2018 was a huge year for small business. According to the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, small business optimism experienced a record surge in August. The jump reached 108.8, the highest level recorded in the survey’s 45-year history.
Despite this leap forward, women entrepreneurs reported that they continued to experience small business challenges. These challenges, ranging from lack of funding to being able to hire employees, hindered their business growth.
I decided to reach out to female entrepreneurs to hear their stories in their own words. I wanted to know firsthand the biggest challenges women business owners faced in 2018. I also wanted to hear how they were able to overcome these issues. So often we talk about the problems, but not the solutions that allow us to triumph over them. What challenges did female entrepreneurs face this year and what did they do to emerge victorious on the other side?
Finding The Best Business Advice
What counts as good advice? This is a challenge Carissa Tozzi and Gena Mann, Co-Founders of the Wolf + Friends app, grappled with when they launched their business in October 2018.
Wolf + Friends, a lifestyle app for mothers raising children with special needs, received plenty of advice at meetings with mentors and advisors. “Our heads were spinning when we left the meetings. It seemed like everyone had an opinion about our business and where we should take it next.” Tozzi says.
The best advice did come from a mentor meeting. As Tozzi recalls, they met with a woman who gave them advice on how to create tangible products, like clothing lines, and sell them. This woman had found incredible success through that advice, but Tozzi and Mann knew it wasn’t going to be a fit for them. They knew their audience and their needs would be met through an app.
“When we walked out of that last mentor meeting, I said we need to make our app happen. That’s our brand and our business.” Tozzi says.
From there on out, Tozzi and Mann decided to trust their gut and vision. Wolf + Friends launched without investors and through a big leap of faith. Today, the app provides parents raising kids with a variety of developmental differences a community full of mentorship, support and friendship.
“We knew what we were creating was going to make a difference for so many special needs families.” Tozzi says, “That was always our vision.”
Rebuilding A Hacked Website
What would you do if your company website was seriously hacked online tomorrow? This happened to Marni Kinrys, Owner of The Wing Girl Method, in February 2018.
To say what happened was disastrous would be an understatement. Getting hacked online nearly ended Kinrys’ company. “80% of my traffic comes from organic and direct traffic. The hack tanked 9 years of effort to build a business that did not rely on paid traffic or ads to bring revenue.” Kinrys told me.
Kinrys decided to reach out to her audience and ask them for help. She talked about what happened on her podcast and mentioned it in her newsletter. Her subscribers and followers listened and wanted to assist her. “I got wonderful responses from people who wanted to help me build up my good standing and ranking again through non-paid efforts.”
Today, Kinrys admits that while her traffic is not quite where it used to be, it is gradually getting back up again with the help of her loyal fans.
Developing A Great Team Of Employees
Diane Joyal is the Founder and CEO of Bowerbird Flowers, a floral design studio based out of North Carolina. Bowerbird Flowers opened a brick and mortar storefront in Chapel Hill this year, and its growth came with a series of challenges.
Joyal found she needed to hire talent for the new storefront. Make that several talented employees. “I had to hire a full-time employee and two part-time employees to get the existing work done.” Joyal says.
She quickly discovered that developing a great team and workflow doesn’t magically happen overnight. Hiring a reliable, smart crew and developing the workflow took more time and sacrifice than she imagined.
Since opening the studio, Joyal has placed her focus on attracting new business accounts and creating new revenue streams. Her next goal? Obtain a small business loan in 2019. “You have to be prepared for the dramatic ups and downs in business,” Joyal remarks, “ Facing challenges creates personal growth. It will make our business even better in the next few years.”
Going It Alone
Tired of swiping through online dating apps? Try Piña Colada, a group dinner dating service connects six singles over great food at San Francisco’s best restaurants.
Piña Colada is the brainchild of CEO Kati Schmidt. It’s may be tough to imagine having a down day with such a fun-sounding business, but Schmidt knows firsthand how hard it is to be a solo entrepreneur. Schmidt bootstrapped her own business and enjoys the feeling of empowerment that comes with running a business. However, it is still very much her business — which can be a challenge unto itself.
“You can feel like a superhero when you get great feedback from customers or publish an article.” Schmidt reveals, “But, running a business alone can be very overwhelming and lonely at times.”
Her best advice for solo entrepreneurs is to know your limits. “You have to be honest with yourself about your human limits. Leaning on friends and family for support is also important.”
While the entrepreneurial road may be more twisty than straight, Schmidt is happy to be with Piña Colada. “At this early stage in business, I love how I am in touch with my users. I get to know them through the matching survey and follow up with them afterwards. I cannot wait for the day when the first Piña Colada couple gets married!”
Yes, I’m A Female Entrepreneur — Please Take Me Seriously
Melanie Ocana is the Co-Owner of Rustico Tile & Stone, the largest manufacturer and whole distributor for handmade, Mexican tile. Ocana’s business partner is her husband. Even though Ocana first started selling Saltillo tile on eBay 14 years ago, she still struggles to be taken seriously in the male-dominated industry.
Ocana notes that this used to get under her skin because she launched the business from its infancy. “It is widely assumed by our friends, affiliates, vendors, and others that our business is my husband’s business.” Ocana says, “It’s a challenge that has not lessened over the years. Quite literally, I’ve been asked by own female friends if I am the helper in the business.”
Enter Ocana’s husband, who is quick to step in and bring attention to her role in the business. Today, Ocana continues to chisel at this hurdle by working one day at a time. It’s not an issue that can resolved overnight, no matter what industry you’re in, but she continues to persist and fight the good fight. “People who seek to see beyond the barriers of old school assumptions will see that females like myself can and do lead others in business.”