Category Archives: Entrepreneur

Social Media for the Professional Woman

Networking is key to building a successful business.  Not only should you attend networking events within your local business region, but also pay attention to online networking.  One of the top business networking sites today is LinkedIn, and with refreshed profiles, updated business pages and highly interactive groups, it’s here to stay.  Here is how you can efficiently and effectively maneuver through LinkedIn.

Profile Picture1. Update Your Picture!  Yes, this point is part vanity, part practical, mostly practical.  Make sure your profile picture is recognizable as you today – not ten years ago. A great picture shouldn’t be a glamour shot of what you look like touched up, unless you walk around with a makeup team on a daily basis.  Make it inviting, warm and add a hint of marketing by matching your attire with your brand colors or strategically post a logo in the background.

Connecting Picture2. Connect! It may seem like common sense, but you have to connect with people on LinkedIn to make it work for you.  When you send out invitations, keep it to people you have actually met or that you share a connection with.  In your invitation, explain why you’re connecting, unless you contact them on a regular basis, and then it’s okay to send a standard invite.  Be sure to check out who’s inviting you to connect; take a look at their profile, connections and groups.  Remember, once they’re a connection they can see your full profile and interactions.

LinkedIn Picture3. Join (and ENGAGE in) Groups: Explore all LinkedIn has to offer by joining groups relevant to you.  Search for your alma mater or one of your offline networking groups to join.  Active groups provide great information and events that can help you boost your business.  If you’re a woman business owner in the Midwest, consider joining the WBDC’s LinkedIn Group, Inspired Women, to engage with other professional women looking for advice, input and inspiration.

Resume Image4. Use It, or Lose It!  Make sure to update your not only your picture, but also your profile.  It’s a living resume, so keep it current.  You never know who’s looking for the skills and experience you have to offer.  Keep things interesting by making your headline relevant and engaging, with trigger words.  Learn more about headlines, and other parts of your LinkedIn strategies, in this free webinar recording.

LinkedIn Picture25. It’s About Business!  If you have a business, you should have a business page.  LinkedIn has come a long way in cultivating the business pages to better serve companies.  They now have header images, status updates, video advertising, product promotions and more for followers to interact with.

Spend 10 minutes a day implementing some of these tips, whether it be commenting in a group or updating your profile, and see what comes of it!  You never know what you’re missing out on until you try new strategies.

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Filed under Business, Business Leaders, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Marketing, Social Media, Technology, WBDC, WBDC News

Business Finance: Anywhere, Anytime

As the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) continues to expand our Access to Capital Program we are focused on extending services through direct lending and the development of online/on-demand course offerings.  Whether your business is in the city of Chicago or throughout our nine state Midwest region, we strive to provide your business with a strong financial foundation.

The WBDC’s online/on-demand educational platform will be launched in spring 2013.  Ingage Partners, a Certified WBE company, partnering with TiER1 Performance Solutions has been selected to assist the WBDC in implementing this new system.  The first course, Take the Mystery out of Finance, will be offered in both Spanish and English and cover the basics of finance for your business.  The WBDC selected this course as the launching pad for our online education because we know how important business financial literacy is in running a successful business.

In the interim we have put together a list of useful, easy to use tools to help manage your financials from your computer, tablet or smartphone.  Take a look and let us know which ones you have used.

  1. Wallstreet Journal Excel Shortcuts: Simply put, these cheat sheets
  2.  help navigate running your finances through Excel, particularly useful when utilizing the WBDC’s Financial Projections Excel spreadsheet.
  3. InDinero: Access and manage your books, file your taxes and take care of payroll on multiple devices through a secure connection.  Plus, the company was founded by a woman – Jessica Mah.
  4. Intuit’s GoPayment: Allows you to accept payments anywhere, from anyone with no transaction fees.  Be careful to read the full details, as there are costs associated, but at least the app and cancellation are free.
  5. LightSpeed Retail Inc.: A virtual, portable hub to keep track of sales and inventory, create invoices and print receipts.
  6. MIT Entrepreneurship Open Courses: While this isn’t an app, it is a great resource for free online entrepreneurial education.

What do you use to manage your business finances?  Have you tried any tools that simply do not work?  Let us know!

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneur, Finance, Small Business, Technology, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women in Technology

WBDC Retail Business Clients Share Their 2013 Business Strategies

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday may have been a bonanza for many WBDC retail clients, but even before the December holidays were over, most had their eye on the New Year. Read their business-building strategies – and be inspired!

JulieJulie Horowitz Jackson, Owner

Virtu, 2034 N. Damen Av.

www.virtuchicago.com

One-of-a-kind gifts such as handcrafted jewelry and stationery are Julie’s stock and trade. In 2013, she’ll alter her buying plan by reducing inventory and adding new artists. In-store events will be bumped from six to ten. She still plans to write guest articles for gift and chamber of commerce publications, but her real focus will be on expanding her own blog, “Virtues,” with a precise editorial calendar.

 

Deborah Kramer

Deborah Kraemer, Owner

Abbey Brown Soap Artisan, 1162 W. Grand Av.

www.abbeybrown.com

Deborah’s new year begins with a bang on January 4 when she plunges in to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. She’ll handle the intensive curriculum, which requires two full days of weekly classroom sessions and plenty of “homework,” by turning over more duties to her two managers. Deborah will expand the number of on-site soap-making classes and maintain her level of involvement teaching high school students small business skills in the After School Matters program. For Deborah, January also means taking a complete business inventory and manning a booth at the Chicago Gift Show at the Merchandise Mart. Oh, and she’s designing several new products. Did we mention this is all BEFORE she begins the Goldman Sachs program? Stay tuned!

Laurel Stradford

Laurel Stradford, Owner

What the Traveler Saw, 1508 E. 55th St.

www.WhatTheTravelerSaw.com

Coming off of a successful 2012, Laurel says she’s bringing “a new heart and hope” to the new year. Her popular store will be open more days and more hours. She will amp up her marketing and regularly post information on her new blog and Facebook page. Sadly, the “traveler” was only able to schedule one trip in 2012, but that will change in 2013. Jazz festivals in Europe and a return trip to Turkey, as well as many invitations from other travelers, beckon.

Oh, the excitement, hope and promise of creating those New Year’s business-related resolutions! What plans do you have to take your business to the next level? Share your strategies in the comment section below!

Contributed by guest blogger Chris Ruys of Chris Ruys Communications.

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneur, Goldman Sachs, Marketing, Small Business, Small Business Saturday, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women Business Owner

8 Holiday Retail Business Tips from the Women’s Business Development Center

With holidays just around the corner, small business owners are prepping their businesses for what is hoped to be a prosperous season.  The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) has no shortage of retail clients and to help them, and you, we’ve put together a list of 8 tips to heat up cool weather sales!

1. Email marketing – if you don’t do it already, start now!  Great template based tools like Mailchimp and Constant Contact are available at little to no cost.  Emailing is still the number one way to reach your clients online and create loyalty with your customers.  Have a plan for the holidays, schedule emails right up until Christmas, and even after that for any sales you might have!

2. Stay active – in the community that is.  Small Business Saturday is a nationwide event showcasing small business owners on November 24th.  It’s the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so be sure to encourage customers to save their spending for shopping local on Saturday. Make sure you’re active and take advantage of all the free business marketing tools you can find here.

3. Deck the halls- or at least the showroom.  Make sure your shop has a seasonal feel as it tends to make consumers more in the spirit of giving (read spending).  Think twinkle lights and cheerful music!

4. Prepare the troops – refresh your employees on procedures.  Giving your staff a run through of policies and procedures prior to the holiday rush is a good idea so they can handle any situation that comes their way.  Things to think about:

– discounts being offered

– how to deal with theft

– what to do with returns

– gift card sales

These are just a few of the basics that are often forgotten during the rest of the year.  A well informed staff makes a successful season and happy customers!

5. Party – reasonably and retail-ly.  If you haven’t already, hold a holiday open house.  Get neighboring businesses to participate through giveaways or staying open late with you; it’s a win-win for all. Make it special and offer exclusive deals.  If you’ve already had your open house, make sure your employees feel special by way of a holiday party just for them.

6. Give back. Rally the team and volunteer at one of the local shelters, food drives or other organizations that need assistance during the winter months.  Not only are you making a difference, you’re also showing the community that you are a socially responsible business.

7. Keep it social. As a B2C (business to consumer) business, you should already have a business Facebook page up and running.  If you don’t, here’s a free webinar recording from the WBDC on how to do right.  If you are active, don’t forget to post pictures of new merchandise, have a social media exclusive sale and engage your clients as much as possible!  And be sure to double check your reviews on sites like Yelp.com – nothing like a poor review to turn away potential customers.

8. Don’t forget about the men!  Although women are the purchasing decision makers for most households in the United States, don’t forget about their counterparts: husbands, boyfriends and sons.  Get your message out that you can help them find that perfect gift and offer a worry free shopping experience! This is particularly successful when you have a high number of return clients.  Nothing is better than unwrapping the perfect gift and not finding a gift card.

Try at least one or two of these ideas if you’re not already. Did we leave anything out? What do you do to make your business most successful during the holidays?

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneur, Marketing, Retail, Small Business Saturday, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, Webinar, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Small Business Saturday in Chicago’s Hyde Park

Below is an article written by the Women’s Business Development Center’s Kristin Travis reflecting on her experience with Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday, held on the Saturday between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, was created by American Express in 2010 with the mission of bringing communities together to promote local commerce.  I celebrated last year’s event, on November 26, 2011, in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.  Hyde Park is near and dear to my heart; I lived there for a while after moving back to Illinois following a 5-year leave.  Hyde Park, as you may know, has a very vibrant small business community, filled with a cornucopia of gift shops, restaurants, book stores and many other wonderful places to shop.

One night, while taking a final sip of stale coffee – a last ditch effort to keep my senses alert after hours of studying – I heard a phrase in the background that perked my ears, “Small Business Saturday!”   A commercial on CNN explained the event, causing me to perform a silent cheer in my seat.  I was overjoyed to hear that this event was beginning to gain a national presence.

So there I was at 8 a.m., on a cool, damp November 26, with a larger, fresher cup of coffee in hand, patiently waiting for the day’s events to begin.  Chant, a Hyde Park Thai food bistro conveniently positioned on the bustling 53rd Street, was the setting for breakfast with Santa and a lively press conference featuring several home-grown elected officials.  In attendance were Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama; Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle; Senator Kwame Raoul; State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie; 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns; Mike Davis and Wallace Goode of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and a host of volunteers organized by the Chamber and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP).

Despite the dismal weather, 53rd Street was abuzz with lights and the sound of honking horns in support of this community action.  Laughter glittered across the familiar faces that spoke at the press conference podium as fond memories were shared about life growing up in this close-knit neighborhood.   As the conference came to a close, Jarrett took a moment to reflect on the life of the late Maggie Daley, wife of the former Mayor Richard M. Daley and a great Chicagoan who championed for our youth and community.  It was in that spirit of community that Jarrett encouraged the audience to go out and support the local economy.

Now, just one year later, I am once again a proud resident of Hyde Park.  I relish in the fact that my fellow neighbors and I take so much pride in our local small businesses.  We know that it is shops like What the Traveler Saw, Wesley’s Shoe Corral, Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, Café 53, Hyde Park Produce and a host of other small and family-owned businesses that drive our community and communities like ours all across America.

Join me this November 24th, between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, on Small Business Saturday and support the local businesses in your neighborhood that work hard to keep America going strong.  Please click here to learn more about Small Business Saturday and to participate in events in your local community.

Kristin Travis Picture (PTAC Associate)

Kristin J. Travis is the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Associate at the WBDC. See pictures from her experience here.

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Filed under American Express, Business, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Small Business, Small Business Saturday, Special Events, WBDC, WIPP

Business Tips for Women in Small Business from the Women’s Business Development Center

Happy Women in Small Business Month!  Today’s post is split into two parts – one for women looking to start their business soon and one for those already in business.  Look through both sets of questions and refer back to them as you continue to build your business muscle!

Women Starting A Small Business

It may come as no surprise to you, but being a small business owner can be a difficult and demanding enterprise.  Here at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) we see many clients when they’re first starting and weighing out the feasibility of their idea. So how do you know if it’s a viable concept?  Does it have lasting power?  Below are 10 questions from www.SBA.gov to help you assess if you’re ready to start a business:

  1. Why am I starting a business?
  2. What kind of business do I want?
  3. Who is my ideal customer?
  4. What products or services will my business provide?
  5. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?
  6. What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market?
  7. Where will my business be located?
  8. How many employees will I need?
  9. What types of suppliers do I need?
  10. How much money do I need to get started?

To read 10 additional questions from the SBA, please click here.  If you need help answering these questions, look no further than you local business center – find yours by searching here.

Women Already in Small Business

Have you been in business for a few years?  Do you feel like you’re an old pro at marketing your product or service?  Well maybe it’s time to take a new approach to your small business and try something new.  Here are 10 questions to ask yourself about your business and personal life.

When was the last time I…

  1. Attended a networking event?
  2. Attended a workshop?
  3. Updated my business plan?
  4. Hosted a customer appreciation event?
  5. Updated my LinkedIn profile?
  6. Updated my website?
  7. Used my own product/service?
  8. Explored new markets?
  9. Went on vacation?
  10. Hired someone new?

If you answer “I can’t remember” to any of these – it’s time to do it!  Go out, meet new contacts, learn new tricks of the trade, say thank you to your loyal clients and so on!  Don’t let your business stagnate! 

We want to know: What do you do on a regular basis to keep your business current?

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Filed under Advocacy, Business, Business Leaders, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Small Business, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Encore Business Owners Share Business Tips

(L-R) Judith Roussel, IL District Director; SBA, Merrie Dee, AARP Illinois President; Hedy Ratner, WBDC co-founder & co-president; and Marianne O’Brien Markowitz Regional Administrator
U.S. Small Business Administration, Midwest Region

The speakers and audience may have been 50-plus, but their age wasn’t the issue. Starting a business was.

Nearly 50 mature women and men gathered at the WBDC on Tuesday evening, October 2, during the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) “National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day.” Marianne Markowitz, SBA regional administrator, and Judith Roussel, SBA Illinois district director, welcomed the group, then turned the program over to the celebrated speaker and media pioneer Merri Dee, now a business owner in her own right as well as president of the executive council of Illinois-AARP. Dee led a lively panel discussion featuring “encore” entrepreneurs on the rewards of starting a business after age 50.

The speakers were Donna Smith Bellinger, owner of Group Endeavors; Ben Hollis, former host of WTTW’s “Wild Chicago” and now an independent video producer who started Ben Hollis Worldwide; Joanne Cleaver, a former business journalist who launched a public affairs company Wilson-Taylor Associates; and Alan Jacobs, a former entrepreneur-of-sorts who volunteers at SCORE.

Their life experiences were as varied and diverse as they were, which is what made their words of wisdom all the more salient.

Merri Dee

“All you need are three things: passion, purpose – and a paycheck!”

Donna Bellinger

“The resource that helped me the most was my database of contacts. I started my business without a dime, but I had my database.”

Alan Jacobs

“I was a serial entrepreneur – a manufacturer’s rep who never had a regular job or paycheck. I understand exactly what it takes to succeed as a business owner. In my opinion, entrepreneurs who fail weren’t prepared.”

Ben Hollis

“I encourage people to embrace and live the wild life. Harness your passion, your wildness….I used to undervalue everything I did. I was just a funny guy. The limitations we place on ourselves get in the way. By listening to other people, I was able to reassess my own value. Pay attention to the things you do best. It’s what other people appreciate in you.”

Joanne Cleaver

“I restarted my career several times. I decided to base my latest transition on my skills. As a certified media trainer and coach, I now apply my skills to a different set of clients. I’ve transitioned from being self-employed to being a job-creator with a contract staff of specialists. My biggest challenge? In realizing my value. The biggest obstacle? Myself.”

With part of the evening’s focus on celebrating mentorship, the speakers shared advice on how to be a good mentor and mentee. Cleaver, for example, said joining professional organizations helped her develop peer mentors who mentored each other. Bellinger suggested looking for mentors who are honest and direct and who “have achieved what you struggled to achieve.” Don’t overlook the younger generation, she advised. You can learn from each other.

The WBDC will survey seminar attendees to determine whether a special affinity group for women business owners age 50-plus, and regular networking and educational sessions, are of interest.

Contributed by guest blogger Chris Ruys of Chris Ruys Communications.

For more pictures from the event, please click here.

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Filed under AARP, Business, Business Mentoring, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Established Business, SBA, Special Events, WBDC, WBDC News

Lisa Price – An Inspiring Guide to Entrepreneurial Success

Below is an article from Saundra Underwood, founder of Lady Alexandra Skincare Systems.  Ms. Underwood writes from a personal perspective of what Lisa Price, keynote speaker at the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference Hall of Fame Luncheon, has meant to her.  Not only has Ms. Price served as an inspiration, but also as a guide to entrepreneurial success.

I love reading autobiographies and biographies to learn about the history of famous and not so famous people.  Reading them gives me more than just the details of their lives.  I get a glimpse into their minds, the times they lived in and the places they visited.  They also give me hope and inspiration especially when they begin their books with very little and end with all of their dreams realized.

I read Lisa Price’s book, Success Never Smelled So Sweet, as soon as it came off the presses.  Though I had been following her story for years by reading articles in Essence and Black Enterprise Magazine little did I know that I’d one day be writing a blog about her and Carol’s Daughter, her company.  The book is rich in details and very introspective.  She shared and bared her soul.  I remember her speaking frankly about the frustrations of going from job to job and not truly fitting in at some places of employment.  I understand more about myself and my quest to do what is best for me.  I too  am a maker and creator of natural skincare products.  I’ve gone from one job to another not quite feeling comfortable in many positions; feeling as if something is not quite right.  What’s not quite right for most entrepreneurs is the feeling of neglecting the entrepreneurial spirit.

That entrepreneurial spirit can never be denied, pushed aside or crushed.  It will rise up when you least expect it.  It will come again and again until it is nurtured and given enough attention to be a force to be reckoned with.  Many have put into words exactly what it is but the best way to define it is by action.

In her book Ms. Price became alive and active when she was making and creating magic with scents, flowers and potions. She became alive with the research of the effects of scent on the mood and mindset.  The feedback from customers drove her forward.    Something that struck me from Lisa’s book was that her family members worked for and with her for years without drawing a salary.  I remember thinking what an amazing family.

While reading Success Never Smelled So Sweet I would often compare my story to Lisa’s.  I figured if my actions lined up with hers then one day I’d become the owner of a multimillion dollar enterprise.  I have passions and dreams, the drive to create and customers who love my products just as she does..   The one thing I didn’t have was family support only because I live three states away from my family.  But what I did have was a network of friends who have come to my aid whenever I needed their expertise or just support.  I still plug along but know that with time and effort the entrepreneurial spirit will guide me.

– Saundra Underwood

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Filed under Business Mentoring, Business Start-up, Entrepreneur, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, Women Business Owner, Women in Business

Building a Better Business with Mentoring

The WBDC has been counseling, educating and assisting potential business owners and established business owners since 1986. Now we are expanding our services to include a mentoring program.  “Women helping women” is a common theme here at the WBDC.  Not only is “Women” part of our name (Women’s Business Development Center), but our staff is 96% female.

Let’s take a look at some facts about women entrepreneurs:

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “male entrepreneurs in the United States outnumber their female counterparts 3.5 to 1.”
  • 2010 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Study that showed that “less than half the women surveyed (47.7%) believe they are capable of starting and running a business (compared to 62.1% of men.)”

These statistics are the reason women’s business centers continue to be relevant and necessary, and why the WBDC is launching a business mentoring service.  If we can close that gap by even a tenth of a percent by directing potential entrepreneurs/start-ups, and even established business owners, towards competent, qualified mentors, then we have successfully brought businesses into fruition and spurred economic development.

Need more reasons to get involved in a business mentoring relationship?

From a recent Forbes article:

Here are some of the key reasons to become a mentor, from the viewpoints of several different female mentors:

  • Better understand the business: “My mentee helped me see issues in the company that I didn’t know existed.”
  • Better understand how people perceive you: “I was able to see the perception others held of me, through the eyes of my mentee.”
  • Create a larger network: “By helping others I’ve also created a network of allies I can rely upon when I need help.”
  • Help solve issues: “I’ve been able to step out of my own shoes and help my mentees see things from other perspectives. This, in turn, has helped me in resolving issues within my own department.”
  • Personal satisfaction: “I have been able to watch and actively help younger women succeed in our industry – and it’s such a wonderful feeling to help another person succeed!”

Learn more at the WBDC’s mentee and mentor webinars on September 7th and September 11th, respectively.

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The Women’s Business Development Center Invites You to the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference in Chicago, IL!

The WBDC staff invites you to attend the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, Women’s Business & Buyers Mart on September 20, 2012 at Chicago’s McCormick Place-West!  View the video below for your invitation!

Register now to spend a full day connecting with key buyers, supplier diversity staff and/0r purchasing decision makers from both the corporate and government sectors!

Learn more about the events taking place on September 20th by clicking here.

Take a look at the Women’s Forum Breakfast Speaker Announcement here!

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Filed under Business, Business Leaders, Entrepreneur, Established Business, Procurement, Special Events, Uncategorized, WBDC, WBE, Women in Business