by Lori Beard-Daily
Five dynamic business women were living up to the phrase “Women Lead” during the Women Technology & Entrepreneurship event held on October 25 at Georgia State University’s Aderhold Learning Center. The Women Lead initiative and the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Institute teamed up to present a diverse group of panelists to more than 70 female students. The woman-owned businesses ranged from haircare to software. An extra bonus in the mix: the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI), which is the City of Atlanta’s business incubator program.
After the panel discussion, the students were given the opportunity to have more in-depth talks with each of the business owners during several breakout sessions. One of the sessions included a tour of the WEI incubator located on the 11th floor of downtown’s iconic Flat Iron Building. Students were able to step in to a real-life startup incubator, and engage with three WEI entrepreneurs: Joanna Douglas of Parketing, Tonya Hicks of Women Do Everything, and Tiffany Ray of Generation Infocus.
“Women can’t be afraid to fail; it’s part of the process,” said Julia MacGregor, president and CEO of Global Safety Management. She emphasized the importance of curiosity, and how it allows entrepreneurs to design solutions. MacGregor also went on to talk about the financing gap (among men and women founders) and how women need to continue to stay informed of the market and negotiate for what they need, rather than what they think people will give.
Stefanie Jewett, founder and CEO of Activvely, agreed. “It is important for women to read something once a day that is business focused on a subject they don’t know or care about.” She emphasized the fact that women have to reach beyond the status quo, conquer tasks that may seem difficult, and believe in their own abilities even when others do not.
One of the key points that came out of the discussion is that women should not to sell themselves short by reaching too high. In other words, “Don’t sell larger than you can deliver,” WEI’s founding executive director, Theia Washington warned. Washington noted sometimes small businesses want the business so bad that they inflate their capabilities. Then when it’s time for an order to be placed, the company doesn’t have the capacity to make good on its promise to that potential customer. “Once credibility is lost, it’s hard to earn back,” she explained.
Jeannell Darden, creator and owner of Moisture Love gave sage advice when the question was posed to her on how to decide on what business to go in when someone has a lot of ideas. Darden harnessed in on the importance of not trying to be all over the place in business. She talked about how a business person may have several things she may want to work on, but highlighted the importance of staying focused. “Don’t dilute the brand. Focus on what you do well,” Darden recommended.
With women businesses growing upwards of 203,000 in metropolitan Atlanta alone, Neda Barqawi, CEO of Solvati, left students with this takeaway: “Be tough when it is needed, especially when it comes to negotiations and learn to separate your emotions from business,” she advised.
Whether students were considering starting a business or already had one, this event left an indelible impression with them. Leaders should push forward with their ideas, make hard decisions to get things done, and always ask for what they want. Washington summed it up well when she expressed why it’s important for women to have a clear objective about their business and their worth when she said, “You better know who you are by breakfast, or else someone will let you know by dinner!”