This article from Time shares examples of small businesses banding together rather than competing head to head to weather the challenges presented by public health necessitated lockdowns. By thinking both creatively and collaboratively, these businesses have been able to stay afloat while also building a community stronger than the one before COVID-19.
Click this link to access the May 19, 2020 webinar entitled “Your Personal Brand: Leveraging Your Unique Knowledge and Experience”. Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi (who is also a facilitator in our program) discusses how to develop a personal brand that can help to set the direction for a career pivot and transition.
Click this link to see the slide deck she references in the webinar.
Click here to access Liz Ngonzi’s website.
The “Let’s Work” speaker series sponsored by The Laundress invites female entrepreneurs and thought leaders to share their thoughts during this unique time in our world. The speaker series is happening on different days over the next several weeks at noon (ET). The series is also exciting in that there are breakoff sessions (zoom rooms) for the attendees to network amongst themselves in addition to the keynote speaker. Click this link to register (for free!) for the session. Upcoming speakers include:
- April 24, 12:00pm EST — Lisa Price: Founder of Carol’s Daughter @iamlisaprice
- April 28, 12:00pm EST — Sophia Roe: Chef, Wellness Expert, Founder of Pillow Talk Sessions @sophia_roe
- May 1, 12:00pm EST — Patty Rodriguez: Best-selling Author, Co-founder of Lil’ Libros and Patty Rodriguez Jewelry, Senior Producer for On Air with Ryan Seacrest @pattyrodriguez
- May 5, 12:00pm EST — Renae Bluitt: Creator of She Did That (Netflix), Founder of In Her Shoes Blog @iamrenaebluitt
- May 8, 12:00pm EST — Amani Al-Khatahtbeh: Founder of MuslimGirl.com, Congressional Candidate New Jersey 2020 @amani
- May 12, 12:00pm EST — Jaclyn Johnson: Founder of Create & Cultivate @jaclynrjohnson + Lindsey Boyd: Co-founder of The Laundress @thelaundress
- May 15, 12:00pm EST — Erin Patinkin: Co-founder of Ovenly & Seemore Meats and Veggies, Co-host of Start to Sale @erinpatinkin
- May 18, 12:00pm EST — Cyndi Ramirez: Founder of Chillhouse & Chill Times @cyndiramirez + Gwen Whiting: Co-founder of The Laundress @thelaundress
Despite women owning 40% of all the businesses in the U.S., in 2018, less than 2 percent of women-owned businesses generated more than $1 million in sales (and that percentage is even lower when you only look at women of color). This article in Entrepreneur explores ten common mistakes that include: trying to do it all yourself, not spending enough time working with mentors and coaches, lack of a cash runway and not understanding the scalable aspects of the business.
Two articles appeared recently discussing the importance of more openly sharing personal salary information as well as financial management strategies. “Build Your Squad For Financial Success” appeared in Entrepreneur and focuses on how women of color can help lift each other up by more openly sharing salary ranges, negotiation tips and business collaboration.
A New York Times piece published the same week entitled, “I’ll Share My Salary Information if You Share Yours” shared how more and more women are openly discussing topics that were historically considered taboo – salaries, stock options, signing bonuses, negotiation tactics and both “dream” and “walk-away” numbers.
While most entrepreneurs will never end up on the reality show Shark Tank, there are interesting lessons to be learned from those who have. From intellectual property protection to accepting feedback to envisioning your outcome to maintaining confidence to believing your gut, this piece on Medium shares important takeaways from ten women who pitched to the “sharks”.
We asked students enrolled in the Institute a question** about your experiences with sponsors, those individuals who take actions to “pull you along,” helping you in specific ways to reach your entrepreneurial goals, as distinct from mentors, who help guide you and advise you about your business. The most common answer (30%) was either “I didn’t know about sponsors” or “I haven’t been able to attract sponsors. To help those who have not yet benefited from sponsorship, we share here the ideas from the rest of the respondents about 1) how they found a sponsor, 2) how they positioned themselves for sponsorship, and 3) benefits they received from their sponsors.
How To Be a Great Protégé
The person seeking a sponsor is called a protégé. Many women wrote about the important factors in becoming a protégé who is useful to the sponsor. It is critical to think about the needs and issues facing the prospective sponsor, so that you can highlight the ways in which the relationship can be beneficial to both parties. A sponsor seeks credible, talented protégés whose accomplishments will shine light on him/her. One respondent described this as “being value-creating.” Respondents said that to be identified as a promising protégé, you must ask the right questions, which will lead you to better understand the context and needs of the other individual. As one respondent put it, “your path and the potential sponsor’s path must be able to align.” Another woman wrote about the importance of being intentional about building relationships before you need it, or as she said “make deposits before withdrawals.”
On the topic of credibility, several wrote about the need for the entrepreneur to express with clarity their vision, mission, outcomes and needs/goals. As one put it, you need to speak “in clear, concise, and simple language with authority and enthusiasm in a manner that carries conviction.” Many also focused on being oneself to convey authenticity so that you as a protégé come across as genuine. Sponsors look for signs that a prospective protégé has a strong work ethic, exhibits loyalty, has useful expertise and can be of reciprocal value. Reputation matters – as one person put it: “attitude will always impact your altitude.”
Finally, several emphasized the importance of going out of your comfort zone and asking someone. This can be difficult for women, if they have been socialized with the idea that asking for something for oneself is selfish, pushy, or as one woman called it “being a gold-digger.” To make the ask more justifiable, one woman wrote: “one way to ensure I am attracting what I need is to make sure I am aware of what my top three needs are in the first place.” Other entrepreneurs mentioned the gender issues as well, saying that, “when women are seeking help from men, there is this subtle attitude that women should be giving up something in return.” The same respondent went on to say that in her experience, women in leadership roles were not as inclined to help her as a woman. Another comment came from someone who thinks sponsorship is “an edge men have over women in the business space.” She attributed this to the idea that women “see ourselves as competitors instead of collaborators.”
Where To Find Prospective Sponsors
The women who responded suggested a wide variety of options for finding a sponsor. One said “start with a mentor,” as a sort of building block of support. Another suggested joining business forums and networking events as the first step in identifying someone who one might develop as a sponsor. Regional business incubators, small business/entrepreneurship organizations and business owner groups are other places to network for prospective sponsors.
Another option is to look among your customers. For example, one woman said that her success at providing high level service to her clients led to them opening doors to another set of clients that she otherwise could not access from a position external to their companies.
Benefits of Sponsorship
If you conquer your hesitation, find the mutual alignment of goals and project credibility and capability, the rewards of sponsorship are many. Benefits that were mentioned included:
- Introductions and invitations to dinners or other events.
- Providing access otherwise not available.
- Nominations for roles (she would not have applied for).
- Motivation when the sponsor holds the entrepreneur accountable.
- Cross-promotion opportunities.
- Deferred costs.
- Free media coverage.
- Help with a business plan and/or pitch.
- Recommendation for bigger opportunities.
- Introductions to new clients/customers.
In conclusion, here are some references to other resources that can be helpful. Dr. Streeter recommends the book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Although the book focuses more on corporate life, the concepts and strategies are equally applicable to entrepreneurs. If you don’t have time to read, here’s quick video of Sylvia.
One respondent, Stacy Cassio, Founder and CEO of Pink Mentor, also shared a podcast called “Work-It, Girl!” where Stacy was interviewed on networking and sponsorship. You can hear it here.
**Question sent to Institute Participants: Does your network as an entrepreneur include both mentors and sponsors? The distinction is important. Mentors can help guide you and advise you about your business but sponsors are those individuals who take actions to “pull you along,” helping you in specific ways to reach your entrepreneurial goals.
In a recent article, Alison Koplar Wyatt, president of Girlboss was quoted saying “Women have a tendency to collect mentors….Men go after sponsors.” In many entrepreneurial ecosystems, potential sponsors (those with the power to take action to help) are male (and white), so it can be challenging for female entrepreneurs to build a network with the right sponsorship power.
Our questions to you:
- What is your best strategy for attracting sponsors who are “above you” in your business ecosystem?
- How have sponsors helped you in your entrepreneurial efforts?
This article in Harvard Business Review states that while the traditional focus on helping female entrepreneurs has centered on improving access to financial capital or providing training to help women build new skills, another pivotal factor for success is often overlooked: access to networks. The article stresses the importance of building out networks that will support women and encourages networks to be built on the principles of intent, inclusion, and interaction.
Being an entrepreneur can often mean that you are going it alone. This is all the more reason to create a group of trusted women who you can reach out to for advice or feedback. This August 26, 2019 Forbes article shares five tips on how to build this power circle and develop your own community of support!
The best way to become empowered is to help empower others. Check out this June 13, 2019 article in Forbes which outlines ten ways you can help empower other women in your professional network.