My heart was pounding and my mouth was dry. I could hardly believe the words I was uttering as I called my friend that first day to tell him I’d left the company I’d been working with for eight years. He was among the first to hear I’d started my own public relations and marketing firm, a new women-owned business.
Yes, I’d been planning it for some time, was experienced in my field, and had many contacts. But, taking that big step off the ledge was still hard.
My friend George, an attorney with whom I’d shared a client, was more than gracious and supportive. In fact, on the spot, he said his client needed assistance with messaging and media coaching just in case the litigation became public. So, just like that, I was off to a great start.
It never occurred to me that, in 2000, I was part of a national trend of more women starting businesses.
A report published annually by American Express breaks down many interesting facts about women-owned businesses.
• Every day in 2017-2018, there were 1,821 new women-owned businesses added in the U. S.
• Four out of every 10 businesses (40%) in the United States is now women-owned.
• As of 2018, women of color account for 47% of all women-owned businesses. An estimated 5,824,300 women-of-color-owned businesses employ 2,230,600 people and generate $386.6 billion in revenue.
While the 58% growth rate in the number of women-owned businesses over the past 11 years is astronomical when compared to the 12% growth rate among all firms, it surprised me to learn how small the average women-owned business is.
In fact, women own 40% of the nation’s businesses but employ just 8% of the total private sector workforce and contribute 4.3% of total revenues.
Many small business owners may not have the desire to employ more people or expand. They have designed businesses that give them the lifestyles they want. American Express refers to people who start a business to better accommodate their family responsibilities or other obligations as “lifestyle entrepreneurs.”
They also point out that many women, in particular, are “necessity entrepreneurs.” They became business owners because they could not find good employment options.
There is nothing wrong with micro businesses. However, just think of the economic benefit that this nation could see if all those who would like to grow their small businesses had the resources they need to reach new levels.
I’ve had some advantages when it comes to being a business owner, mostly attitudinal. I grew up watching my father run his small business with a few employees and my mother balancing the books. My professional mentor also was an excellent role model who taught me how to be a consultant. Even so, when it comes to employing people, diverting a large amount of time to chasing the next big project or laying out capital, these sometimes have felt like bigger risks than I could manage.
Demand for our services pushed me out of my comfort zone into hiring. I couldn’t do it all with the resources we had, so we grew. In part, I was able to overcome my fear through knowledge gained from peer networks and seminars, plus the support of a really great CPA who serves as my CFO (also a woman business owner).
The Public Relations Society of America’s Counselor’s Academy is exclusively for PR/Mktg firm owners. My involvement in the past few years has opened the door to embrace new technology, industry standards, and given us a national network of firms for collaboration. Counselor’s Academy gives me industry-specific knowledge.
From a business development standpoint, I’m finding enormous opportunity through the Women Business Enterprise Council (WBENC). At first, I connected with the regional programming organization ORV-WBC just to obtain certification as a women-owned business at the request of a client. However, once ORV-WBC started hosting luncheons in Kentucky, I became more involved.
What I love about WBENC is that it is set up to teach members what we need to know to succeed, not by giving handouts or work that is not deserved, but by giving us a chance. Time after time corporate representatives share that being a diverse business partner is a bonus for them, not the selection criteria. They are teaching us how to earn an introduction and how and when to compete. The rest is up to us.
According to American Express, Kentucky is among the five states with the lowest employment vitality for women-owned businesses. While small, Wiser Strategies has grown steadily the past two years and is ready to increase the pace. With a little opportunity and a lot of hard work, we look forward to hiring more people in Central Kentucky in the near future and cultivating a new generation of top-notch public relations and marketing professionals.
Growing all small businesses is good for the economy, and I’m proud to be a part of creating a more vibrant way of life for all of us.