Friday, June 5, 2015

Leaving Glass Ceilings Behind, Women Lead in Entrepreneurship

Connie Certusi, SVP and GM, Small Business Solutions, Sage North America. Connie Certusi  leads the start-up and small business solutions business, encompassing Sage One, Sage Accountants Network and Sage 50 Accounting. She is also responsible for the Sage Employer Solutions products.With over 20 years of experience in the technology market serving small businesses, she has a passion for helping entrepreneurs and small business owners succeed.

Connie is excited to attend Sage Summit 2015 this July in New Orleans. Sage Summit brings together subject matter experts and top business leaders to inspire small and medium-sized businesses with the energy, insights and guidance to achieve their own visions of success.
Women are becoming a major force among today’s entrepreneurs.According to this year’s State of Women-Owned Businesses Report (commissioned by American Express OPEN), there are more than 9.4 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Together, these businesses generate more than $1.5 trillion in revenues, employ 7.9 million people and account for 30 percent of all enterprise. Clearly, women entrepreneurs are not letting anything hold them back.

All In
The 2015 Sage State of the Startup Survey found that women are taking the leap and are now the more likely candidate to start a new business. The study revealed that entrepreneurs bold enough to take on the risks of founding a startup have a deep desire to follow their dreams and gain the type of freedom and flexibility that owning a business can provide.  It’s more than just a paycheck for today’s women entrepreneurs; it’s a chance to turn their passion into a full-time career.  

This was certainly true for small business owner Denise Zannu, who turned her passion of making homemade soaps into a successful business by starting Black Mermaid’s Natural Bath & Body Products three years ago.  Says Denise, “I did a lot of research on what it would take to get started, tested out products I was interested in mass producing, and used my tax refund to start small and strong.” She credits the company’s success to her willingness to be open to opportunities and an unwavering commitment to high quality.

Common Mistakes:
Starting a business can be a thrilling yet overwhelming and challenging process. Entrepreneurs can spend years forming an idea before turning it into an actual business. This personal attachment to their business can make it difficult for business owners to be flexible and make adjustments along the way.

According to the State of the Startup Survey, some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when starting a business are not planning ahead, taking on too much debt, not conducting enough market research, avoiding marketing for too long, and letting costs get out of control.  To avoid some of these missteps, below are 10 recommendations every new or future business owner should strongly consider.

The Entrepreneur Top 10

1. Choose the right partner – This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Having the right someone on your side to talk about the day-to-day happenings can greatly ease the stress of running a business. Make sure this person compliments your work style and offers skills you may not possess to help create a stronger foundation for your business.

2. Research – A thorough market analysis will help you determine your target customers, your competitors, and current industry trends. The analysis should be done prior to launch, but should also be ongoing, since trends are constantly changing.

3. Make a plan – A strong business plan lays the groundwork for a successful venture.  It’s one of the first things an entrepreneur should do when preparing to start a company. Putting your plan into writing will establish the groundwork for success. Just don’t forget to be open to implementing some ideas that are “off plan” and maintain flexibility to adjust to market changes.

4. Forget about the past – As it turns out, no one cares that much if you don’t have experience in starting a business. If it doesn’t really matter to anyone else, then it shouldn’t hold you back from following your dreams.

5. Don’t wait too long – Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of waiting too long to launch.While rushing into the market too soon is a mistake, waiting can cause you to miss out on critical and give others a chance to announce something.

6. Find a mentor – Despite what you might think; you can’t do everything yourself. So, determine where you need advice and assistance and how they could help your business. A trusted advisor could be just the thing you need!

7. Don’t ignore marketing – Marketing is a critical part of launching a successful business.  Today’s social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and even LinkedIn, give you a direct line to customers. Use these communication channels as a way to engage with customers; ask them questions and gather feedback.

8. Never stop networking – Take every opportunity to learn and network by attending events and workshops. Go out of your way to meet and share ideas with new people who are going through, or have gone through, similar experiences.

9. Rules are sometimes made to be broken – Women entrepreneurs have to forge their own path, take the road less traveled, and do it their way. Sometimes it’s necessary to break a few “traditional” business rules to grow and succeed.

10. Prioritize and balance – Don’t forget what’s most important in your life.  Make family, friends and hobbies a top priority. Your own health and wellness are also a must. 

The entrepreneurial journey is a personal one with many different paths. As Georgia O’Keeffe reminds us, “whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing.  Making your unknown known is the important thing.”