Friday, February 18, 2011

About the Business

The other day I attended a panel discussion on Capitol Hill for Minority Women Business Owners.  I arrived a little late...(ok very late) to find a room full of women and a few men who were there to network and get information to help them grow their respective businesses. 

For me, it was inspiring to be in a room full of people who are determined not to let this economy get them down.  And so I thought that as a public service, I would share some of the information I received just in case there are any budding Busy Black Women Entrepreneurs out there:

1. When starting out, seek help!  There are tons of resources out there to help you get started in your business ventures.  Consult these websites before you end up making too many costly and avoidable mistakes:

2. Get online so that others can find your business.  This advice was offered by a Google executive who, in addition to providing information about various her company's services, reminded us of just how powerful and indispensable the internet is in promoting business products and services.  In addition to a company website (or perhaps in lieu of one in the early days) make sure that your company has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or any other online platform that provides 24/7 access to your business.

3. Identify your target audience.  This is often an aspect of business planning, but think about who you intend to use your product or service.  Using myself as an example, my target audience consists of women aged 18 and older (very broad, but I am still working that out).  But at least I know that much about who I want to reach :)

4. Connect with advocacy and trade organizations that can provide a voice for your concerns.  This is very important (so says the eternal advocate :).  You will need allies in your effort to ensure that you are not crowded out by the Good Ole Boys who have been in business a lot longer than you, so make sure that you join your local chapter of NAWBO or other local business organization.  As a joiner myself, I think that any BBW entrepreneur should be a member of her local chamber of commerce, including the more unique chapters that cater to women and people of color.

5. Find out about the various types of business insurance that are available.  You need to protect your business, but also your personal assets from liability and from disaster.  One women shared her experience of losing information because of a computer malfunction and how that impacted her business.  Another woman posed the question--do you want to be held personally liable for a mistake?  Think about what that could mean to you and your family.  Get covered!

6. Get some board experience under your belt.  This has several implications: (1) it increases your name recognition; (2) in some cases, it provides financial compensation; and (3) board members wield the power within a company.  I was just speaking to my Alumnae Association President the other day about why this is so important--board members wield the power to say "go".  Women need to be on Boards in the same way that we need to be represented in Congress, in the Statehouse and every where else--companies (and government) will pursue policies that benefit families when women's voices are heard.  Thus, get experience on voluntary boards for local charities, community foundations, and advisory boards.

And so there you have it!  This list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.  Feel free to share any additional resources or advice and if you are a BBW who has dreams of working for yourself, let me know so that I can profile you in future articles here at the blog.

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