This is the companion article to the 2021 Women’s Leadership Conference of Southern Oregon speech “Taking the Leap into Entrepreneurship.” Erin O’Kelley Muck spoke with women who dream of starting their own businesses. Here, she shares advice for budding entrepreneurs…
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Oprah Winfrey, Whitney Herd Wolfe, Beyonce, Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Martha Stewart, Yang Lan, Indra Nooyi, Reese Witherspoon, Rihanna, Debbi Fields — the list of women entrepreneurs goes on and is growing every day.
Above all, what do these incredible people have in common? Courage.
Entrepreneurship is about taking a leap of faith, and having the courage to try. Having the courage to (gasp!) fail. It’s the intersection where IDEA meets ACTION.
And it’s a total rush.
So what are the qualities of an entrepreneur?
Ready to dive in with inspiration? It’s always fun to start with some good reads…
- The Top 15 Most Famous Female Entrepreneurs
- 50 Female Entrepreneurs Everyone Should Know
- Celebrating Female Entrepreneurs: 10 Stories that will Inspire You
- America’s Richest Self-made Women
Getting Started with Entrepreneurship
Step #1: Dream
You may already know what you want to do — likely something you have tons of experience in. If not, you can heed Bumble founder Whitney Wolf Herd’s advice: “Look at what is broken in society, figure out how to make it better, and then, around that, formulate a business.”
Or Sara Blakely of Spanx: “I’d never worked in fashion or retail. I just needed an undergarment that didn’t exist.”
Once you have an idea, it’s time to dream! This your chance to journal and brainstorm and research. Interview people you admire. Read bios. Take notes. Transport your vision from mind to paper.
Honestly, this takes time. I would plan on anywhere from 2 – 4 weeks for the getting started part…
While you’re brainstorming, there are loads of great websites with advice on what to include in a business plan (which you’ll want to create, keep reading…). It all starts with asking and answering some essential questions. Below is a solid checklist, but be aware that any of these can be a day or more in the making!
- What will you do or offer?
- What materials / equipment are needed?
- Is this a solo venture or does it require a team? What are the roles? (You may need to create an organizational chart).
- What are your mission, vision, and values?
- Who are your competitors and what are they good at? What are they not so good at?
- Define your competitive differences. Conduct a SWOT investigation (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
- Who is your target audience? Why do they come to you? What problem do you help solve?
- Research the legal aspects: registering your business with state and city, setting up an LLC, S-Corp, or Corp, hiring contractors /employees, etc.
- Outline the financial aspects, like which bookkeeping program you will use. What are your financial predictions? Find a tax advisor/bookkeeper/CPA. Do you need a loan or grant to get started?
- Create your marketing plan: think about social media opportunities (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), your website, advertising (radio, print, flyers, online ads, email marketing). Plan to get the word out to friends, family and colleagues.
From Kalea of KSW Social Media Management: “Inspired by my favorite Audrey Hepburn quote.”
Step #2: Create Your Business Plan
Now, pull all that dreamy info into one well-organized document, and voilà! You have your Business Plan. A streamlined plan may include:
Create a one-page overview to briefly explain the business concept and vision. Include your main product or service, basic information about customers, and high-level growth plans.
Include your mission, vision, and values. List team members and legal structure – how will your company operate and who will run it? Propose the legal structure and organization chart.
This area highlights your industry, target market (customers, clients or donors), competitive advantages (expertise and strengths), and competitor research. It may also include your SWOT analysis.
List your products and services, pricing structure, product lifecycle, intellectual property rights, research and development plans.
Marketing & Sales
What is the growth strategy? How will you attract and retain customers? How does a sale happen? How will you communicate with your audience?
Logistics & Operations
Include what you know: suppliers, production, facilities, equipment, shipping and fulfillment, inventory, etc.
Convince the reader your business idea is stable and will be a financial success! Show a prospective outlook for the next five years.
If you’re asking for funding, outline the requirements. How much funding do you need over the next five years, and what will you use it for?
It’s a lot of info! But it’s so essential to create a business plan whether you’re asking for funding or not. All of the above will help you find any gaps in your daydreaming, as well as new opportunities.
Want more reading? Below is a list of great resources for working on the various pieces of your business plan.
Business Plan Resources
- Write Your Business Plan
from the U.S. Small Business Administration, includes examples
- How to Write a Business Plan
from Shopify, with free downloadable business plan template
- How Start a Business in 10 Steps
video from Shopify
- Build a Business Plan
online tool that maps out business plans
- Build a Marketing Plan
online tool that maps out marketing plans
Mission, Vision, Values Resources
- Mission and Vision Statements
- 15 Seriously Inspiring Mission and Vision Statement Examples
- How to Write Mission, Vision, and Values Statements
- Non Profit Organization Mission, Vision, and Value Statements pdf
- What Legal Requirements Are Needed to Start a Business? 8 Tips for Startups
- 8 Legal Requirements When You Start A Business
- 9 Basic Legal Requirements for Starting a Small Business
Competitive Research Resources
- How to Conduct Competitive Research
- 10 Tips on How to Research Your Competition
- 6 Steps to Researching Competitors
- What’s a Competitive Analysis & How Do You Conduct One?
- How to do a SWOT Analysis
Target Audience Resources
- How to Define Your Target Market
- How to define and reach your target audience on social media
- How To Define Your Target Audience
Step #3: Determine Roles and Organizational Structure
It’s great to think about who will do what, now and down the road. Who is in charge of sales, billing, hiring, marketing, doing, managing…? There’s a great book called The E-Myth which outlines three roles that each business owner embodies when they start out. Those roles are:
- Entrepreneur – the visionary
- Manager – the planer/organizer
- Technician – the doer
The E-Myth says the majority of small businesses fail because the entrepreneur fails to get out of that technician role. They continue to be the “doer” month after month, year after year. I can personally attest to having lived this dilemma! But the good news is that once you get your systems and processes in place, you can lift yourself from that role, and catapult into the visionary female entrepreneur at the helm of your very own ship.
Here’s our favorite visual sitemap tool to help you brainstorm your business structure and roles.
TIP: When planning your organizational structure, think about the hats you wear at the onset the onset of your business, and the best ways to pass along those hats over time. Maybe it’s partnering with complementary businesses, hiring staff, paying subcontractors, using automation software… there are a lot of options to help you make the best use of your precious time.
Step #4: Seek Education, Coaching, and Connection
I recommend all of the following:
- Getting a business coach for growth and development
- Taking continuing ed classes and getting certifications
- Attending conferences (yay Women’s Leadership Conference!)
- Networking and meeting people
I bet all great business women are continually growing and learning how to run their businesses better. They are deepening their expertise. They are attending conferences and networking. They are reaching out.
The path of the woman entrepreneur is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be lonely… My advice? Seek those in similar industries. Ask to meet for coffee, form a club, start a social media group, or set up monthly Zoom chats. Link together and support one another.
A shortcut in entrepreneurship that I highly recommend (especially in areas that aren’t your strong suit) is getting a business coach. These savvy professionals will accelerate your plans, help you get unstuck, and pass on lessons you don’t have to learn on your own.
Here is a list of female business coaches from Southern Oregon and beyond, many of whom have spoken at the Women’s Leadership Conference:
- Angela Durant – Be Brilliant
- Carey Yazeed – Beauty, Brains and Business
- Carol Putnam – Why Strive? Thrive!
- Cynthia Scherr – Scherr Management Consulting
- Diahana Barnes – Harmonious CEO
- Elizabeth Miner – Thrive this Day
- Jayne Donnelly – The Altus Effect Coaching
- Joy Taylor – A Soul Inspired Life
- Loren Fogelman – Business Success Solution
- Mary Hambleton – Soul Canyon
- Mary Rydman – EMyth Coach
- Melissa J. Nixon – Courageous Life Academy
- Michelle Hynes
- Sheree Sekou Consulting
- Thecia Jenkins
- Tiffany Grimes – Evolutionary Consulting
- Wendy Maynard – Wendy Maynard Marketing Consulting
Bonus: Things to ponder…
Psychology & Logistics
The truth is… entrepreneurship is not an easy path. There is a ton of hard work. There are great days and terrible days, successes and failures. But even so, the reward is like nothing else… this gets to be your creation and contribution! When having your internal conversation with yourself about the emotional and psychological elements of entrepreneurship, think about:
- Time commitments
- Work / life balance
- Sweat equity
- Doubts and fears
- Support systems
- Inner strength
- Opportunities for joy and fulfillment
Your Business Website
Our company, Ruby Slipper, specializes in WordPress website development, so we have thoughts about your website journey…
Do we think a website is a critical piece in the marketing puzzle? Yes, we do. Your website is the online repository of information that anyone can access at anytime to learn about your products, services, mission, hours, contact information, etc. It matters. But do you need to launch into a high-dollar creation when starting out? Nope!
If you have a fledgling business, there’s no need to create a website that costs thousands and thousands of dollars. There are a lot of online website builders out there that offer great start-out solutions. And if you’re somewhat techie, they should prove pretty easy to navigate:
And more! Here’s a great article that talks about the pros and cons of each builder. At the end they recommend WordPress.org, which in my opinion, is more of a robust power-user tool (it’s what we use at Ruby Slipper).
If you have reason to create a more customized site OR if you want help with one of the builders above, then it would be great to talk to a web designer or company. Interview at least three so you can get a sense of their services, pricing, and niche. It’s important to note that website development drastically ranges in cost, timelines and more. Take time selecting the partner who is right for your business!
Here are a few of our favorite women-owned and operated website developers in Southern Oregon:
- Bella Vita Graphics – Amanda Evey
- Creative Marketing & Design – Laurel Briggs
- Design! by Kiltz – Christy Kiltz
- Opie Snow – Opie Snow
- Kira Brooks Media – Kira Brooks
- Zia Tierra – Robin Dorrell
- Next Galaxy Studio – Lindsay Bassett
- Ruby Slipper Designs – Erin O’Kelley Muck. Our company serves larger non-profits and mission-driven organizations like Asante Foundation, Southern Oregon Goodwill, and Health Care Coalition of Southern Oregon (whose website recently won two design awards!!!). We specialize in large sites with anywhere from 30-100 custom pages — seriously, biggies!
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Have Questions? Get in Touch
Thank you for attending the 2021 WLC on May 7th — it was a privilege to meet you all.
And whew! This is a LOAD of info for the budding woman entrepreneur!
Have a question or comment? Or a resource to add? By all means, please reach out. Our resources are not exhaustive, and we’d love to hear from you.