The Institute was mentioned by Bank of America Jacksonville Market President Mark Bennett during an interview with Melissa Ross of WJCT News (NPR) Jacksonville as part of her First Coast Connect program and her Women’s Small Business Month series. Mark highlighted how the Institute is helping women in Jacksonville grow their businesses. His comments begin just past 53:50.
WCNC-TV (NBC affiliate in Charlotte, NC) ran a story on their September 23, 2021 morning news program about the impact of the Women’s Entrepreneurship certificate program at Cornell on program grad, Sil Ganzó who founded ourBRIDGE. Click here to watch the WCNC-TV news piece.
This is a link to a wonderful 3-minute radio spot put together by WFAE. The piece aired as a local segment in Charlotte, NC during NPR’s “All Things Considered” broadcast. It shares some of Latina entrepreneur, Sil Ganzó’s, thoughts about how the Women’s Entrepreneurship certificate program impacted her personally and professionally.
We are so proud of that first Charlotte-based cohort to complete the program and are excited to see the second cohort underway!
Bank of America recently announced that Anne Finucane, Vice Chairman and member of the company’s executive management team will retire at the end of 2021. Finucane is the first woman vice chairman of Bank of America and the first woman chairman of the board of Bank of America Europe, the company’s European banking subsidiary based in Ireland. In addition, she directed the development of Bank of America’s ESG and sustainable finance work, where she has mobilized the organization’s scale, global reach, talent and financial capabilities to address some of society’s biggest challenges. She was instrumental in the launch of the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell which is now working to support 50,000 women entrepreneurs. We are so appreciative for her advocacy and support and wish her well in her next chapter!
We are so pleased to share this press release with everyone! Bank of America has expanded their funding of the Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell. This additional funding will enable us to add 30,000 seats – bringing the total enrollment of small business owners to 50,000. We will also be translating the program into Spanish and hiring Spanish-speaking facilitators to provide more access to Latinx entrepreneurs.
As part of the program expansion, Bank of America will partner with several nonprofits, including the National Urban League, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders and Prospera, to create specific enrollment opportunities for their members. The Institute expects to begin enrolling these students in January 2021.
Report from the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell University– Dr. Deborah Streeter (Faculty Director) and Kirsten Barker (Program Director)
Recently we reached out to the Institute participants and asked about how everyone is coping with what psychotherapist Esther Perel calls “working with home” in a recent podcast. (See full text of our email at the end of the article.) We asked three questions:
- How are you managing your work with home?
- How have you experienced a rearrangement of priorities due to the pandemic?
- For you, during the pandemic, what has been the “light shining through the cracks” in terms of relationships and your business?”
We received more than 100 responses and the comments were wide-ranging and heartfelt. For example, Sherley* responded, “This pandemic is strange,” reflecting the dismay many feel at this time in our country’s history. Cydney echoed the feelings of many when she responded, “Life is not the same for any of us.” Even though she expressed a certain powerlessness (“I have invited work into my home not by choice but by circumstance”), she also acknowledged the privilege of being able to work from home. Many answers were nuanced, describing both the good and the bad outcomes these entrepreneurs are experiencing. Veonne characterized the ambiguity this way: “[It’s] a mixture of greatness…and frustration,” bringing both gifts and burdens. There were expressions of joy and also of deep sadness. A common theme was the frustration and guilt arising from the conflicting roles women face as they try to balance home and work responsibilities. Elle admits that although she is coping, “Neither my kids nor my job are getting 100% from me.”
In this report, we do our best to capture the variety and intensity of various answers, focusing on three themes: 1) the benefits and costs of working with home, 2) the specific coping strategies people are employing and 3) the sources of “light shining through the cracks,” — what/who is providing hope and support during the pandemic.
Working with Home – Positive or negative?
1. The Downside
Perhaps the most devastating effect of the pandemic has been the loss of family and friends due to the COVID-19 virus. Another difficult outcome for some has been the disruption in business and loss of income. In fact, for many, work has been challenging or non-existent. Limitation in travel, interruptions in service-based businesses and declining revenues have hit small businesses very hard. Even for companies like Erica’s (Accent Group Solutions) who were designated “essential businesses” and received government relief (PPP), there were hard choices. For example, Erica faced difficult decisions regarding “right sizing our team, dramatically cutting expenses, and re-evaluating our remaining revenue.”
Another frequently mentioned problem was the extension of the workday. Many entrepreneurs reported struggling with priorities, noting that it was easier to prioritize when working outside the home. As Rehana put it, because of the circumstances of the pandemic “work requires a lot more hours.” Sherley found herself working 10-12 hours in the early stages of the pandemic, trying to “meet the expectations of a demanding and unappreciative boss.” By June she reached a breaking point and pushed back her hours. Many, especially single parents, mentioned exhaustion of managing work life and home responsibilities, such as taking care of infants, homeschooling kids or grandkids and/or caring for senior parents. Danielle said she is “basically up all day with the baby and all night working on my business. Some days, it’s beyond exhausting.” This conflict in role can create difficult choices. Elle, as a caregiver of both a chronically ill child and an elderly mother, noted that sometimes “personal work tasks get pushed to the back burner” and that it is “painful to turn down jobs.” And Dallisa notes that being single presents its own challenges. She notes that “nobody but me is holding me accountable to the amount of work I do and I tend to overwork…it has been lonesome at times.”
Fatigue was mentioned by many respondents, who reported headaches and eyestrain as a result of hours spent online and in Zoom meetings. Some reported “locked-in” syndrome, especially early on during more restrictive stay-at-home policies. Krishula always thought of her home as her “detox space and peace of mind after work” but during those early days there was a constant blurring between her business and home settings.
Working with home creates a lot of conflicts between the different roles that women play. With spouses and children all vying for internet bandwidth and quiet workspaces, some found it very difficult to be productive. The added burden of guiding children through online schooling also created difficulty in setting priorities and getting work done. Self-care, many reported often falls to the bottom of the list or doesn’t happen at all.
2. The Upside
Many reflections on the pandemic included gratitude for unintended consequences that have arisen from difficulties caused by the pandemic. For some, who characterized themselves as introverts or were already working at home, the change has been fairly straightforward. For example, for Laurat, said, “Home is safe, quiet, peaceful and a place to nurture and implement new ideas. For that reason I’ve launched new projects, ideas and partnerships.” For Christina, “the pandemic has offered me the ability to make all meetings remote meetings. I get nervous in person, but I’m very used to talking into a computer mic due to all the online games I played in college.”
By far the most often mentioned benefit was that people feel closer to family and friends. Mira said that instead of always giving priority to her clients’ needs, the pandemic forced her and others to hit the “pause” button. In doing so, she realized “that family, friendships and health should always take priority.” In a similar way, Beth said the situation has allowed her to “build better bonds with friends and family.” With more calls, emails and facetime sessions with family, respondents felt they had a strong support network. As Sheila put it, “We comfort one another, we love one another, we laugh and cry together.”
The dramatic impact of COVID seems to have had a way of clarifying personal decisions about relationships. In some cases, this has accelerated the end of a waning or unhealthy relationship. Natosha’s “personal relationship hit a rock and cracked wide open, I was in something that no longer served me…I won’t tolerate what I don’t need.” For others, like Danielle, “6 months working from home together was bound to have an effect on my marriage! Luckily, it was a good one. If anything, the pandemic has reminded me why we got married in the first place.” For Kara and her relationships, she was able to make distinctions: “Ones that I thought were lacking have grown stronger and those that I needed to let go of I have.” Carmella said she has attained a deeper understanding of self because she could “sit, think & reflect… and this has rolled over into my business as well… I’ve been able to deeply define my ‘why’ and found my motivation again.”
Other outcomes included the push toward more efficient organization and decision-making. In many cases, working at home was reported to have eliminated what used to be a long commute, and provided time to de-clutter and prioritize. Frequently, respondents mentioned that the heightened state of urgency caused by COVID-19 had resulted in the streamlining of decision-making. For example, Natasha shared that she felt a resurgence of creativity, because the pandemic “has allowed for an embrace of change and transition…in really quick span of time” and that as a result she “can no longer put things off or wait for the perfect time.” This feeling of being forced to prioritize was echoed by many other comments, such as Thien-Kim’s remark that she is “more ruthless about what is a priority and what can be done later.” Kimberly said that because of the threat of the virus, she has prioritized her health more and she is “[e]ating and exercising on a regular schedule for the first time in a decade.” Often comments reflected a feeling of slowing down and a re-examination of the stressful pace of business and personal life. With great emphasis, Kim said she has realized “WHY DO I NEED TO RUSH ANYTHING?” Connie reported that “[e]very priority shifted. I went from is this a need or a want? On the scale of 1-10 how important is this or that?” Charita commented that she feels “empowered to decline requests without feeling guilty so that I don’t have to juggle so much.” By admitting the situation is “a one-wheeled wagon,” Kate allows herself “to ride the wave of the day without guilt.”
The pandemic seems to have brought awareness to many about what is important in their lives. For example, Erin relays that she has “made some bold choices because of it. I decided to pivot my business, go back to school, and reach out to someone I dated a long time ago and had never forgotten (and we’re happily together again… she hadn’t forgotten either) because the pandemic just gave me such clarity: this is our one and only life… we don’t know how long we get.” Her advice: “send the letter, decide boldly, and live and work like you don’t get a second chance.” Likewise, Sheila reports “Because of the world stopping dead in its tracks, I have experienced a rearrangement in my priorities. I have decided to take a step back from my role [with a client] over the course of the next few months, and focus on expanding my business. I believe that if things had stayed the same and there had been no pandemic, I would not have considered this option.” For others, the situation has helped them make difficult decisions. Bernetta has seen this as a time to re-set, and to ask the question whether her business is really needed and where she really wants to do it. Michelle found her business hard hit and decided to refocus “on home, studying for a personal lifelong goal of passing the CPA exam, and pivoted my nonprofit to focusing on families in the community.” For Shubhra, her sustainable clothing business ground to a halt, forcing her to pivot towards building a consulting business.
Many expressed a renewed appreciation of the kindness of others. Rehana notes that everyone has been able to connect with people on a deeper level since they have more opportunities to reflect on the importance of relationships: “I think we’re much more aware of how fragile things can be since the pandemic has caused deaths and long-term illnesses in those who have recovered.” She notes that “people were usually ‘nice’ before, but people seem more ‘kind’ these days and genuine. Given the heightened emotions, we’re all giving each other more leeway, and I hope we also do that for ourselves.” Paris echoed this: “Friends are more present. The people around me are more focused on nourishing their relationships with one another & making those a priority over things that used to be so important like money. While money has great value, it is not as valuable as the bonds we make in this life. “
Surprisingly, there have also been some very positive business outcomes for some participants during this COVID-19 chaos. Aniya reported that she has been “able to better connect with clients over the internet and work on projects that I wasn’t able to before the pandemic took place.” Many respondents noted that current environment has driven them to expand the virtual side of their businesses, with good results. For example, Thien-Kim (Bawdy Bookworms) has found her business booming. Moniquea (LBE Business Solutions) and others have found the transition to increased online buying has meant her “opportunities have expanded and my business has grown!” Cassandra (The Stocks & Stilettos Society) was surprised by “an explosive growth spurt” resulting in an expansion in her staff. Tonya (Accented Glory) also found her business starting to thrive specifically because of changes in the current climate: “My sales have doubled and I attribute that to my marketing strategy, increase in online shopping, and movement to support black owned businesses. Some folks are choosing to protest social injustices with their dollars and supporting black brands.”
Strategies for surviving work with home
Whether on the positive or negative side of the ledger when it comes to dealing with COVID-19, respondents offered an abundance of good advice for surviving this time.
Respondents responded with many strategies for dealing with the stress of the current situation. To combat the isolation, Dara employs a strict schedule, punctuated with “random dance breaks.” Other types of strategies were mentioned, including Carmella’s “breaks for naps, stretching and eating,” and Kim’s creation of a “meditation space…an area that is sacred to me,” to make sure she maintains balance. In a similar vein, Kassy starts each day by taking three deep breaths and then proceeds to “journal my 3 things that I’m going to do with my business, 3 things I’ll do for my well-being or self, 3 things that I’m grateful for.” This helps her activate a “mindset shift…I get to prioritize what matters.” Christina, who has had to deal with not only the pandemic but also Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Beta, is using extra time to pursue hobbies as a distraction and stress relief strategy.
Organizing space and creating schedules were two frequently mentioned coping strategies. Many used the opportunity to upgrade their working/home spaces, like Connie who reported, “I really begin to rearrange everything including the furniture in my home. Seeing everything around me shift, I knew there needed to be a shift in me also.” Danielle has taken small steps to organize all parts of her home, including family, kitchen and work spaces, admitting that “[b]efore the pandemic I thought I was organized, but…I’ve realized how many things we kept the same even though they weren’t really working…our home is a lot more optimized for our everyday lives, and a lot prettier for us to look at!” Several people mentioned setting boundaries for how spaces are used, including Kassy’s rule that she and her husband will “work at our work stations and not inside our bedroom” in order to “declutter and set an intention to where you’re working.”
Some, like Kate, have found it important to rough out a schedule every morning, starting with a 4:30 am wake up time and including a chance “rest or collapse (your choice) at 9:20 for about 30 minutes.” Others also reported using a daily to-do list approach, with phone alerts at transition times. For example, Lesley emphasizes the importance of setting an alarm so you know when to “turn off”” because otherwise “before I know it , it’s 4 and I haven’t had lunch or it’s 9 and I’m still working.” For Erin it is important to set “self-care ‘non-negotiables’ like yoga, enough water, sleeping well, breaks during the day (this is hardest for me!), shutting off at a reasonable time (because working late into the night *seems* like a good idea, but wrecks mental health…).” Some of these strategies are difficult to employ if you are in a small space. Courtney notes that since she is in a small condo, “it’s difficult to completely separate the ‘home’ part of my home, and the ‘work’ area. I’ve failed miserably the past week, but my plan was to never turn on the tv during working hours.”
Many mentioned that they set priorities more carefully, continually questioning “what matters?” Natosha is explicit: “I don’t do anything that makes me unhappy. I’ve started a garden, sewing, purging my home and making sure I spend quality time with my children and family.” Some, like Tricia, “set specific office hours” to establish a consistent response time. Others, like Shakira, have rules such as “no emails after 6:00 pm.” Other time management ideas include: avoiding a commitment to too many tasks outside work, outsourcing tasks that are not in your core competence, and limiting meetings with friends to those you care about. Shamarla stated, “My priorities are simple now: I just want family and I to stay alive.” Many echoed this, stating that family and loved ones are the number one priority now. Jera is being “scrupulous about what I bring back into my life in terms of commitments and standing activities. Even with my business, if the project is too complicated, this is not the right time to take on that addition.” Paris sums this up: “Things that used to be important no longer are, the bigger picture is clearer.”
There were also many comments that suggested help in terms of managing family pressures. For example, some are scheduling buffer times between tasks to check in with kids who need emotional or logistical support, creating checklists for home care tasks, taking shifts with partners, and grocery shopping during the week to avoid the crowds. Sheena puts it well: “There is no blueprint on how to deal with a pandemic raising a family with small children or even running your business from home….we are all human and that is our super power.”
3. Attitude Adjustments
Women who responded to these questions often observed internal changes they are feeling. Often this was described as a sort of call for empathy. Pandemic mantras were offered up, such as Danielle’s (“be kind”) and Toni‘s (“Balance, Grace, and Humanity”). With a similar theme, Cydney says we all should “extend amounts of grace to one another no matter where you fall on hierarchical ladder in your company. Life is not the same for any of us and…[this is a] gentle reminder that I have an option of how I do my job from home.” In a related vein, Ashley said she was focusing on giving herself the “grace to grow through the uncertainty. I’ve learned to loosen the reigns and be okay with a new rhythm.” Deepening her understanding of herself because of the opportunity sit, think and reflect,” Carmella has been able to “deeply define my ‘why’ and found my motivation again… I don’t feel like I’m in a rat race anymore… the extra time has helped me to take time to see and fully understand the bigger picture at hand.” Perhaps Toni sums it up best by saying. “This pandemic…is a gift in the form of a reset button wrapped in very ugly holiday paper… there is beauty in this moment but you have got to shut out the noise to see it.”
Some are finding that the pandemic has helped them evolve and grow in confidence. Keisha has greatly enjoyed her “time away from outside influences and energies” and Natasha says “I can no longer be worried or concerned with what I perceive others will think or say about me stepping out on my own to own my own business. I can no longer create limitations to my ability.” Likewise, Bethany confides that on a deeper level, “fear has been holding back my creativity.” Courtney says “I always wanted to be a creative person…it took a life-changing pandemic to expose that part of my life” resulting in writing and self-publishing a book.
Light Shining Through the Cracks
In commenting on the current state of the world in a podcast, Psychotherapist Esther Perel comments: “In the relational sense…a pandemic, a disaster, often will highlight the cracks and it will also highlight the light that shines through the cracks.”
Respondents identified many sources of light shining through the difficulties they are dealing with during this crisis. (One even said that the Institute courses were helpful!) The number one source they identified: Family. As Niharika put it, she feels support from “[an] understanding partner, smiles from my child, stability of work and home.” For Kim, as result of living in such close quarters, “[w]e all talk more and make time to really let each other know how we appreciate each other.” She has lost several family and friends during COVID times and because of it, “this it has made all of us really place value on the important things. Not stuff but PEACE.” Sheena pointed out, “we all share a commonality of being home. We are all making the best of what we are currently in and it helps in terms of encouraging each other.” Husbands, partners, fathers, mothers, children, and other relatives – all were mentioned in various comments as important sources of hope.
Entrepreneurs are also deriving strength from their clients. For example, Natalya says, “the light that has been shining all these months is the emotional support of my existing patients who want my business to survive and flourish.” This support has made her “really appreciate the bonds” that she established with them over time. Tonika echoed this, calling the pandemic “an experience like none other and one that I hope will never occur again.” She expresses thankfulness for ongoing client work, noting, “I have chosen to give my time to listen, laugh and learn. This has proven to aid in maintaining the normalcy that I need to thrive…I have given myself grace and been more than forgiving when I need to take a break.“ Mych’layla pointed out “[p]eople want hope…they need hope,” and added that the virtual setting for her meetings has allowed her clients to reach out to her despite the need for social distance: “The pandemic has strengthened my business relationships as well as those in my home.“
There were also expressions of hope for the future. Kimberly expressed this optimism: “[the pandemic] has been an unplanned sabbatical which is filling me back up so I can be more present in the future.” Talking about both the cracks and the light, Tonika addressed the “gaping hole” that has been revealed: “So many things have been revealed about our country- its politics, infrastructure, healthcare, racism, etc. ” As a result, she pointed out, there is the new level of awareness and an opportunity to change what had blindly been accepted as the norm. “The light has always been present but there has been apprehension to allow it to shine. In this time, I have seen the light and it shines brightly for me. I feel its warmth and I am renewed. I have honored this time despite the disruption it has caused to my former way of living…I have paused and acknowledged how I am feeling and what I can control.” Echoing many others, she goes on: “For me this has created an opportunity to connect and reconnect with family and friends in ways that I had not thought about. Things are not ideal but the power that is found in speaking the truth about pain, worry, and hope has fortified me. That power has been fuel to move my business forward and I am growing professionally.” She ends by saying “Today I am thankful that I see the light and the light is exactly what I need.”
*We have opted to use only first names in this report. Where we have permission, we occasionally mention company names.
This is the question that we asked participants which led to these thoughtful responses: Today is the first day of fall, typically a time of new beginnings, most clearly symbolized by the start of a new school year. But in 2020, instead of feeling like a fresh start, fall has been characterized by chaos in school openings, tragic weather events and a tense political environment. As a result, today we are reaching out to hear about how this has been impacting each of you. A recent episode of the Ted Radio Hour podcast featured Psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author Esther Perel. The discussion is focused on ideas about how to create lasting bonds in romance, family, and at work. Towards the end of the episode, the hosts asks Esther how she sees the pandemic impacting the world of relationships at work. Here are a few excerpts that caught our attention: “I don’t think we are working from home, I think we are working with home…[we] are inhabiting all our roles at the same time…it’s all happening in the same chair in the kitchen.” “What a pandemic does, for work and for personal, it rearranges your priorities…[like other disasters, it] is an accelerator because it bring loss to the forefront. At that moment, you say “What am I waiting for? I’m going to do what is important… I don’t want to accept things that the brevity of life doesn’t allow me to accept anymore.” Esther predicts a burst of creativity as a result of the pandemic because “there is a rearrangements of priorities and a reaching for the essence.” In her experience, people are having “much deeper conversations…there is a level of depth that is resurfacing that is very beautiful.” And finally, she comments: “In the relational sense…a pandemic, a disaster, often will highlight the cracks and it will also highlight the light that shines through the cracks.” Now it’s your turn. Please share your thoughts on any/all of these three questions: 1) How are you managing your work with home? 2) How have you experienced a rearrangement of priorities due to the pandemic? 3) For you, during the pandemic, what has been the “light shining through the cracks” in terms of relationships and your business?”
Click this link to access “Podcast Marketing – Building an Audience and Responding to Crisis”. In this webinar, Stephanie Cartin, Co-Founder of Socialfly and Entreprenista Media LLC, provides a deep dive into the most cutting-edge and effective podcast marketing strategies that exist today. She also discusses considerations when marketing your podcast during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as what “going virtual” means for you and your audience.
During the webinar, Cartin shared several examples of equipment, software and services that can assist in creating a professional podcast. These links include:
- Equipment suggestions for professional sounding podcasts:
- Mic Cable – Mogami Gold Studio Microphone Cable – 6 foot (link)
- Audio Interface – Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface (link)
- Boom arm – Rode PSA1 Desk-mounted Broadcast Microphone Boom Arm (link)
- Broadcast Mic -Rode PodMic Cardioid Dynamic Broadcast Microphone (link)
- Blue Yeti Mics – (link)
- Mic filters – (link)
- Need expert help on starting a podcast?
- Consider reaching out to Podcast Network Solutions.
- Need to create custom graphics and templates?
- Consider graphic design platform, Canva
Female leaders have been in the news in recent months. Recently, Forbes featured an article on the women leading those nations (e.g., New Zealand, Taiwan, Norway, Finland) who have done relatively better fighting the COVID-19 situation during the early months of the pandemic. They cited a systematic study done by U.K. academics Kambhampati and Garikipati (2020). The suggestion was an empathetic approach to the tradeoffs between the economy and loss of life was more a feature of female leaders as compared to their male counterparts. One of the authors of the study told Forbes, “From Bangladesh to Norway to Iceland, a study reveals that some characteristics that are typical to women in leadership positions were instrumental in the success of these countries: “it required big thinking, empathy, and good communication skills.”
Among the many reactions to the widely circulated news of the successes of women-led countries, we noted the response of Chamorro-Premuzic and Wittenberg-Cox in their article in the June issue of the Harvard Business Review. They argue that instead of focusing on male vs. female leadership styles, it would be more productive to redefine the general concept of a strong leader to include those “take care” aspects of female leadership. “In short, tales of strong female leaders succeeding through this crisis could lead to a change in the overarching narrative of what a strong leader looks like.” As a result, they suggest, “Society at large may become less surprised and more accepting of leaders (s)elected on their expertise, intelligence, curiosity, humility, empathy, and integrity.”
A recent example of strong leadership we have witnessed personally is a letter that Cornell University President Martha Pollack recently sent to the Cornell faculty and staff, as undergraduate and graduate teaching commences amidst great uncertainty and risk due to COVID-19. President Pollack opened by saying, “As we begin an academic year like no other, I want to thank everyone at Cornell who has worked so hard to make this reopening possible. “ She notes the “grace, creativity, and patience” of Cornell employees and acknowledges that people had “mapped new paths around every obstacle,” thanking everyone for their efforts.
President Pollack goes on to discuss the “new normal” and how it is “very far from normal,” pointing out that individuals and families are coping with a variety of challenges. She promises to work closely the leadership team “to explore possible ways of lessening the stress and the burden on our many employees with caregiving responsibilities.”
The next part is what stood out to us. President Pollack challenged everyone in leadership to “lead with empathy, and find every way you can to be flexible, to be understanding and to be generous.” To employees, she encouraged asking for “help when you need it.” For everyone, she said that there is a need “to change the ways we define success” and that it is essential to “be kind to others…and yourself.”
We think that President Pollack has demonstrated what Chamorro-Premuzic and Wittenberg-Cox calls the “expertise, intelligence, curiosity, humility, empathy, and integrity” that should be the basis of selecting great leaders. And we agree that if all leaders were chosen with these characteristics in mind, the world would be better off.
Finally, we are heartened by the nature of the entrepreneurial leadership we have witnessed among participants of the Institute. Your letters and responses to us have shown a deep level of concern for your own employees and your community. You are actively supporting other small business owners. Whether or not this empathy and integrity is a result of your socialization as a female or some other force, it is a demonstration of great leadership and we think it is worthy of emulation by others.
- Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas, and Avivah Wittenberg-Cox. “Will the Pandemic Reshape Notions of Female Leadership?” Harvard Business Review, June 26, 2020. https://hbr.org/2020/06/will-the-pandemic-reshape-notions-of-female-leadership
- Garikipati, Supriya, and Uma Kambhampati. “Women Leaders Are Better at Fighting the Pandemic.” VoxEU.Org (blog), June 21, 2020. https://voxeu.org/article/women-leaders-are-better-fighting-pandemic.
Click this link to access the August 18, 2020 webinar entitled “Raising Capital During A Crisis: Launch and Grow Your Business With Crowdfunding”
Olivia Owens, Head of Partnerships at IFundWomen, discusses how to leverage crowdfunding for your business. You’ll come away from this workshop with a honed pitch, a network map, a winning rewards strategy, and a marketing plan for your crowdfunding campaign.
A few weeks ago, we reached out to acknowledge the difficulties of dealing with the chaos created by both the COVID-19 pandemic and recent uprisings over police violence. In addition, we asked you about how technologies are playing a role in your business life. We noted that it can be hard to stay optimistic, but facing challenges with a positive mindset is part of being an entrepreneur. In addition, we were interested to learn about your uses of technology – so-called “tech hacks” – to create, operate and grow your businesses.
“It’s been a heavy time indeed”
Many people prefaced their recommendations on “tech hacks” with a general commentary about the current environment. Latasha Jackson (Virtual Reality Real Estate Advisor) commented, “It’s beautiful, encouraging and powerful to see our country coming together during these unprecedented times.” Others, like Chanae Richards (Oloro Interiors) echoed Latasha’s optimism and said she expects the ultimate result will be change, but also said, ”It’s been a heavy time indeed. This is a watershed moment. And some days, making heads of tails of these times can be crushing.”
Although some noted that their businesses had come to a standstill, others have found opportunities amidst the chaos. For example, Barbara Oldums (Industrial Solutions Company) said, “We received more orders [for their industrial wipes] in two days that totaled more than what we sold in all of 2019.” Jera Oliver (Mahogany Manifesto) noted that technology actually made it possible to start her holistic wellness business during the pandemic. Victoria Chuard (Petit Pippi) commented that, “This period has…been a big opportunity for e-commerce businesses and tools like chat bot and social media paid marketing.”
Faced with a decline in business, some entrepreneurs have used the COVID-19 period as a time for pivoting their businesses. For example, Vanessa Bartley is pivoting to become a web developer and is using online resources to teach herself design skills, digital marketing and project management. Her goal is to build a “no-code” platform to lower the barrier for entry into tech. Carolina Vasquez (PacificTrade.global) pointed out the need for flexibility, saying that in the face of uncertainty and lack of control, entrepreneurs have to recognize, “whatever worked in previous time[s], may not work from now on. We have to explore new opportunities and be receptive to change.”
There were many ways that women commented on how to help others during the pandemic. Some, like Stacy Cassio (Pink Mentor Network) has contributed by writing articles on topics like mentoring in a work-from-home (WFH) culture. Others, like Yawntreshia Colemen (Coleman & Company) is interested in ways to support other owners so she began to use StreamYard “to interview small business owners so they can share how we all can support them during COVID-19 and the civil unrest/protests.” Chante Harris (Capalino+Company) is using Patreon, a platform that “has created a unique and creative way for individuals, organizations, and companies” to support organizations like the membership she is building for women of color in sustainability. In a similar vein, Renita Martin (Browzilla) co-created a website called Creatives are Essential that allows creatives to who need support to find individuals who might either donate or provide social media amplification. Susie Galyardt (XIOSS) reported that she uses various technologies to enable a virtual desktop interface so her clients can have their remote employees to work safely and still have the “feel” they are working directly from their corporate office. Others innovated ways to attract new clients. For example, Tonya Cross (Accented Glory) was part of a pop-up retail program for Black women entrepreneurs hosted by Thynk Global. “[T]he mission was to help small businesses boost online sales and presence during COVID-19. It was also a great opportunity to virtually meet and engage with other women in business.” Stacie Sussman, (SSR Digital Group), recently featured on the podcast Mind Like a Mentor , said “COVID-19 is a perfect IRL [in real life] example of where things can just go poof! We urge every company to take a hard look and ensure their operations are in place.” She has been hosting free webinars and free consults to build awareness for her business and also opens up her calendar to meet with at least 3 new connections each week. Stacie also created a “formal business development outreach campaign to cold prospects to get in front of new leads.”
Toni Hernandez (Toni Hernandez Brown North America) asked her clients (leaders and founders) the question: “In today’s climate, every moment is calling on us to show up as a better leader. What are you doing different so you can show up better for your team?” She shared a particularly meaningful answer from one client. “These last 3 weeks have been increasingly more difficult than others. Partly because never has my life intersected on ALL fronts: I am a leadership trainer + entrepreneur. I am the wife of a white male law enforcement officer. I am “brown” by America’s standards. I am proud of all it. I have the gift of being a visionary-seeing the world through an infinite lens in a time when I feel bombarded by finite attitudes expressed in various ways, ie. conversations, news outlets, social media, etc. The bigger picture is what inspires me. In my opinion, what we are experiencing is a colossal awakening. Our reality is less about winning and more about advancement for both, businesses and humanity.”
Website and Social Media Technologies
In addition to reacting to the current national and global environment, Institute participants answered questions about what free and paid technologies are helping their businesses. There were many mentions of what has become the standard in social media posting platforms, such as FaceBook,Twitter, and Instagram. A large number of responses focused on the use of technologies to build websites and manage social media. For example, Buffer, Canva, Flypaper, Lead Pages, Kajabi, Mighty Networks, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix were mentioned as tools for creating social media posts and/or building websites. For scheduling content on social media, participants used applications such as Hootsuite, WhentoPost, Later, and Planoly.
There were also many mentions of ways to communicate with clients through Instagram and Facebook (FB) Messenger. JaVett Love (Javettlove.Inteletravel) uses her travel page and group on FB to “stay connected and interact with my travel members also with the option to go live and have hangout sessions.” She also suggests using professional FB groups to “help you network and expand your industry knowledge and brand while forming better customer relationships and experiences on a more personal level.” Communication with customers via email was also a common task, making use of email marketing platforms such as Zapier, Constant Contact, Mailchimp, Flodesk, and Klaviyo.
In order to put their best foot forward online, respondents also suggested some technologies for touching up what they post, either in terms of written content (e.g., Grammerly, Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe Illustrator, WordSwag) or to improve their digital personal appearance (e.g., Facetune). Connie Kwan (Product Maestro), who teaches business storytelling, takes visual enhancement to a new level. Because she does so much virtual training, she uses Figma to create a background with her company’s logo for use during video conferences and also uses Snap Camera and its Lens Studio to add makeup to her face digitally.
Many participants mentioned ways they are adding video and/or audio to their websites and social media posts. For example, Renita Martin (Browzilla) uses the IGTV video platform to “create buzz for new product launches.” Others use products like eCamm or StreamYard to do video streaming of events. Latasha Jackson (Commercial, Residential and Virtual Real Estate Advisor) has been innovating in the real estate space, using the Immoviewer app for 3D tours in homes and various technologies (FaceTime, Marco Polo and What’s App) for live video tours. She also uses BombBomb to add video to email invitations for her webinars.
Organizing your life and business
Some of the technologies mentioned by the entrepreneurs who responded were helpful in organizing and running one’s business and personal lives. Here are some examples:
- Zoom, Google Meet, Go to meeting, Microsoft teams, Facetime – team meetings
- Go to webinar, Webinar jam, Whereby, Jitsi meet, BlueJean – video conferencing and webinars.
- Virtual Coffee Break – create coffee groups.
Calendars and Project Management
- Calendly, Deal Room, Voxer (team communication), Asana, Notion.so, Slack -team communication.
- FunRetro, Miro, Mural – visual collaboration, planning.
- Timelogger app, Pomodoro Technique, Monday, 17hats – time management.
- Accuity – appointment scheduling.
Marketing & eCommerce
- Google Business Pages – advertising. For example, Shakia Guest,(KissBTS) uses it “to make our small business more visible since we are a fully online accessories/apparel site.”
- Shopify – For example, Arion Long (Femly ), said she has used it to support her clients “in a manner that was intimate, while providing much needed information to help increase self-care.”
- WooCommerce, Etsy, Amazon – ecommerce.
- Active Campaign – CRM (customer relationship management).
- Wave – accounting.
- Dubsado – range of office management.
- Waveapp – invoicing.
- Stripe, Paypal – online payments.
- Docusign – signing of contracts.
- Headspace – to manage stress.
- eCornell Keynotes Live Webcasts for encouragement. For example, Ana Garnica stated she was devastated by the pandemic but these “keep me having faith.”
Product and Event management
- Glideapps – turns spreadsheets into apps.
- Evite, Eventbrite – invitations and scheduling.
Specific to Healthcare Industry
- Simple Practice, doxy.me – HIPPA compliant electronic health records software that allows for secure videoconferencing capabilities.
Specific to Fashion Industry
- Forma– photorealistic try-ons. For example, Tempestt Storm (Fits4Yoga) uses it so client can try things on virtually during a time when a store visit is not feasible or safe.
Specific to Agricultural Industry
- Garden Catch – marketing local fruits and vegetables. This website was co-created by Andrea Margida, founder of Morning Mist Farm. It is a free app for small growers to connect directly with customers who want to buy local produce.
Specific to Online Learning
- Teachable, Thinkific – online course development. Nicolette Piaubert, used the latter to create a tutoring center (Gab-Nic Excelsior Nursing Tutor)and liked the feature of “testdriving” the tool before making a full commitment.
Specific to Hospitality Industry
- DinDin – restaurant app. Valrie Grant (GeoTechVision) mentioned this as a contactless restaurant solution that “allows booking a table, pre-ordering meals, digital ordering, checking in at a restaurant, in app alert when ready to be seated, digital payment, etc.” so the diner can “step into a safe restaurant” without fears of touching a physical menu.
Connecting with Other Small Businesses
We also asked Institute participants about how technology is impacting the way they connect with other small businesses. For Erica Card, (Ericakes) YouTube and Instagram have been helpful to create networks and meet other business owners. Many mention Facebook and Fiver as places to find/use/support others. Kenya Bradshaw, (The Gift Wraps), featuring authentic African fashion and craftsmanship, is part of Facebook groups that share resources. Of the Facebook groups she has joined, Kenya’s favorite serves as a useful tool for members to useful information. Kenya also noted that Instagram provides affordable access to training, webinars and video chats with experts or other business leaders. In a similar vein, Shakia Guest (KissBTS) uses Alignable which helps local small businesses connect with each other and Carol Anderson (Anderson Finance Consulting) taps into alumni connections with Alumni Alliances. Other technologies for connecting included: Small Local Business Groups on FB, Nextdoor, Melanin Enterprise (connects businesses of color with people of color) and NAPO’s (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) interactive networking tool, POINT.
LinkedIn Recruiter and Google maps were mentioned by Paulette Hernandez, (VTS3), who said, “I look for X business industry around me, and if it says ‘claim this business,’ I contact the owner and offer my services.” Hillary Scott (Heck Yes Y’all) finds Instagram a great place to find other business owners. “[T]he ones I have connected with have been so supportive, even if they don’t have a direct connection to what I do.”
Wish Lists for Technology
Our final question was: “If you could talk to a group of talented tech folks, what would you tell them to design to help small businesses like yours?” The wish lists for technology were broad and varied. Before presenting some of the the categories and recommendations, consider these overarching suggestions. Tempestt Storm (Fits4Yoga) and several others ask the expert to make technologies more accessible and relevant to small businesses rather than designing for corporate entities. Stacie Sussman (SSR Digital Group) advised those targeting the small business owners to: “Keep it simple. I know there’s so many buzzwords to overcomplicate things. The more clear, concise, and solution-oriented your value proposition is you will prevail over the competition.” Now, on to the specific wishes expressed by the respondents.
Several women noted that there is a need to design more diverse digital banking solutions. For example, Barbara Oldums (Industrial Solutions Company) wishes that loan evaluation technology could include a format that bank loan officers could use to truly measure smaller companies, saying, “Something like this would separate us from the model bank loan underwriters use for their big company’s loan approvals and give too many denials to Micro Businesses.” Victoria Chuard (Petit Pippi) wants a technology to help her to “get realtime visibility into suppliers’ inventory levels and timeliness in communications, like an API to connect to platforms like Shopify, Trade Gecko, etc.”
A desire to connect and get referrals to other entrepreneurs with similar needs inspired Hillary Scott (Heck Yes Y’all), to ask for a hub for folks to “bounce creative ideas and feedback off one another.” Others asked for an online social platform to support and highlight entrepreneurs in specific demographics (women, Black, Latinx, etc.). Others wanted a directory that would list businesses by location, and include factors that could be used to facilitate one-to-one matches by interest and values. Other suggestions included a tool to help find freelancers for design, and assistance with marketing, and aides to technology challenges, like “appifying” your product.
A few respondents were looking for more effective, fast-growing forms of advertisement via online platforms. Others asked for a more affordable and effective way to post ads to various programs platforms and help with an affiliate app to bring additional traffic. (Note: we found this list on top mobile affiliate networks.)
Social Media/Website Posting Support
When it comes to social media, Felicia Lewis (Belle Chic Noire) would like to see a platform that allows posting to be chronological, rather than driven by algorithms. Jaharah Muhammad (Penny Loves Fitness) has experienced the pain of sharing bandwidth (she had to add another line) and as a result wishes for a feedback-free way “to streamline internet bandwidth for internet applications that utilize video and music.” Others are looking for easy ways to add content to their sites. For example, Dr. Natalya Yakirevich (Cumberland Family Chiropractic) would like “an easy way to create a series of 2 min video snippets that business owners could easily put themselves on their website, on Google or other social media pages that would highlight something about their business, give tips, show how they run their business or how a treatment takes place.”
Small Business Support and Advice
Erica Card, (Ericakes) and others requested an easy way to find resources, such as an online Information Desk or something to guide new startups, especially local checklists with all the relevant guidelines for new businesses. (When Erica started her business, she misunderstood the rules and didn’t realize she was not allowed to start a home bakery.) Several others requested planning and organization tools, such as digital planner that combines the best of project planning and everyday task planning.
Respondents were also interested in the ways technology could help them with their client bases. For example, Renita Martin (Browzilla) is trying to build “a small but mighty brow community” and wishes she had an application that would let her clients schedule, pay, review and upload photos. LeKeisha Grant (Ambitious and Annoyed) thinks it would be nice to have an application for conversation that wasn’t attached to social media so as to “ keep the view ‘clean’.”
Tech Help and Virtual Reality
Finally, contributors offered some innovative thoughts on approaches to technology. For example, Brieanna Singletary (Brieanna Bugatti) is looking for a way to “integrate IGTV and YouTube using an iPhone.” Others want help making an app, like Reia Chapman (Social Justice Emotional Support Collective) who wants to “streamline communication with an app for free mental health support.” Latasha Jackson (Commercial, Residential and Virtual Real Estate Advisor) wants to be able to bring virtual reality (VR) to life, so her avatar could guide buyers looking at property. Similarly Paulette Hernandez, (VTS3), envisions an app for virtually trying things on. Susie Galyardt (XIOSS) explains that VR is coming into its own: “This historic pandemic event and resulting isolation, catapulted Virtual Reality technology in business and healthcare from ‘this is nice to imagine’ to ‘we need this now.’ Virtual Reality is no longer just for gamers and entertainment. The current solutions available are expansive and include corporate training, soft skill training, VR for multiple teams, corporate collaboration, VR continuing education, Immersive 3D data presentations, and VR sanitary training, just to name a few, as the possibilities are limitless.”
We have learned from asking this and other questions from participants that our Institute entrepreneurs have resilience, ingenuity and resourcefulness. By using technology to create, grow and cultivate their businesses, despite the crises we face in this country and globally, they constantly show their innovative attitude and ability to thrive in uncertainty. Even though these times can be crushing, we believe in all of you!