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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

5 Books for Women Entrepreneurs

These recent page-turners aim to help women and their businesses reach their full potential.

Alexa Vaughn

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Books connected to a laptop

From preparing the kind of business you want to run to fine-tuning your image and conflict management style, the inspiring stories and advice offered in the following five books will help women entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level (even if it’s just the first).

The Boss of You: Everything a Woman Needs to Start, Run and Maintain Her Own Business
By Emira Mears and Lauren Bacon

Who should read it: First-time women entrepreneurs who like the idea of starting small and working with people they know.

Why this book stands out: Few business books have the courage to go for the humble angle that this one does. Before creating their startup, Raised Eyebrow Web Studio, authors Mears and Bacon noticed that every business book “seemed to assume that every businessperson was pushing for big growth, plenty of staff and massive profits.” The authors, however, took a different approach. “We knew that we wanted to start out small (just the two of us), work with people we loved and grow at a sustainable rate over time while still being paid what we were worth.”

Because it doesn’t give the mainstream “grow big and fast” message on business, the book offers unconventional advice on running a business where every aspect of it is close to your heart.

Birthing the Elephant: The Woman’s Go-For-It! Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business
By Karin Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman

Who should read it: Women preparing themselves for the psychological and emotional strains of starting a business.

Why this book stands out: Instead of focusing on the typical startup challenges, this book homes in on preparing your psyche to overcome the startup challenges. The exclamation point-heavy success coach voice used throughout the book can get corny, but the inspiring stories from role models like Bobbi Brown, Liz Lange and Lisa Druxman (our own Mompreneur columnist) make up for it.

Authors Abarbanel and Freeman say surviving the emotional roller coaster of a startup means finding a new rhythm in your lifestyle. To help establish that rhythm–and give you the faith that you can even find it–the book breaks down the process and offers case studies taken from the stories of experienced entrepreneurs.

The Art of War for Women: Sun Tzu’s Ancient Strategies and Wisdom for Winning at Work

By Chin-ning Chu

Who should read it: Women ready to declare war on their greatest problems–not through brutality, but through determining the most efficient way of gaining victory with the least amount of conflict.

Why this book stands out: Chu takes lessons from one of the world’s most time-honored books on strategy, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and applies it to the lives of multitasking women. The book is premised on the Eastern idea that war doesn’t revolve around fighting. According to Chu, who is also one of the world’s best authorities on the classic work, women are inclined to this idea as natural negotiators and problem-solvers that prefer win-win situations over the winner-take-all mentality.

This book is especially refreshing because it doesn’t rely on mainstream strategies. Chu emphasizes that every good strategy begins with a deep understanding of the people and the world surrounding a particular situation–including our own weaknesses, strengths, fears and goals. An intelligent way of addressing conflict is therefore not rooted in some bullet-pointed list of rules, but in the ability to integrate a deeper understanding of ourselves and our environment into the strategies we employ. While considering all of our strategic tools–psychology, clothing, desk d�cor, timing–even the most complex problems are transformed into exciting intellectual exercises.

Career and Corporate Cool : How to Look, Dress, and Act the Part–at Every Stage in Your Career
By Rachel C. Weingarten

Who should read it: Those who know how important image is, but don’t really know how to maintain it appropriately through the different roles and stages of life.

Why this book stands out: Weingarten humorously acknowledges how confounding it is to maintain an appearance that benefits us through all of life’s personal and professional transitions. Developing a style people admire becomes even more complex when you realize it requires so much more than a great business suit; the right attitude through speech, writing, perfume, makeup, diet and response to personal emergencies factors into your style.

Weingarten makes the development of this style more exciting as she explains that “there is no one definitive Career and Corporate Cool ideology, but many practical tips and steps from people in all walks of life who have figured out how to make their jobs more than just a way to pay the bills, but rather a passion, a facet of themselves.”

The Girl’s Guide to Building a Million-Dollar Business
By Susan Wilson Solovic

Who should read it: Women ready to confront their fears of taking their business ambitions to the next level.

Why this book stands out: Today twice as many men run million-dollar businesses as women–and Solovic, CEO of Small Business Television, gives a thorough explanation as to how women can even out the playing field.

Though the number of women-owned businesses is booming today, Solovic argues that many of these women don’t have million-dollar businesses because they don’t imagine taking their businesses to the next level. While juggling everything in their personal and professional lives, many women fail to grow their businesses because they don’t know if everything will get out of hand. But after consulting women in business for more than 30 years and co-founding a business of her own, she assures readers that establishing a million-dollar business can be done without sabotaging everything in their personal and professional lives.

Alexa is a general assignment reporter for The Seattle Times, whose also been published in The Washington Post, New York Times Magazine, The Bay Citizen, The East Bay Express and aired on KALW News in San Francisco. Most of her work has focused on business, politics, and incarceration issues.

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

From Buffy To Business: Sarah Michelle Gellar Opens Up About How Hollywood Helped Prepare Her for Launching A Company

Sarah Michelle Gellar and her co-founders share lessons learned and how acting helped her deal with rejection and how being a celebrity in the startup world can have its drawbacks.

Andrea Huspeni

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Sarah Michelle Gellar

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. With a turbulent economy, companies cutting jobs and employees fearful they’ll be replaced by robots, people of all backgrounds are looking to take control of their financial future and pursue their passion, including celebrities.

Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Clooney and Victoria Beckham are just some of the stars who decided to transition from La La land to entrepreneurial land.

And now Sarah Michelle Gellar, best known as the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is also part of the startup world. The actress-turned-entrepreneur joined forces with friends who are also parents, Galit Laibow and Greg Fleishman, to launch Foodstirs in 2015. The DIY baking company, which sells kits and mixes, wants to provide parents fun, yet simple desserts for their children, with a focus on organic, ethically and sustainably-sourced ingredients.

“We’re determined to help bakers around the world take pride in their pantries, joy in their treats, and time together in the heart of the home,” is part of their mission.

After raising a reported $5 million, the company has expanded beyond just ecommerce; Foodstirs is now in approximately 7,500 stores, including Whole Foods.

Related: The Important Entrepreneurship Lesson From Jessica Alba And Sarah Michelle Gellar

We caught up with her before the event to chat about finding success, her journey and lessons she learned.

Before you got into the world of entrepreneurship, you were best known for your acting. Why did you decide to jump into this world?

I always knew I wanted to do more than just be an actor for hire. I thought producing might be enough, but I realised I still desired more. That’s when I realised I could utilise my great existing platform and actually be a part of creating something tangible. It’s been such an interesting process, learning how much of my existing skill set is applicable to being an entrepreneur.

Why did you decide to have a focus on food?

sarah-michelle-gellar-foodstirs-and-children

Food has always been an important part of my life, as it should be for everyone, but that magnified once I had children. Our kids were so interested in baking, yet there was no readily available brand that had the attributes we would want and expect – organic, ethically sourced, easy and affordable that also tasted amazing.

What has been the mantra that has helped you find success as an entrepreneur?

The one thing being an actor prepares you for is rejection.  I spent the better part of my life facing and dealing with rejection, and I have never let it stop me from achieving something I was passionate about. When it comes to business, for me the word “no” is just the first step to yes. That rejection inspires me to work harder, and prove those no’s to be a mistake.

What is something that would surprise people about your entrepreneurial journey?

I think people assume that being a celebrity makes it easier to raise money and achieve mass distribution and that is not the case. Maybe it gets you in a door, as a novelty, but then you have so much more to prove.

Related: 46 Facts You Should Know About Entrepreneurship (Infographic)

What is one piece of advice you will share ?

sarah-michelle-gellar-foodstirs

This piece of advice came from Galit Laibow – one of my two amazing partners along with Greg Fleishman. Always surround yourself with people who are smarter and know more than you do. We have such an incredible group of advisors with vast experience in all areas of business that we can call on at all times. Their knowledge is invaluable.

What is on the horizon for you?

We just achieved wide retail distribution (in over 7,500 stores) so our main focus at the moment is supporting our stores through quarter four and at the same time dialing in our innovation pipeline for 2018.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Farah Fortune Of African Star Communications On Choosing The Right Clients

Publicist extraordinaire Farah Fortune of African Star Communications built her business not by courting big clients, but by backing young up-and-comers, and growing her brand right alongside theirs.

Monique Verduyn

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Farah-Fortune

Vital Stats

  • Player: Farah Fortune
  • Company: African Star Communications
  • Established: 2008
  • Contact: +27 (0)79 826 1955, farah@africanstar.co.za

The 36-year-old publicist launched her celebrity PR business in 2008, with R1 000 in her pocket — she spent R589 of that on registering a CC and the rest on business cards.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Linda Trim From Giant Leap On Making Your Office Work For You

From working on her bedroom floor and sharing two-minute noodles with her daughter as she struggled to survive, today African Star Communications represents high-profile rappers such as K.O and Solo, and stand-up comedians Loyiso Gola and Jason Goliath.

She has an office in Nigeria and plans to open two new offices in Botswana and Ghana.

You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. How did you overcome the hurdles?

I lost my first business to a crooked partner in 2006. I was determined to try again and I went in search of funding, but no-one would give me money.

When the last thing I had to feed my child was a mouldy piece of cheese, I went back to work for a PR company, earning R12 000 a month, managing accounts worth millions. I hated every minute of it. In June 2008, when my CC registration came through, I walked out the door.

My first pitch was for a small charity day that AIG hosted for Manchester United in Johannesburg. I was the only woman in the reception area, but my offer to do the job for R10 000 was irresistible and I signed my first client. That was just the beginning of a long struggle. I was broke for the next three years.

Friends bought my groceries, and I would feed my daughter and have her leftovers for dinner.

I couldn’t afford petrol so I walked from my house in Randburg to do pitches in Sandton in my takkies, and then changed my shoes at the client’s office. The only thing that kept me going was the belief that I could somehow make it work.

What was your big break?

Farah-Fortune-woman-success

In year three rapper AKA was about to release his first album. He pursued me for four months. Initially, I didn’t want to work with him, but his ambition won me over.

I’ve never regretted the decision. We signed a contract, and shortly after that more clients came my way, mostly for small events.

Working with AKA made me realise that my passion was for music and I decided to channel my energies into promoting South Africa hip-hop stars. That’s how I ended up specialising and finding my own niche in the crowded PR sector.

Our team convinced 8ta/Telkom to look at AKA for their ads and it worked. I branched into corporate PR after the celebrity side took off.

What made your business stand out from other PR companies?

First was affordability. Publicists do not come cheap. I signed up many young artists who had not yet hit the big time, and charged them as little as R4 000 a month to manage their publicity and help make them famous.

Taking on lots of small clients meant that I could spread the risk. We still structure our packages according to what clients can afford and I’ve kept the overheads low. To this day, I’ve never advertised.

Second was my focus on hip-hop. Before 2011, corporates were not interested in rappers and the scene was very much underground. I convinced Vodacom to sponsor a big hip-hop party with AKA as the star attraction.

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After that, many other corporates woke up and took advantage of the popularity of the local rap scene. I like to think I played a part in mainstreaming South African hip-hop.

How have you stayed relevant in a fickle industry?

Once the business was pumping, I built my own brand. I never planned to be in the spotlight, but the more I appeared in the media, the more I was able to build my clients’ profiles, and get bigger accounts.

I focused only on doing business-related interviews and people started to take me more seriously. I could not believe how many corporate contracts I did not win because I refused to sleep with the client.

It’s a disappointing reality of this business when you are young and female. Developing my own brand helped me to build a career based on respect and professionalism.

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Ezlyn Barends Of DreamGirls On Igniting Passion

According to Ezlyn Barends of DreamGirls, great leadership is about finding and fostering passion in others. That’s how sustainable organisations are built — and grow.

Monique Verduyn

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Ezlyn Barends

Vital Stats

  • Player: Ezlyn Barends
  • Company: The DreamGirls International Outreach and Mentoring Programme
  • EST: 2012
  • Visit: dadfund.org 

‘Lead from the back.’ That’s one of the leadership lessons from Nelson Mandela, and it’s an approach that has worked for Ezlyn Barends, a social entrepreneur and all-round high achiever who is passionate about empowerment.

Through The Dad Fund, launched by her father Lyndon Barends in honour of community leader Daniel Arthur Douman (DAD), she started the South African chapter of a US-based girl education and empowerment initiative, the DreamGirls International Outreach and Mentoring Programme.

DreamGirls aims to increase the number of girls who complete high school and enter tertiary education. A total of 450 girls have participated so far, and all beneficiaries do community service, which extends the benefits of the programme even further.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: How Xoliswa Kakana And ICT-Works Tackled A Male-Dominated Field

Barends describes DreamGirls as a sisterhood of young female professionals, entrepreneurs and leaders who mentor and guide teen girls from poor communities to gain an education that will enable them to achieve success, so that in turn, they too can contribute positively and meaningfully to society.

What happens when you let go?

“One of most important things I have learnt is to let other people in your organisation take the lead,” says Barends. “That has been an important realisation for me as I am involved in many initiatives, which makes time a very precious resource.

“Teaming up with people who have the same values and vision as you do, letting go of the need to control — which is common among entrepreneurs — and empowering others in your organisation is key to success. That is how DreamGirls has grown and developed into a successful social business.”

It also means Barends isn’t alone in her passion to change lives, but has been instrumental in creating and fostering a group of individuals with the same goal.

Every entrepreneur has a finite number of hours in each day. Being able to spread the load amongst trusted individuals is key to growth — and growth is Barends’ ultimate goal, as it means more lives are touched and changed.

The power of passion

Barends has proved just how powerful a passion for helping others can be. When DreamGirls was launched, there was no budget, but her desire to do good and her commitment to the cause were so all-consuming that everything somehow fell into place.

It helped that a range of corporate donors came on board to help fund the programme. Since then the programme has received significant support from corporate South Africa in the form of funding and in-kind donations, facilitating workshops and events.

The ability to encourage and inspire others to take ownership has enabled three branches to flourish in Gauteng, the Western Cape and Polokwane, with further possibilities for growth in Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Durban and Kimberley.

In the first two years, Barends ran DreamGirls full time, together with a team of women. Because of the passionate assistance of her team, she was able to complete an MBA in the UK in 2014, bringing valuable skills and insights back to the organisation.

“We have developed our own culture, which we call the DreamGirls way of doing things,” she says. “Because the organisation has been built on a specific set of values, it is about so much more than merely helping girls to get a tertiary qualification. The essence is about being helpful and supportive of everyone involved.”

With her team firmly in place, Barends has taken on a full-time job in business development at Microsoft. Being able to rely on others to run DreamGirls’ daily operations means she has more time to focus on strategic growth and creating greater financial sustainability for the programme.

“It has brought fresh perspective, and that’s one of the reasons why we have now decided to go the franchising route — simply because I had the time to step back and look at what we were trying to achieve a little differently.”

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Linda Trim From Giant Leap On Making Your Office Work For You

Applying the franchising model to a social enterprise

Dreamgirls-foundation

Equipped with an MBA, Barends has used the knowledge she acquired through her studies to continue improving the DreamGirls business model.

“Part of the process of letting go was to create a social franchising model that we are now in the process of rolling out,” she says.

Franchising the DreamGirls concept required her to systematise the business model first, to ensure that it can be replicated successfully.

That process in itself can be a real game changer for a social enterprise as it elevates operations to the next level, with the operating manual becoming a day-to-day ‘how-to’ guide for the organisation.

“We have documented and put together all of the training materials and tools required to run a branch of DreamGirls. Now we are seeking franchisees who are committed to becoming social entrepreneurs. The franchise system will enable us to cover our operational costs, which is necessary because corporate sponsors are understandably keener to fund the programme than its running costs.”

Franchising is certainly a quicker and more cost-effective way of scaling up when it is difficult to access capital, and the legwork has already been done.

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