Q: Describe your business.
I started my business in 2008. Back then it was just social media when social media was in its infancy, and I always had virtual assistants helping me and my clients. There came a point when we were getting bored and overwhelmed doing just one thing so we decided to broaden our services to include email marketing, blogging, website support, project management, copywriting and the likes. It's a thousand times more fun because it’s allowed us to work very closely with our soloprenuers. My team and I like to collaborate with those we support, take some things off their plate and make things happen. It’s a kick to see what we create and how we make a difference ---- sometimes it's simply decreasing their overwhelm. Our clientele base is all over the board and I enjoy matching clients with the right VA that is not only proficient in the area they need help in, but matches personally as well. I firmly believe you won’t get nearly as far if you don’t have someone who clicks with you and gets you. All of my virtual assistants feel personally invested in the business they support. They have their clients back, and that’s what makes what we do so special.
Q: What is your background?
I come from a giant corporation and worked there on and off for fifteen years. I like to say I did “three tours of duty” because frankly I’m not a “corporate” type. I started there as a temp and the benefits and pay were really attractive so I signed on. Frankly I thought I wouldn’t even last six months, but I stuck around because there was always something new and exciting happening. The company was really small, but it was growing at such a rapid place you never stayed in one position very long. We used to joke that if you didn’t like your boss, where you sat or what you did, it didn’t matter because you’d be re-organized in a month. Looking back, the variety of experiences and positions were perfect for me and afforded me so many opportunities. I was in facilities, procurement, account management, PR communications and more, and all of those taught me something new. I really thrive on change and new challenges. The hard part (which I’m sure every entrepreneur can agree) was having to be somewhere for a certain amount of time. I don’t like to be put in a box, and I was working sixty-hour work weeks. When I decided to move on it was the perfect time. I’ve done a couple of different jobs since then, including a stint as a bartender in North Minneapolis. All of those experiences have given me different tools I use in my business today.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
Despite my love of change and doing new things in my professional life, free time is a whole different story. For me, it’s the simple things. I love a quiet weekend where I can get lost in a good book in front of the fireplace. I love to garden, bake, and cook simple, flavorful meals and get together with family and friends for laughs, excellent food and conversation. If I’m baking, you can bet I’ll be asking people to come and eat my creations. Those things really feed my soul. I also count down the days when I can head up north. My nephew has an A frame on thirty acres and no matter what time of year we go, it’s always a blast. In the winter the weather is bristling’ so food is very important. We’re always cooking (and then promptly planning our next meal) and knocking back a few beers, just having fun. We also love to play bocce ball and other lawn games in the summer months. It’s a real slice of heaven.
"Find where you need to go and follow your heart into a new venture and leave a path for others to follow." -- Barb Voorhees
Barbara Voorhees created Be Creative Ventures (BVC) in July 2016 after 10 years with the University of St. Thomas. BCV’s mission is to bring business success to organizations through simplifying and systemizing processes. It is her belief that each journey of a successful business is a venture that allows you to be a part of that discovery through risk, speculation and rewards. BVC’s clients are broad in respect to industry. Whether a startup, an organization experiencing growth, or one facing challenges in change management; it is determining the most efficient use of resources, how to simplify and systemize with best solutions, and how to plan for future growth.
For Barb, the best part of being an entrepreneur are the stories from the people she meets and the skills they bring to the table. She has advised many clients and listened to their stories, both their successes and challenges and is amazed with the passion and fortitude they possess to reach their goals.
Typically, the most significant challenge facing entrepreneurs is financial sustainability. If it isn’t raising capital, it is feast or famine in finding clients. That’s where discipline comes in. You need to know your financial resources, where to find your clients, and make tough decisions daily. Follow your dream and never give up. David Kelly of IDEO stated,“Fail often in order to succeed sooner.” The concept is that as failure occurs, you learn more about your product or service and what improvements can be made on the next iteration. Many entrepreneurs work full time jobs while pursuing their dream. There will be many times where failure occurs and you want to throw in the towel; don’t. You need to learn to pivot, be agile, and adjust to the market, or create your own new market. Recalibrate your thinking, your market, or your approach; don’t settle until you are where you want to be. And, even then, you will continue to grow your dream.
There are many opportunities to connect with potential clients. The best, of course, are referrals from previous clients and those who know your work. One area that is often missed is volunteer work. Other options could be through strategically sourced network groups, professional social media platforms, and events where your clients hang out. The key is to know who your clients are, go where they go, make your business visible, and most important, follow-up with any contacts you make; this is critical. A follow-up should occur within 24 hours of meeting someone.
In her free time, Barb enjoys spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys traveling, concerts, hiking, biking, canoeing, and just about anything outside during the warm months. She also has a couple of rescue felines, one that has been with her since her birth, almost 20 years.
Words of wisdom that Barb would like to share:
Find where you need to go and follow your heart into a new venture and leave a path for others to follow. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The February WeMN event was all about appreciating our membership! It was such a great event that we wanted to make sure to share some of the takeaways with those who couldn’t make it.
We started out the evening event with networking and some great food from Amalia LLC! The sangria, empanadas and plantains were out of this world! A huge shout out to Amalia for the wonderful food sponsorship!
After getting to know the other members in attendance, we heard about the great things happening at WeMN in 2017! Did you know that this year is the 10th anniversary of Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota? We will be finding great ways to celebrate throughout the year, so be sure to join in on the fun and watch our social channels for more information.
Now it was time for the fun to begin! Sarah Routman from Serious Giggles introduced us all to the wonderful power and benefits of Laughter Yoga. That’s right, I said laughter yoga! We reduced stress, got to know one another, got out of our comfort zone, and had a ton of laughs. Sarah started by telling us a little about her and how she got started, then went on to share why laughter is so important. Did you know that children laugh about 300 times per day, where adults are considerably less with only about 4 laughs per day? That is such a crazy difference and laughter has so many great side effects! The Mayo Clinic sites 7 different benefits, short and long term, for adding laughter to your every day routine.
We learned how to do SmileUps and you can too with this great YouTube video. If these don’t get you giggling…I am not sure what will.
If you tend to be a person who loves to laugh with others and you want to start your week off right, Sarah also invites all WeMN members to join her each Monday for a FREE laughter call. Get your week started relaxed and ready to tackle the world ahead. You can learn more about those calls here!
This was a great event and we hope to see you at the next WeMN event!
This post was written by WeMN member, Dr. Amy Jauman
I’ve been getting the same question from business owners and event organizers lately: Is it worth it to host free events anymore? The concern doesn’t seem to come from giving away content without charge. It’s the cost of hosting an event, having a respectable number of people commit to coming only to have a fraction actually attend. Room rental, food, speaker fees and the organizer’s time add up.
If only a small number of people attend, is it worth it?
And why has it become so common to RSVP to an event and then not attend?
Of course there are times when kids get sick, you get a flat tire on the way or a last minute client emergency keeps you from attending. I know I’ve registered for things and then no-showed. But I’m not talking about someone who misses one event; I’m talking about the staggering percentages of no-shows I’ve been observing lately.
It’s possible I’m seeing suddenly seeing these no-shows everywhere because I’ve started wondering what is making so many people break their commitments. But the numbers don’t lie. These are staggering and costly no-show rates. What’s causing so many people to RSVP yes only to not attend?
What should event planners do?
When I started my company a few years ago, I heard over and over again that you should never do anything for free. I didn’t agree. I had coffee with small business owners, helped entrepreneurs and even met with owners of established organizations who needed help thinking through something I happened to know about. The time I spent with each of them didn’t result in an hourly rate paid on the spot, but it always paid off in recognition, referrals or even development of my own. Yes, you have to be smart about what and how much you offer for free, but I can’t believe the right answer is “never.”
But when I look at all of the people hosting events at no charge – and there are a lot of them – I see so few that are well-attended.
What is the solution?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please share your ideas in the comments.
Dr. Amy Jauman is the Chief Education Officer and Owner of Remotely Smart, a virtual company that provides professional development support to remote and traditional organizations. Since she began her work as Remotely Smart, Amy has worked with every size organization from Fortune 100 to solopreneurs – meeting each where they are by supporting development program to meet their educational needs.
Amy has a masters degree in experiential education and a doctorate in organization development. Amy is also Certified Social Media Strategist and Instructor and has been teaching adult learners online and in a traditional classroom for more than 15 years. Currently she is an adjunct professor in the St. Catherine University Business Department. You can learn more about her by connecting on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and her blog!
Michelle is the owner of Avarielle Fitness (Women of Strength). Through her passion of fitness, she is a certified personal trainer and a Physical Education and Health Education teacher with a Masters inKinesiology. She is also a wife and mother of three beautiful children: Madalyn (12), Brady (10), and Tyler (5).
The gym she works for is called The F.I.T. Lab in St. Paul. The gym is a small intimate place where Michelle specializes in personal training and group fitness classes. Her focus is primarily with women because she feels that she's an expert on the difficulties women face with their body image, schedules between family and work, and the internal struggles that women have with taking time for themselves.
The F.I.T. Lab is located at 1565 Como Avenue, Suite 102,
St. Paul, MN 55108.
Learn more at http://thefitlabinc.com/
Nancy's goal has always been to help students improve their grades and, more importantly, build their self-confidence. Her business, Tutor Doctor, is a supplemental educational company that focuses on helping students of all ages reach their academic potential through convenient, affordable one-to-one tutoring (whether it be in their home, a location of another choice, or online). I believe every student can learn with the right approach, and my tutors collaborate when needed with the students’ teachers and family to identify the best learning strategies. We follow the school’s curriculum and build an individualized plan for each student to achieve success.
Our student age group has been quite vast and has included a wide breadth of subjects. Our youngest student was sixteen months (speech therapy) and our oldest was 93 (PhotoShop)! The majority of the student base is in school and the subjects have included language arts, math (including IB AP calculus), science, statistics, AP courses, various languages, ESL, special needs, and test prep. Further,we have a wonderful program that focuses on moving accountability to the student from the parent while developing the executive skills required for students to be successful in life. This program is geared towards 6th – 10th graders, and we help with study skills, organizational skills, time management, prioritization, and others areas.
Nancy believes the key to her success as an entrepreneur is passion. She wants every student to do the best he can and believe in himself. When asked how she knew when she "made it," Nancy's response was "I truly do not know if I will ever believe that I “made it” given that I’m never satisfied with what I have achieved. Do I feel that I have “made it” – no but I do feel that I am making a positive difference".
You may contact Nancy at: email@example.com
Written by: Mary Deelsnyder. Mary is a designer and founder of Dee Design Company, where she works with companies like Target to design brand experiences for women.
There’s much work to do when it comes to equality between the genders in the workplace. However, I like to think about how far we’ve come, especially during this time of year when we tend to reflect on what we’re grateful for. Working women before us had so many barriers to overcome and thanks to a few braves ones, I enjoy (and sometimes take for granted) the opportunities I have today.
In the early sixties, in Britain, a woman couldn’t open a checking account without her husband’s permission. Around the world women couldn’t go to work without the fear of sexual harassment on a regular basis. Have you seen MadMen? There were barriers, legal and social, preventing ambitious women from finding their place outside the home.
There were those women though, that resisted and fought against these constraints. They had the guts and tenacity to stick it to the status quo and made real changes for the rest of us.
Dame Stephanie Shirley is one of them. Dame Stephanie is the most successful tech entrepreneur you’ve never heard of. She founded a software development company in the UK in 1962 with mainly women as employees. That was unheard of at the time. She also pioneered many of the modern workplace practices that we enjoy today. The two most important, in my opinion, being flexible work schedules and employee shareholder options.
She started her company in her dining room with the mission to help women get jobs and to avoid misogyny in the workplace. The company was called Freelance Programmers and many, if not all, of her employees worked from home. She believed that women could have a career and be mothers without compromising productivity. What Dame Stephanie discovered in the EARLY SIXTIES, was that it had a positive impact on the bottom line.
Her company was ultimately valued at $3 billion. Among many projects, her team programmed Concorde’s black box flight recorder.
Dame Stephanie fought against the kind of resistance that I will never know. The simplest thing, like signing my real name to business correspondence, is something that I don’t even think about. Dame Stephanie discovered that she had to sign her business development letters as “Steve Shirley” so her potential male clients would agree to meet with her. The only problem, albeit a hilarious one, was when “Steve” showed up to the meetings and was actually “Stephanie”.
After being in business for 13 years, equal work rights passed in Britain. She was now legally required to hire more men in her mainly women software company.
Women like Dame Stephanie, made the business world take women seriously. They fought against obstacles and sacrificed their personal lives so they could have careers just like men. I admire her because the social change she was making was done by just doing the work. She didn’t write about it, or talk about it. She just did it.
There’s still more work to do, especially in the design industry. Most agencies are run by men and the creative is designed mostly by men, even for products and services that are specifically for women. I’d like to change that and design for the women that control 85% of the consumer spending.
Lucky for me, I live in a time and place where a lot of walls have been broken down. I get to own a design business, work with big clients and sign my real name in business correspondence.
That makes me very grateful.
Author: Mary Deelsnyder
I spend a lot of time talking with women who are leading organizations, starting businesses, and growing companies. And no matter where we start in the conversation, we always seem to end up in the same place:
“There just aren’t enough hours in my day to do everything that’s needed to both grow my business and to deliver to my customers.”
“Me time? Are you serious? I am the last person in a very long line of demands on the 24 hours I have in a day”
“We are WAY past burn out here.”
Sound familiar? The demands we feel personally and professionally every day are so great, and so numerous, we can easily reach the point where it feels like we can never be enough, never deliver fully on all of our promises and commitments, personally and professionally. It will always feel like trying to fit a full-sized fitted sheet onto a queen sized bed: one corner is going to keep popping off no matter what we try to do to make sure everything and everyone is covered.
What if, instead of trying to deliver on it all, we choose each day (or week or month) to deliver on just one or two things that are most critical, right now?
The Lean Start Up, by Eric Reis - popularized the concept of the “Minimal Viable Product.” The original idea was that the MVP was a version of a product that allowed the product team to collect the maximum amount of learning about customers with the least amount of effort. It’s when we try to make a product or service all things to all people that we get scope creep and projects or products go off track, out of budget, or lack focus, and often fail. Similarly, each week my to do list grows by a significant factor, faster than I can complete those tasks. But in applying the MVP concept to the things I need to deliver I can whittle that list to five or six truly critical items that really must be attended to because of the opportunity cost or risk to not completing them.
The secret is in remembering that those five or six items do not have to be done perfectly, they must be done well enough to keep the work moving.
Case in point: the last four weeks have been an intense push to get work completed related to a major marketing campaign and website redesign. These deadlines have been all-consuming, and come with major financial and operational risks to me getting in the way of their completion. Rightly so, but other work can’t be on hold forever, so this week it all came crashing down just as I entered another critical phase of our site redesign.
On Sunday night, feeling a wave of panic as I looked at all the work that had piled up, I pulled out three things that simply must be done in the few hours I had to dedicate to other work this week. The executive I report to has been asking for a three year plan for the last few weeks, and instead of kicking the can down the road - again - and missing out on the opportunity to get him thinking about the kinds of resources we’re going to need to achieve my vision, I took 30 minutes to capture a high level outline on paper in time to share at our scheduled meeting time. Even though the result was not the detailed roadmap I wanted to deliver, this minimally viable plan yielded feedback I could iterate into the next, more robust version, of the plan I will need to deliver in a few weeks.
When the list of demands on our times is too great, we can experience paralysis and churn, not knowing where to dig in on work that we feel must be done perfectly or not at all. Instead, if we can approach our work with a focus on just a few of the most critical tasks for a given timeframe, we’ll be more effective in moving the needle than if we’re trying to focus on 12 or 20 or 50 things. But we must go the extra step to identifying what minimally viable looks like for that work.
Step back and ask yourself: what is really needed here, for me to reduce risk or ensure I don’t miss an opportunity? The answer should illuminate the priorities to apply to your scarcest resource - your time.
About the Author
Jen Swanson is the Director of Digital Marketing at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and blogs at imbina.com on issues related to women and leadership, closing the gender gap and work/life integration. Follow her on Twitter at @jgswanson.
Photo credit: 40+251 Done-ish by bark, used under creative commons license.
When my little girl’s love of horses blossomed into competing in the jumping divisions of nationally rated horse shows, I surprisingly received the best business education I could have ever imagined.
First, of course, I learned to get back on the horse after I fell off. As successful business women we need to get up after frustrations and failures, doubt and disappointment. We need to take time to dust ourselves off, reassess what happened, catch our breath and then get back to work.
Second, I discovered very quickly, that there will always be manure to shovel. And in business there will always be things we would rather not deal with and that are sometimes rather stinky!
And then there are the three P’s:
Learning to jump begins by getting on your horse and walking over a pole on the ground. It’s not very exciting, but the small, simple steps build confidence and a solid foundation.
As the jumps get higher and the pace increases, this consistent daily work develops the physical power of your horse and the mental power you need to successfully navigate your ride. Building our businesses one step at a time creates a solid base and gives us a chance to embrace being a strong, powerful business women.
It is vital to know what speed to maintain when galloping over a course jumps. If you go too slowly you won’t get over the jump. If you gallop too fast, you may just crash right through it. In the show ring and in business we sometimes have to make a big push, and other times it’s wisest to slow down and regroup. But the majority of the time, to build a strong sustainable business, we need to determine and consistently maintain the pace that is most effective for us.
Patience and compassion are key to creating a graceful, powerful partnership with a living creature, whether horse or human, and effective communication only works when you pay attention and are respectful.
Horses cannot work constantly without becoming mentally exhausted or physically hurt and neither can we. Sometimes the best training is not training at all, but simply leading your horse into a pasture with lush green grass where they can graze to their heart’s content while you rest against their shoulder.
And sometimes the best business decision is to get away from our business for a time and do something that rejuvenates us. We’ll return refreshed, more effective and creative…and able to gallop over any obstacles in our path.
Barb Greenberg Founder/CEO Rediscovering U www.rediscoveringu.com
I've been a teacher and a facilitator for years. And through these experiences, I heard a strong need for clarity and assurance from people who were trying to evoke major changes in their lives. After leading weight loss meetings for ten years, I realized that people didn't actually need more information. Our society is inundated with so much information about how to live healthfully, that I think we get distracted.
My personal story of evocative change comes from my lifelong struggle to maintain a healthy weight. When I was trying to lose weight, I returned to Weight Watchers (for the fifth time) feeling profoundly disappointed in myself. I felt like something was wrong with me, because I actually knew what to do to lose weight, but I wasn't successful. I read through the materials and saw information that I already understood. But I still wasn't losing and keeping the weight off. As I began to open my mind (and heart), I slowly learned that it wasn't actually about HOW to lose weight. It became more about the WHY. And for me, this was the missing piece. The real transformation happened once I figured out what I valued so very much, that I would do anything to have it. And this is what I help my clients with. I have tools and techniques that help them unearth true fulfillment, at any stage of life.
It's been crucial for me to stay true to my core values while building my business and to keep my focus on no more than three goals at a time. This has been instrumental in my success as an entrepreneur.
I am an active member of the Wayzata and the Chisago Lakes Chamber of Commerce. I also am partnered with two health and wellness centers. I have a LinkedIn and Facebook presence and will be establishing an Instagram account soon. I speak to organizations on topics like The 7 Keys to Reclaim Your Motivation, The 8 Keys to Living Fully Balanced, Setting Yourself Up for Success, Renewal: How to experience it and Why it's important, Self-Care, Personal and Professional Fulfillment. All of these things help advertise the services I provide.
In my coaching business I often see my clients in the space of feeling stuck. Many people seek me out because they feel like they've tried everything and some may actually believe things can't be any different for them. It's my job to help explore new perspectives and options. Coaching is successful when the client is highly motivated and ready for change. If I don't see those traits in a potential client, I'll offer other avenues for them to try.
When I first started my business a little over two years ago, I was overwhelmed with all the components of running a business. My suggestion for a new business owner would be to get advice of those already in the business, realize that you can't do it all well, and hire people who can. Even though I am a solopreneur, I know I am a stronger business owner because of the competent people on "my team".
To help keep me sane and balanced, I enjoy doing yoga in my home, taking bike rides, walk-jogging around my neighborhood, drinking good red wine and nibbling on decadent dark chocolate.
Author: Lisa Bobyak
Want to be a guest blogger and share what you know? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Women Entrepreneurs of Minnesota is a 501(c)6 nonprofit organization, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota