Every month PEX Card hosts a monthly conversation, a tweetchat, on Twitter to answer questions from small business owners about managing their companies. This month, our guest for #PEXCardChat was Rieva Lesonsky, Founder & President of GrowBiz Media, and former Editorial Director at Entrepreneur magazine. In the U.S., the month of October was dedicated to recognizing and celebrating women small business owners across the country. Our tweetchat with Rieva covered many issues and opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Below is a summary of our conversation.
PEX Card: Hi Rieva! Thanks so much for being our guest this month on #PEXCardChat. Given your expertise on women and entrepreneurship, how would you describe the state of the women’s business owner in the U.S. today?
Rieva Lesonsky: As Charles Dickens wrote for women #entrepreneurs it’s the “best of times and it’s the worst of times.” More women are starting and running small businesses, but the fact is we’re still underfunded. We don’t get enough respect from Venture Capitalists.
PEX Card: Where are some of the greatest opportunities for women entrepreneurs?
Rieva: The opportunities are everywhere. Technology is obviously hot today. There are lots of women in the tech space; they just don’t get the attention–or the money. There’s an excellent article written by Donna Fenn on young women in technology that ran in the latest issue of Glamour magazine Separately, I am not a big believer in finding your passion and then starting a business from it. Those ideas are rarely scalable. Instead, find a need and fill it. It works for everyone. Women need to get into the growth mindset.
PEX Card: What are some of the biggest issues or obstacles for women entrepreneurs?
Rieva: Women are still judged by a different standard. When Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo she was practically demonized for ending work at home days; when male CEOs do that, no one cares. I believe Zappos did the same thing and there wasn’t a peep of protest. In addition, lots of people say that young women don’t take STEM classes. We should make those classes mandatory. Coding should be a mandatory class starting in middle school.
PEX Card: Who are some of the women entrepreneurs you admire today? What makes them stand out?
Rieva: I admire J.J. Ramberg because her business has a social good attached to the core of it. On a grander scale Martha Stewart carved out a huge empire, despite constantly getting attacked for one reason or another. I’ve met so many amazing women at Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN). One woman in particular is Lauren Flanagan, a serial entrepreneur who started an angel fund for other women entrepreneurs. Another person I admire is Kara Goldin, CEO of Hint Water. She started her business so she could stop giving her kids junk liquids.
PEX Card: What advice would you give to millenial women interested in entrepreneurship?
Rieva: Businesses today are collaborative efforts. Millennial women need to join with other women and men to start & scale their companies. Take business classes and learn how to code. More importantly, learn how to negotiate! You’re not choosing a lifestyle. Being an entrepreneur is choosing to lead the LIFE you want. Take control of your life.
PEX Card: How would you describe the mentorship programs available to women today interested in becoming entrepreneurs?
Rieva: One of the best programs I know for women entrepreneurs is Springboard. They do great work helping women scale and get ready for funding and IPOs. I talked earlier about DWEN. Dell has had two entrepreneurs-in-residence and both have been women. DWEN has done an amazing job reaching out to women globally through their program. Lastly, I think American Express OPEN Forum does GREAT work with and for women entrepreneurs. Check out their CEO Boot Camp for women small businesses.
PEX Card: Are women using social media to connect with other business owners locally and/or globally?
Rieva: I think women take naturally to social media. They are using it, but like most entrepreneurs, we need to up our social game. As far as the particular platforms, I prefer using Twitter. However, different businesses take separate paths on social media. You should conduct your own research to find out which social platforms are best suited for your business.
PEX Card: What advice can you give to women business owners as we enter the holiday season?
Rieva: Participate in Small Business Saturday. It’s a great program. Also, remember to shop small yourselves. If your sell stuff, be prepared to offer free shipping or same-day shipping. Make sure your web site is mobile-friendly. That’s how people are shopping these days. If customers can’t access your site on their phones, they will move on & do business with your competition. Lastly, watch your cash flow. It can flow way too fast this time of year.
PEX Card: Thanks Rieva. It’s been an incredibly insightful discussion. Do you have any final thoughts for women small business owners (and men too) today?
Rieva: Planning is vital, but don’t be afraid to go off plan. Fear is there to teach us to take SMART risks. Don’t let your fears interfere with either getting started or taking growth steps. Fail fast and reiterate is a lesson ALL entrepreneurs should learn.
PEX Card: That’s all the time we have for today’s tweetchat. Thanks Rieva for being our guest. You are such an important voice for small business and definitely an expert worth following on Twitter.