can follow suit during a Women Tech Council roundtable event Wednesday.
The panel members were Jana Francis, founder and president of Steals.com, a group of daily deal websites that sell everything from baby supplies to women’s clothing; Sara Jones, founder and CEO of http://womentechcouncil.us2.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=931bd24968d2953de877889ad&id=7fa899e910&e=04f5ba53b2">KōDefy, a company that helps people connect with careers in software programming; Christine Archibald, founder and CEO of ManagementPlus, a company that provides electronic health record technology to medical practices; and Fiona Volmrich, founder and CEO of VIPER, a company that builds software products for professionals in the meetings, events, travel and hospitality sectors.
Each of these women have had very different experiences in starting their own businesses, but all four have found immense success. They shared their secrets to that success by discussing everything from finding the right “dream team” of mentors and employees to knowing when it’s the right time to quit a corporate job and start a business.
Francis said the motivation to start her own company began when she wanted the flexibility to be home more often after having her third child. However, her concern was that leaving her corporate job wouldn’t provide her with enough money to take care of her family.
“We work to make money, and that was a concern, but once I got started and got to a point where I made good money, I realized money was really never the object in the first place,” she said. “When you start to make good money, you don’t retire. You actually work even harder. It’s the passion behind what you’re doing. Why you’re doing it may change over time.”
Volmrich said a mentor once told her to “do what you love and the money will come.”
“That really is true,” she said. “It’s not about the money; it’s about doing something you’re passionate about.”
When contemplating starting her business, Francis said she had to ask herself if she was a leader or follower—a question any woman should ask herself before starting a company.
“Are you more comfortable following someone else’s mission or are you the one who has new ideas for this, this and this?” she said.
Jones said being prepared before starting a company is key. One of the best ways entrepreneurs can do this, she said, is surrounding themselves with the right “dream team” of those who will give them perspective, share their failures and things they learned.
“You have to have the right resources to improve your odds [of success],” Jones said.
Volmrich, who has started five different companies throughout her life, said when one of her companies failed, it taught her a lot about herself and how to be successful in the future. She said staying true to oneself is the best way to ensure success.
“There will be a tremendous amount of pressure from the outside to do things a different way,” she said. “In the company that failed, I lost my way and my vision. You’ve got to be flexible, but you do have to have that deep guiding vision you stick to no matter what. I think it’s a little harder for women, at least for me, because I’m a natural pleaser.”
When it comes to financing businesses, each of the women took similar self-funding approaches, but all agreed they’ve learned that once an outsider invests in a company, it changes things.
“It totally changes the culture of the company when you bring someone else’s money in,” Archibald said. “Maybe that’s what you want as an entrepreneur, but you have to be very choosy about who you bring in. I’ve heard story after story from friends of mine that have ended badly.”
Volmrich said an entrepreneur should never take on a partner just because they need someone to talk to and make them feel brave about making decisions.
“It’s not always necessary to have a partner as a safety net,” she said.
Francis said it’s also important to never partner up with someone who could easily be hired and fired because of their skill set.
“If you decide to have a business partner, choose wisely,” she said. “Choose someone who can offer something you don’t have or can’t easily get.”
Overall, each of the women agreed that starting their own businesses was one of the best decisions they’ve made. Jones and Francis even both agreed that they should have left their corporate jobs earlier, but are glad they eventually took the leap into entrepreneurism.
“I couldn’t help myself. I just thought, ‘I just can’t not do this anymore,’” Jones said. “It was a surprise to me. I never thought I’d be a business owner, but I knew I could do it. You have to believe that you can do it and when you believe that is when you should [take the leap].”