I spent the majority of my military service as a specially trained career adviser. When I retired in 2014 after 20 years, I knew I wanted to continue that work and founded From Combat Boots To Red Bottoms, a community for veteran female entrepreneurs that offers support and resources to grow their businesses.
I am reminded time and time again throughout my journey that women have the skills and knowledge to be business leaders—they just need a strong support network of advocates to chase their dreams.
Mississippi has seen an increase in women-owned firms over the past several years, but we are still well below the national average for growth. Personally, this struck me hard as a woman business owner. We must learn to celebrate the many contributions women make to our culture and communities and empower more of them to make history of their own.
Our state needs women entrepreneurs to lift up our communities and prepare future generations for success. For women looking to achieve their inner greatness in business, here are five pieces of advice for setting yourself up for success.
Find a mentor. Women need to lean on other women to foster ideas, inspire growth, and provide real-life perspectives on challenges they may face along the journey of business ownership. Owning a business will always have highs and lows, and you will always second-guess yourself. As a mentor, I help women stay focused on what they need to accomplish their goals.
Apply for grants. Your local Chamber of Commerce, universities and other organizations often offer grants to small businesses to upgrade signage, invest in technology or add new equipment. Enrollment is now open for our 2022 Grants for Greatness program, and I encourage small businesses and nonprofit organizations to apply. We established this program to encourage others to have a positive impact on the world, support each other’s dreams and remind each other we are not alone.
Last year, we awarded $1,000 to support the work of Task Force Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault, and it’s been exciting to see how that one grant has had an impact on their work.
Search for workshops and seminars to help you fill in the gaps. We can’t be experts in everything. Look for workshops and seminars to help you become a multi-faceted leader. The right resources can turn ideas into action and walk you through every stage of entrepreneurship. We offer a workshop called Business Bootcamp, where attendees learn to build a business from a solid foundation.
Get certified. If government agencies or large corporations are among the potential clients for your services or products, explore the variety of certifications and designations available for small businesses. Examples include the 8(a) Business Development Program, the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Program, the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Certification, the Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Business (EDWOSB) Contracting Program. Being certified gives your business an advantage when companies and agencies are looking for partners and vendors. There’s sure to be one that’s a fit for your business.
Start with less. Many women don’t have enough capital when starting, and unexpected bills can be detrimental. I advise taking advantage of social media. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are free to use and can help expose your business to a whole new market.
For example, Facebook’s Business Suite tool lets business owners manage their Facebook, Instagram and Messenger accounts all in a single place. This makes it easier to connect with my clients, and I can easily schedule posts, view notifications and respond to messages in real-time. I can even host online workshops and networking events. With the money saved on meeting space rentals and advertising, I can now invest in the growth of my business.
A recent study from Meta on the state of small businesses reinforces these tips, finding that women-led small businesses are leading the way with online tools, despite taking a hit during the omicron wave. Women-led businesses show up with resilience and have effectively flexed to shift their business online, often more so than our male counterparts.
Historically, women have faced difficulties accessing capital, paid higher interest rates for startups and received more doubt about their ability to succeed. And it is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered many small, women-owned businesses and created more barriers for female entrepreneurs.
But by leaning on each other, we can overcome these obstacles. We must carve out our place in the business world and establish ourselves as leaders. And when we succeed, our families and communities will benefit along with us.
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.