Women, Take Your Spot at The Table

women take their spot at the table

It is safe to say that there is a cultural consensus that based on gender, wages and venture capital investments are not equal. What is also a consensus is that today, women are fearlessly moving into leadership positions, disrupting our old notion of what ‘success’ is and looks like. I will not dismiss the fact that there is still a long way to go. We still have a low representation in the most valued companies in the US aka ‘unicorns’ - 16 out of 134 have a co-founder that is female.

n a 2018 study by American Express, found that "the number of women-owned businesses surged 58%, while all businesses increased only 12%". It also found that women are part of stimulating the national economy by providing close to 9 million jobs with nearly a collective 1.7 trillion in reported revenue. As an entrepreneur myself, these stats are vital and encouraging.

To add to the positive trends, this year, two women lead companies, Glossier and Rent The Runway, became “unicorns.” That means they are officially women lead companies with a valuation of/over 1 billion each.

Women across the country are placing bets on themselves, and maybe it's time for you as well. Before you take that leap, here is an opportunity to learn from some fantastic women — leaders across various industries who are shaking things up and killing it every day as entrepreneurs.

akvile defazio president of AKVertise

Akvile Defazio is the President at AKvertise and works with startups, small to medium size businesses, entertainers, and large brands to achieve a variety of goals through paid social advertising and organic social media marketing.

What piece of advice would you give to women who are in the beginning stages of building a company you wish someone had given you?

Network. Get out there, meet other business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals in your line of work. To do so, seek out conferences, local events such as Chamber of Commerce networking events that often times also have a group within that focuses on Women In Business, and see what's going on, and Meetup.com. Networking has been the primary source of my success over the years. It can be uncomfortable if you're just getting started but rest assured, it does get easier with time and the more you attend events, the more people will notice you and you'll begin creating relationships. Business, after all, is about establishing, nurturing, and growing relationships. By networking, I've gained leads, clients, employees, partners, and even lifelong friends. You never know who you will meet and what it can evolve into.

How do you define success for your business and yourself?

Freedom, financial security, and ultimately, contentment. Running your own business is no easy feat, but it's the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your life. You not only have the responsibilities that come along with it but the authority as well to make decisions. For me, success is to be able to live comfortably, be able to earn more than if I were working for someone else, I can step out of the office at any time to run an errand or make an appointment when most others are at work, and those small freedoms amount to contentment. Being in charge of your own journey when it comes to your livelihood is invaluable.

When did you know it was the ‘right’ time to start your business? Were you, right? Or is there ever a good time?

Like with most things in life, the right time is when you make it. Or at least make the best of it. Sometimes, it's serendipitous. I enjoyed every place I was employed at prior to launching my own social media advertising agency, however, after a number of years, I realized I wanted to grow more, learn more, and not only have the responsibilities but the authority as well. There was nowhere left for me to grow upward or at least any time soon at the last company I worked for and it got to a tipping point where I yearned to do something more, bigger, better, more diverse. If I can offer an impactful piece of advice, seek out a mentor. My longtime close friend was running her own agency for a decade and even though we could speak candidly about anything, I was too nervous to ask her if I could shadow her for a day. Nine months later, I reached a point where I no longer wanted to be employed by someone else and I emailed her to ask. She said it couldn't have been better timing as she wanted to scale back and have more time to build another unrelated business. She said, "I'll do you one better, I will give you some of my clients and teach you everything I know."

Who knew that such a small question would have such a large impact on not only my life but hers as well. Now, 4.5 years later, my business is thriving and she remains a mentor and a friend for life. If you have any question, big or small, ask someone that you would like to be a mentor. Your timing might just be impeccable, too!

Mindy Weinstein Founder and CEO of Market Mindshift

Mindy Weinstein is the Founder and CEO of Market MindShift, they help businesses get more customers by providing SEO, content creation, social media, and website development.

What piece of advice would you give to women who are in the beginning stages of building a company you wish someone had given you?

Where do I start? I think this will also come down to personality and not just being a woman. I am not a risk taker and don’t view myself as an entrepreneur, but I did muster up the courage to step out on my own. I wish someone had told me how terrifying, and rewarding, it would be to build your own business. It is scary not having the stability of a regular paycheck, but you have to move past that fear and not let it drive your decisions. In my business, I created milestones and scaled my operations accordingly. About a year after I started my company, I remember standing outside my office, thinking about my talented staff and feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I still recall the exact thought that went through my mind—“I did this.”

As a CEO, what kind of support system do you think future CEOs need to think about creating for themselves?

You need a mentor and also a group of peers who will support you and provide guidance as you need it. My mother is actually my mentor. She is a successful businesswoman who overcame all of the challenges and barriers in her way. I often go to her for advice on my business. A mastermind group, or similar type of group, helps too. They can be your sounding board and also help problem solve. Many times they will come up with ideas or suggestions that you hadn’t thought of.

How do you define success for your business and yourself?

Success for me is not driven by dollars or the number of clients. Instead, it is knowing that I am helping people. “People” could include clients, employees, contractors, colleagues, future business professionals, students, family, friends and so on. If I can make a difference in one person’s life each day (this is something I have written on my bathroom mirror), I have succeeded.

Taylor Loren Head of Content Marketing at Later

Taylor Loren is the Head of Content Marketing at Later who is the #1 visual marketing platform for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Now with over 2 million users globally, Later is a member of the Instagram Partner Program and a Pinterest Marketing Partner.

What piece of advice would you give to women who are in the beginning stages of building their career in the marketing technology industry?

It’s important that you are able to learn and grow by actually putting your skills into practice. If you’re in an entry-level job without a lot of room to try new things, create a project to work on on the side so that you can do and learn more than your 9-5 is giving you. When I’m hiring, I value actual work examples with concrete numbers more than your degree on your resume. So for example, if you want to become a social media manager for a cool brand, then the best way to learn is by actually doing social media and trying to grow your accounts - if you don’t get to do that in your job, then creating a project or account to work on on the side can help prove you have the skills to step up in your next role.

Setting the right expectations. What does it take to ascend to a leadership position in an organization?

I’ve mostly worked in startups, which I love because you have to wear a million different hats, and I think that has been instrumental in making me knowledgeable about many different areas of marketing. Also in startups, you are usually doing a lot more than what your job title would typically include. Because of this I honestly don’t have much experience climbing a leadership ladder, and I’m still learning myself! I do think it’s important to cultivate great relationships within your company, actually care about your co-workers or team members, and to focus more on your work and results than what your next title or promotion will be. That being said, it’s still important to know your worth!

As the head of a department, what kind of support ecosystem have you built for yourself which you think has been part of your success? Any advice to other women about how to build their support ecosystem?

Thanks to the internet, I’ve made a ton of friends who work in similar roles at bigger companies and high profile brands. We have a private Facebook group which acts as a safe space for us, and it’s been incredible to see the real-life support and relationships cultivated through a simple Facebook group. I think it’s incredibly important to make friends with people in your industry who understand the day-to-day grind of your job, and it’s so nice to have people to vent to sometimes who just *get it.* If you want to build your own support ecosystem, you don’t necessarily have to attend real-life marketing events, there’s a lot of networking you can do through social media, especially if you live in a more remote location.

How do you define success for yourself professionally and personally?

This is a hard one! I think success for myself personally is that I’ve created a life where I can do what’s most important to me. Work/life balance is extremely important to me as I struggle with anxiety and depression, and since our marketing team is fully remote, I am able to just hunker down and work from home if I’m not feeling up to seeing people in the office. So to me being able to balance travel with spending time with my family and taking care of my mental health is a success.

Professionally, I am definitely a Type A personality, which can actually make defining success more difficult because I am always wanting to prove that I am “successful” by achieving the typical career milestones of job titles, promotions, and raises. But I don’t think that is what true success is - if I was to dig a little deeper it would be having pride in the work that I’ve done and the brand that I’ve built, along with creating a great work environment and empowering my team to do their best work and achieve their goals.

Is there a connection between personal branding and success as an entrepreneur?

Absolutely. Personal branding allows you to create and tell your own story, instead of having other people define what you are all about it. Especially now, brands are becoming more personal and authentic, and just like someone would follow a brand on Instagram, they’re now following the founders too. There’s a whole set of powerful women who have essentially now become famous or influencers because of their companies, like Sara Blakely from Spanx, Alli Webb from Drybar, Hilary Kerr from Clique Brands, Jen Atkin from Ouai, Emily Weiss from Glossier, etc. I think that female millennials are also really drawn to following these founders as role models for their own career success, and that’s all because of personal branding.

Heide Evans Founder of Women of Paris

Heide Evans is the founder of Women of Paris, the first Paris walking tours devoted entirely to women’s history and influence.

What piece of advice would you give to women who are in the beginning stages of building a company you wish someone had given you?

My biggest piece of advice would be don’t sweat the small stuff. I think it’s very easy to become overwhelmed by the immense task of starting a business and allow all the little hurdles you encounter along to way to get on top of you. Stress and work, unfortunately, go hand in hand but if you can keep calm and carry on you’ll do a lot better for it. Sometimes things don’t always work out the way you were expecting or hoping but they often work out for the better. And give yourself a break every now and then!

As a Founder, what kind of support system do you think future Founders need to think about creating for themselves?

I’m discovering right now how very important it is to be supported and have enough people around to get the job done. At present, it’s just me and the tour guides and so, I’m looking into investment to be able to employ an extra pair of hands and get things moving along more quickly and smoothly. It’s also wonderful to have support from family and friends and I’m very lucky to have that.

How do you define success for your business and yourself?

I’m always most proud when I get to see first hand how much joy people get out of experiencing the tours. I recently shared a tour with a couple of ladies who were just so excited to discover us and commented afterward that the world would be a better place if everyone took the tour. I want to be part of a positive change in the world and it’s so encouraging and very moving to hear that.

When did you know it was the ‘right’ time to start your business? Were your, right? Or is there ever a good time?

I’d recently just lost a job and had a bit more time on my hands and so I thought, it’s now or never. If you have an idea and the time to devote to building something then there’s really no time like the present! I live my life by the mantra, fake it till you make it. No one knows what they’re doing, we’re all making it up as we go along... and the adventure of doing so is a lot of fun!

Each of the entrepreneurs featured today had a unique journey. So will you. Remember to measure your success and to learn from each win and mistake. Create the circle of support around yourself and most importantly be true to your own story.

Mireya PradoComment