A study of women-owned businesses conducted by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board last year, revealed that 90 percent of these businesses listed the firm’s proprietor as the sole employee. While many of these business owners are content to maintain their business at this level, others are looking to grow.
The National Association of Women Business Owners reports that only 4.2 percent of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more. What’s more, only one in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is woman-owned. Forbes reports that businesses owned by men are 3.5 times as likely to reach that million-dollar threshold.
On April 5, women from across the North Bay will attend the You Are a Badass at Making Money event for inspiration as well as practical information about money with the goal of improving their financial situation. While the topics include retirement, investments, property, and credit scores, they also include information on one of the most obvious ways to shift your financial fortune: starting or running a business. Jen Sincero, author of “You Are a Badass at Making Money” and “You Are a Badass” will deliver an inspirational talk. Information and tickets are available at badassatmoney.com.
Cynthia Riggs gained membership into the exclusive seven-figure club when she built Making It Big, her mail-order clothing company for plus-size women. She sold the company in 2004 and started her fourth enterprise, Biz Diva Consulting, to help business owners grow seven-figure businesses, or take their existing million-plus company to the next level of success and profitability.
Riggs believes that most women-owned businesses don’t reach this pinnacle because they lack a scalable business model and/or financial or business expertise. Riggs says that many women who start businesses are well versed in their product or service, but not in the art of growing a business. Much of what she does when consulting with women business owners is to help them grow beyond their limiting beliefs and see what is possible.
Here are a few tips for making your play for the seven-figure club:
Find a business coach and build a network. When you’re just getting started as a small business owner, find someone who’s been there to help lead the way. Kate Jonasse, owner and president of K-Tech Automotive, which now has two locations in Sonoma County, remembers her early years in business. Says Jonasse, “My first biggest obstacle was a combination of fear and not knowing where to start. During the workweek I went to work my normal job, and on the weekend I would do a little side work at my business. Within a year, I got a business coach who specialized in the automotive industry, and that was a key factor in finding success.
Take advantage of local and free resources. The Small Business Development Center is often called the best-kept secret in Sonoma and Napa counties. It operates under the auspices of the Economic Development Board and is funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Says Director Mary Cervantes, “We provide workshops such as our Build a Better Business Series, which comprises financial and marketing subjects. We also match advisors to businesses requesting those services. Our ideal client is a business that is young and needing to expand. We’ve helped businesses launch, get loans, increase their sales, and deal with bringing on employees. About 60 percent of the businesses that use our services are women owned.”
Consider a line of credit or an SBA loan. Getting funds to launch your business is key to crossing the million-dollar threshold. As Riggs points out, “Many women try to bootstrap their businesses when resources such as lines of credit are available.” Maryanne Harris, assistant vice president and business development officer, oversees SBA loans at Exchange Bank, the top SBA community bank lender in Sonoma County. She says the SBA loans are ideal for women-owned businesses needing a loan for $350,000 and under.
Educate yourself about finances. Don’t shy away from talking about the financial aspects of your business, or hand it over to others to manage. Says Riggs, “The worse thing you can do is ignore your finances, you need to be up close and personal with your money.” Educating yourself on the topic of money is a critical step in achieving success.
Vicki DeArmon is a serial entrepreneur who made it into the seven-figure club with her first business, Foghorn Press, a book publishing company, which she sold in 2001. She is producing the event, You Are a Badass at Making Money, through her new company, All Things Book. The event will be held at Graton Casino Ballroom in Rohnert Park on Thursday, April 5, from 8 a.m. to noon. Information and tickets are available at badassatmoney.com. Vicki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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